It's All About Being Flexible: Fostering in Today's World
Fifteen-month-old “Elle” toddles around the living room of Andrea and Joe Kennedy’s home in South Bay, in constant motion, grabbing toys and giggling with delight.
She has always had a lot of energy. Sadly, Elle was exposed to drugs in utero so she spent that energy crying in her early days. But with the steady, patient care of her foster family – which includes big brother, Drew – Elle began transforming into a happy, healthy little girl.
“After a few months, we see could her happy personality,” says Andrea sitting on the floor with Elle, the Kennedys’ second placement with Angels Foster Family Network. The couple picked up Elle from the hospital at birth and the child has been with the family ever since. They had a rough start because the infant wasn’t able to properly latch on to a bottle. She also struggled with reflux and spitting up. Andrea and Joe say the support they received from Angels Foster Family Network helped them turn the corner. They learned about what resources were available to a foster child with special medical needs and quickly enlisted the help of an occupational therapist, infant teacher, and physical therapist. All of that support paid off and today, Elle is a healthy, smiley toddler who loves going to the beach, splashing around in the pool, and visiting the zoo.
Most infants and toddlers who are fostered with Angels families bounce back very quickly from early trauma like drug exposure or abuse. They quickly learn that they are safe and loved, and the effects are restorative.
Baby Elle not only benefitted from the nurturing she received from her foster parents, but from five-year-old Drew. Early on, he took on a very helpful role in Elle’s care, always volunteering to help with feeding and bathing.
When considering fostering, many parents voice concerns about how it will impact their own children. Most Angels families say it is an extremely positive experience, helping older children cultivate their compassionate, nurturing side. The Kennedys didn’t struggle much with what to tell Drew. They simply told their son that a baby whose parents were sick was coming to live with them for a little while. The boy took the news in stride and now explains to his friends on the playground that Elle is his foster sister.
The couple says that the joys of fostering far outweigh the challenges, but it’s still hard work. Making time for the therapy appointments is like a part-time job. And there’s the uncertainty of what happens next with any given placement. “There can be a lot of inconsistency with visits and foster parents need to be flexible,” Andrea says.
Both Andrea and Joe have plenty of experience being adaptable as they were both raised in military families and moved frequently. “I moved seven times,” Joe says. Andrea is close behind with six moves during her childhood. Today, Joe works as a human resources officer with the U.S. Navy, and says military service is highly compatible with fostering. “It’s all about being flexible,” he says. “There’s so much change and you just focus on what you can control.” Andrea agrees, “You just have to take it one day at a time.”