By Charity Smith
As National Foster Care Month (May) comes to a close, I am excited to share about my life as a foster mom. Alongside my wife, Diana “Dee” Parkinson, I foster Arizona children with the hope that they are reunified with their biological families (when possible).
Dee and I have different initial experiences with foster and adoptive care. Personally, I grew up in a large family, with aunts and uncles, and what seems like a million cousins. Some are biological, some are adopted, and some are fostered. Therefore, adoption and fostering were normalized for me from a very young age. When I got older, I knew that I wanted children and likely wouldn’t carry a child. So, these alternative options to become a mother seemed like a natural route for me. As for my wife, she would say she was lucky enough to have a crazy partner who pulled her towards the fostering/adoptive journey.
We foster children through Arizona’s Children Association (AzCA). This organization has helped my wife and me so much, especially our talented licensing worker—who deserves a raise for dealing with our particular crazy! She helps us with anything from the basics of paperwork and understanding what’s on it to when everything must be turned in. Right now, we are going through our renewal period and we must fill out a stack of paperwork, that is easily two-thirds inches thick, and she helps us maintain a good pace to ensure we complete all of it on time. She is truly a Godsend when we have difficult week and feel insufficient, are not sure whom to contact for a specific need or need to advocate for the children in our care. Any time we have issues, we talk with her and she talks/texts us off a ledge!
However, caring for children, especially children in the system, comes with unique ups and downs. Therefore, we focus on celebrating the fun milestones, like when a child catches up on something they were behind on in school or finally feels comfortable in our home. The coolest thing to see is when kids learn how to be kids again. In many situations, they must grow up quickly to adapt to their surroundings, and it is so rewarding to removed heavy burdens that they’ve been carrying around with them. When we get to see them do normal, every-day things like chill out, play sports, go to the park and simply play, that’s when my wife and I realize we’ve done something impactful for them.
Thanks to AzCA, my wife and I have to ability to foster amazing children. We are both grateful for the opportunity to be a safe place for our foster children to grow and flourish!