Eight Isn't Enough: One couple becomes foster parents

Courtney was a preschooler when her parents, Carrie and Dan Collins, assumed the responsibilities of foster parenting. It wasn’t a decision they came to lightly. In fact, Carrie and Dan, who parent eight biological children, considered the commitment some 15 years ago. “We went to an orientation meeting to learn more,” Carrie says. “That’s when I realized it wasn’t the right time for our family.” Carrie and Dan’s passion for becoming foster parents never wavered, however. In 2007, along with their children, ranging in age from 4 to 22, the couple opened their hearts and their home to this new adventure.

“We wanted to share our lives with other children,” Carrie says. She and Dan met all the requirements, including completing the 27 hours of training, and were approved as licensed foster parents for children infants through 5 years of age. “I quickly learned the best fit for me and my family was to foster children who were younger than my own.” Charity, their first foster child, was six months old. After one year, Charity’s brother, Emmani, joined the household. He was four when the Collinses adopted him in 2010. During that time, Charity went back and forth between the Collinses’ home and her mother’s. However, in June 2013, Carrie and Dan were granted guardianship of Charity, now 7.

Carrie and Dan became foster parents with no intention of adopting. “But when we saw the need for permanent homes for children we decided that’s what we would do,” Carrie says. In a span of seven years, the couple has fostered 15 children—some for short periods like a month and others for as long as 18 months. “Everyone wants a baby, but there are many older children and especially sibling groups and children with special needs who need adopting,” Carrie adds. “Two of the children we have adopted are on the autism spectrum. Our kids have been wonderful at accepting these children as part of our family.”


Joyful Returns

Families like the Collinses offer traditional care, but foster care comes in many varieties, including emergency/shelter care, medical/therapeutic care, relative/kinship care, respite/short-term care and tribal care. In all its variations, foster parenting is a commitment to be meaningful in the lifetime of the child and family. Those who choose to take on this responsibility are rewarded in many ways. For Carrie and Dan, one of their delights is showing a child what it is like to live in a loving family. “It’s not the big things, it’s the little stuff that matters most, like having consistent meals, being tucked in bed at night, having clean clothes for school each day,” she says.

Most children (70 percent) are united with their biological families. Seeing a child reunited with his family and witnessing the positive changes undergone to make the family whole again is rewarding and reaffirming. “We cared for a young girl until her mother completely changed her life. Over the course of the year, the mother was reunited with her daughter. Three years later we still get together, socialize and revel in their success.”

Carrie cautions that first and foremost, foster parenting is a program aimed at helping troubled families help themselves. “Your heart will be smashed into a million pieces if you forget that. The primary goal is reunification.”


Broken Parents, Broken Children

Carrie knows the importance in addressing the needs of the biological parents as part of a complete solution. “I would love to teach a class to biological parents,” says Carrie, who has been honored twice as a Foster Adoptive Parent for her support of biological families in the program. “I would teach them how to do visits with their children better, how to groom their kids, instruct them in ways they can interact better,” she says. “Often the parents were foster children themselves, products of bad situations. By mentoring them maybe we can end the cycle.”


A Little Bit Better

The Collins family knows they can’t help every child in need. “But we found two cases where we could make a difference,” Carrie says. In addition to Charity and Emmani, Carrie and Dan are in the final stages of adopting Sici, 7 and Mariah, 5. They are also in the process of obtaining guardianship for Charity and Emmani’s 16-year-old sibling. “Courtney, our 11-year-old, is the key. If she hadn’t been on board, the whole thing wouldn’t have happened. It’s her nature to be very giving. She shares everything she has—every toy and every doll.”

Carrie’s advice for anyone considering becoming a foster parent: “Don’t expect these children to be like the children you’ve raised.  They are hurt and broken. They need patience and they will take a lot of your time.” In fact, Carrie said you will spend more time with these children than your own. “Foster parenting is not an easy adventure,” Carrie adds, “but it has been worth it. We started as a way to bless a child’s life but the truth is, they have blessed our lives.” 


Foster and Adoptive Family Resources in San Diego:

County of San Diego HHSA Health and Human Services
1-877-792-5437 (KIDS)
www.SanDiegoFosterKids.com

Walden Family Services
1-800-354-2184
www.WaldenFamily.org

Koinonia Family Services
619-326-4222 x1007
www.kfh.org

Lori Bolander Law Group
Adoption, Trust & Estate Law
619-956-9552
www.BolanderLawGroup.com



How to Help if Fostering is Not an Option

Many San Diego children have been neglected, abused or abandoned, and need the care and understanding of foster-adoptive parents until their own families are able to care for them again. If you want to help, but becoming a foster parent isn’t the best choice for you, consider becoming a volunteer court-appointed special advocate (CASA) through Voices for Children. Guided by professionals, CASAs become information gatherers who advocate for foster children in the courtroom, classroom and in the community. 

