Children of all ages need a safe place to call home. Whether it’s a 72-hour police hold or ends up lasting a lifetime, foster parents throughout Hubbard County are making a difference through the love and care they provide.

A foster parent in Hubbard County shared her experiences with the Enterprise. We are withholding her name to protect her confidentiality and the privacy of the children.

This family will be celebrating their third Christmas with three of the children they fostered in a special way.

“We recently added three of the children we fostered to our family, two by adoption and one through guardianship,” the foster mom said. “We’re their family now. They were placed with us two years ago, when the youngest was a year-and-a-half.

“I love kids. We would have had a dozen kids, but it wasn’t in God’s eyes for us to have more than two until we started fostering. When my husband and I were younger, we thought about doing foster care, but it wasn’t until our children were grown that we became a licensed foster home.”

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Q: What are the most important qualities of a foster parent?

“Kids need to know that they’re loved. When they walk in the door they are treated just like one of ours. The way I grew up, I can relate to them and understand their feelings. I tell them it doesn’t matter what they’ve done in the past because this is a new beginning. They need to know there is consistency here.

“Growing up, I wasn’t raised by my parents, but lived with other relatives. You have to have empathy for these kids. When they come, you have no clue what has gone on in their lives before they got to foster care. Some have gone through things we can’t even imagine. If we didn’t have foster homes I don’t know what would happen to these children, especially with all of the drug addictions our area is facing.”

Q: Tell us about your experiences as a foster mom.

“When you sign up you can specify the age, sex and needs of the children you will care for. We take all ages from newborns to 18.

“Our first foster kids were three little boys. We had them for around a year before they were adopted by another family. We also had a group of four kids from another county for a year until they were able to reunite with mom. I think we’ve had over 15 kids altogether, including a preemie who weighed only three pounds.We have a picture wall with most of the foster kids. Some stay in touch and come back to visit.

“One placement we had was a teenager who was truant at school due to their home life. When the child was placed with us they were two grades behind where they were supposed to be. We worked with them and the school to get caught up. They also got a part time job. We had their graduation party at our home. It meant a lot to us to be able to do that for them.”

Q: How do you help foster children overcome trauma?

“We are offered training through social services, and all foster kids go through a mental health evaluation and have therapy available.

“We’ve had kids that have gone to the garbage can to look for food. That’s heartbreaking when you see a toddler digging in the garbage for food. We’ve also had kids who were taught to steal food for their family.”

“We had a child who couldn’t figure out why they felt like they had bugs on them. They tested this child and they had methamphetamines in their system. The child was also terrified of thunderstorms. When the parents were manufacturing drugs, they made the child go outside. The child was out in a thunderstorm one time. When that child came to us there was a thunderstorm and the child curled up in a ball in their room crying. We found out they had PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). We also did permanency with this child who is now an adult who has a job, is doing well and stops by and calls quite a bit.”

Q: What else do you do to help your foster children?

“They’re on medical assistance, but often parents haven’t taken them to the doctor or dentist, sometimes for years. We make sure they get all of that done. One kid had to go to the dentist eight times to get work done because they didn’t have toothbrushes at their previous home.

“Some of the kids have never had the experience of a caring family. We’ve had kids have a total meltdown because they’re not used to having someone love and care about them. I tell them if I didn’t care about you guys I wouldn’t be doing this. Sometimes it works out and they accept that and know they’re in a better place. Sometimes they are mad at the world and you can’t get through to them. Either way we still try our hardest to give them the love that they deserve.”

Q: Why should others consider becoming a foster parent?

“If you are willing to open your heart and your home to kids who have a tough home life and are going down the wrong road, they need to be able to see a different light. They need someone who will try to make a difference in their lives.

“They need someone to teach them basic living skills like cooking and doing laundry and that school work comes first. They need to see a stable home.

“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Most often kids come in and are so thankful for what they have, the food that is put on the table and that they don’t have to fend for themselves.

“When they come into our home, they see structure. We don’t have electronics at the dinner table. We sit and talk about our day. When they come home from school, they’re greeted with a smile and a snack. We’re happy to see them back here. A lot of them didn’t have that ever before.”