Colantuonos

How Foster Care Defined a Family

A testimonial from maya Colantuono

Let me start by saying that I have one huge regret related to fostering; I wish we started years earlier! April 2013 marks our fifth anniversary as a foster family. I will never forget the excitement I felt when the phone call came requesting placement of our first foster child. We had received our license in the mail only the day before and were not expecting the phone to ring so soon. That call, which brought a 4 month old little girl into our family for the next year, was the beginning of a journey that has enriched our family in ways we could have never imagined.

Our biological children have grown into more compassionate, understanding and open-minded young people as a result of being foster siblings. Last year we attended an open house at our 11 year old daughter Sophie’s school and her teacher directed us to a questionnaire hanging on the wall. One of the questions asked “What is the best thing your parents ever did for you?” Sophie’s answer was “The best thing my parents ever did for me was to become a foster family”. The classmate next to Sophie answered the same question with “My parents took me to Disney World”. Sophie has never been to Disney World but I don’t think she feels she is missing anything!

When the first little girl went home we stayed in touch and eventually became her Godparents. She was a flower girl in our oldest daughter’s wedding and will always hold a special place in our family. We welcomed another little girl after she left, and 5 more children after that. One of the children, Niveyah, was not able to return home, so after 3 years with us she joined our forever family through adoption. While we did not enter the world of foster care with any intention of adopting, we cannot imagine life without her!

People seem to want to think that our family has some special quality that allows us to do this and I want to be very clear that there is nothing special or unique about us. We thought about doing this for many years before we finally summoned up the courage to jump in. If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “Oh I would love to do foster care but I would get too attached”, I would be a wealthy woman! Believe me we get way “too attached”. That’s the whole point; we take in children who need a safe and nurturing environment, love them like our own, hang in there with them every single day, and trust that they will leave us at least a little better off than when they came. We cry for days when they leave but we hug each other, tell funny stories (there are always plenty of those!), pick up the pieces and wait for the phone to ring again.  Our family may not be anything special, but each child who has joined our family has made us stronger, smarter, more flexible and more determined than before. There is no question that we get way more from all of this than we give.

Foster care has defined us in a way we were never defined before. We were The Colantuonos, a generally happy family with all of the regular triumphs and tribulations of a middle class suburban family. We did not, however, stand all together for anything that really mattered until we discovered foster care. Foster care has defined us in a way that religion, sports and community involvement did not. It has made our home and our family into something that matters outside of ourselves. It has taken us beyond just the daily meeting of our own needs and put everything into perspective. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth doing. I hope you will consider it. I hope you will jump right in and get too attached. Believe me, you will regret not having done it years ago!

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