Fostering Isn't About You, It's About the Children

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The Thought Of Fostering Young Children Always Appealed To Melissa Devine

But she figured it was only for families with big houses and stay-at-home parents. “I’m not some Super Mom. We both work and have two older kids so I didn’t think we were up for it,” she says as two sisters, both toddlers, bustle about the family room of their El Cajon home. The 15-month-old hands Melissa yellow fabric leaves, then rushes off to show them to her foster father, Anthony, who seems unfazed by their three-year-old sister, who is climbing onto his back. “It’s not like I’m Father of the Year or anything,” he says with a shrug. “We give what we can and realize that it’s okay to run out of energy. We can still do good work.”

Photo by Fred Greaves

Photo by Fred Greaves

This attitude has served them well as they settle into the third week of their second placement with Angels Foster Family Network. This is their first sibling set, something they hadn’t planned on, but they wanted to support Angels’ goal of keeping siblings together whenever possible. The Devines also have two biological children, Neva, 14, and Lila, 9. The couple says the toddlers have blended right in with the family. “I asked what they thought of our fostering and both said that this is a good thing,” Melissa explains.

The Devines’ first placement was a preschooler who was ultimately reunified with her aunt, which was difficult, but the families keep in touch and plan to stay connected. “When we handed her over, it was the hardest and the best thing,” says Anthony, choking up at the memory. “It’s what you have to sign up for, for having your heart broken, but that’s what makes it so valuable – because it’s not about you, it’s about them and that’s what makes it worth it.” He recalls a well-intentioned friend asking how they can bear the pain of parting with children they have grown so attached to. He explained to the person, “You can’t put yourself in the equation because it’s not about you.”

What it is about, however, is the lives of children during a tough time. “The best part of being a parent who fosters is when you see them start to get comfortable with you,” says Melissa. Tearing up, she continues, “They tell you things that are hard for them to say, and hard for you to hear, but you are there for them as a soft place to fall.”

The Devines say their soft place to fall is Angels Foster Family Network and the Mission Trails Church. “Our church community and friends have been very generous, providing clothing, and gift cards, and support,” says Anthony. And Angels has been with them every step of the way. “They are available to us 24 hours a day and we always have someone there to advocate for what’s best for the children,” says Melissa. “I don’t know how people navigate through the system without an advocate like Angels.”

The couple insists that there’s nothing special about their family. “Anyone can do this,” says Anthony. “You just have to decide that you’re in and do it.” Although saying goodbye when foster children reunify with their biological family is tough, the Devines say it is worth it to be part of the lives of children who need a stable, loving, temporary home. Melissa says, “I feel lucky to be with them on their journey.”

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