“CASAs get to know their child, facilitate communication with the child’s case team, and make recommendations to the Court,” says foster parent, Carrie Collins. “It’s the most valuable way you can help these children.”




----------------------
Claire Yezbak Fadden is an award-winning freelance writer and mother of three sons. Follow her on Twitter @claireflaire.

Published: May 2014




The Dads Club: Why to Meet Up with the Guys

The Dads Club: Why to Meet Up with the Guys

One of the best ways to overcome feelings of isolation or loneliness as a father is to join (or start) a fathers’ group. Even in California, where there are support groups for people who belong to . . .

Read more

Why and How to Delay Giving Kids a Phone

Why and How to Delay Giving Kids a Phone

When I set out to write this article, I was hoping to provide an antidote to the alarming stories I’d read about kids and smartphones. However, the research really does paint a clear picture. Stud . . .

Read more

Parenting with Purpose: Healthy Risk-Taking Helps Kids Thrive

Parenting with Purpose: Healthy Risk-Taking Helps Kids Thrive

It's a fact of life for every parent. Part of our job is to reduce risk and ensure the safety of the tiny humans placed in our care. After all, risks seem scary, right? Even the dictionary equates r . . .

Read more

Back-to-School Tips to Help Families Ease into a Routine

Back-to-School Tips to Help Families Ease into a Routine

The back-to-school transition can be tough on kids, especially after the year we’ve had. Whether your kids can’t wait to get back to full-time, in-person school or if they prefer to school at ho . . .

Read more

Tips to Teach Kids Time Management

Tips to Teach Kids Time Management

We all know that before school starts we need to schedule annual checkups and go back-to-school shopping, but how do we set our kids up for success that will last through the school year and beyond? . . .

Read more

How to Make a Family Technology Contract

How to Make a Family Technology Contract

We raise our kids to be polite and respectful in person so why wouldn't we stress those same values in the online environment? A digital citizenship contract will help spell out your expectations of . . .

Read more

How and Why to Develop  Growth Mindset in Kids

How and Why to Develop Growth Mindset in Kids

Is intelligence something you’re born with or something that develops? Is failure an opportunity to learn and grow, or something that impedes success? How a parent answers these questions greatly . . .

Read more

Early Childhood Red Flags

Early Childhood Red Flags

Are you getting a sense that your child may be "different" from other children? Here are early childhood red flags that need attention.  “Einstein didn’t speak until he was 4 years old” . . .

Read more

Turn Words Into Action: Create a Family Action Plan for Change

Turn Words Into Action: Create a Family Action Plan for Change

For families who want to be part of the change to end racial inequality, there's never been a better time to create a family action plan. A thoughtful plan, built around empathy and compassion, equi . . .

Read more

Give Your Family the Gift of Laughter

Give Your Family the Gift of Laughter

I was born on April 1, so I know a thing or two about humor. April Fools’ Day jokes and gifts make celebrating my birthday an adventure in laughter. I once received a large box of dirt topped with . . .

Read more

Parenting with Purpose: Raising Resilient Kids

Parenting with Purpose: Raising Resilient Kids

Teaching children how to do difficult things comes with parenting. We coach and encourage kids through frustration, tears and bursts of anger as they learn to tie shoes, write their names and ride a . . .

Read more

Parenting with Purpose: Create Family Routines

Parenting with Purpose: Create Family Routines

Routines are like operating systems that set families up for success. They make it possible to complete essential daily tasks with the least amount of resistance, reduce family stress and help thing . . .

Read more

Parenting with Purpose: Why Parent/Child Dates Are So Important

Parenting with Purpose: Why Parent/Child Dates Are So Important

Scheduling regular one-on-one dates (outings) with kids is a fun way for families to build lasting bonds while setting kids up with the skills and experience needed to grow healthy relationships for . . .

Read more

How to Help Fighting Siblings Make Peace

How to Help Fighting Siblings Make Peace

Images of smiling siblings are impressive for social media, but life with two or more children is decidedly less picture-perfect. According to research from University of Toronto, toddler-age siblin . . .

Read more

10 Ways to Practice Self-Care: A guide for busy parents

10 Ways to Practice Self-Care: A guide for busy parents

It’s necessary to take breaks from the hustle and bustle of life — to pause and recharge. Practicing self-care can mean something different to each individual, but the whole family benefits when . . .

Read more

Multigenerational Holiday Gatherings: A recipe for success

Multigenerational Holiday Gatherings: A recipe for success

Growing healthy emotional bonds between generations helps children develop a sense of identity, continuity and an understanding of their place in family history. Kids who regularly interact with old . . .

Read more

San Diego Family Magazine Logo

Be Family Informed – Sign up for our Newsletters below!