National Foster Care Month: A new kind of family
After a couple of years of marriage, some couples are still trying to determine who's handling the bills, the dishes and the weekly garbage. But Heather Lindstrom and her husband David were well beyond divvying up chores - they were planning for a family, and early on, knew that they would build their family by serving as foster parents.
"We knew that was our calling, how we wanted to handle our family, our life. We went into it being really excited and nervous to foster but with the hopes of helping families reunify," says Heather, who became a foster parent on April 9, 2013.
However, reunification turned out not to be possible for the medically complex, seven-year-old boy living with the Kings. He couldn't go "back home" and needed a permanent home.
"Once it was established that there was no return home plan, there was no huge discussion about it," Heather says. "We were sold on adopting him. It seemed very natural because we couldn't do what we initially set out to do - -which is reunify with a family - but we could be a family. So he's our family!"
The transition toward becoming a family hasn't been entirely "warm and fuzzy and going to the park," says Heather, who says her son needed a stable house, unconditional love and healthy boundaries that reinforce acceptable behavior.
Elated to become adoptive parents, Heather works with JCFS to make sure that their son is able to maintain relationships with his siblings, who each live in different foster homes. In fact, their son visits with his siblings and their foster families often enough that she describes it as a "huge, extended family."
"If anybody would've asked us a year ago where we'd be today, it never would've been serving as a permanent home for somebody. But it's wonderful and we've been able to meet other foster parents and really gain a nice support network with other foster parents and we are always reminded, even in little things, of how grateful we are to have JCFS and this incredible team around us helping to care for the kids."
In the past year, Heather and her family have traveled together, held a first-ever birthday party for their son and welcomed a "little sister" to their home - a second, medically complex child who is two years old and has a return-home goal.
"We knew that serving as foster parents would mean that our lives will be full and busy…and we knew that part of that meant that we would get our hearts broken, too, by kids. But the reality is that in the foster and adoption system, the plusses and minuses of all of it, is that it all stems from love."
Heather adds, "I don't know that it's every truly possible to prepare foster parents for what they're going to see but with the right support network, it'll work, and that's what we found with JCFS. The support network whether it's 9-5 or nine at night, somebody is available to help assist us that we're doing the very best we can for the child. "