…during the summer when we all would get together. They would have all these stories to tell about things they were getting to do and places they had been. I was 7 or 8 years old, and my cousins seemed to me to have this fabulous life.
How do you get started in the foster parenting process? What’s the first step?
Veronica: After reading the article about Crossroads, we contacted Michaela to let her know we felt like this was something we needed to learn more about.
Tyler: Then we did an informational sit down with Michaela, and decided that night we would start the process.
You didn’t set out to foster a sibling group. How did that come about?
Tyler: It was definitely an instant family. The day we got the call was a Friday afternoon in October. I was at work. Michaela called to tell us about three siblings who needed to be placed in a home. When she told me the ages, I was like “Wow!” We had prepared two rooms with twin beds in case we fostered two children. When she said they were 6 months, a year, and 2 years old, I said, “I’ve got to call Veronica.” I thought, “I’m not signing up for this until she says so!” I called her right away and gave her the rundown.
Veronica: Something had to happen that day. At that moment, I just started praying: “Lord, is this going to happen?” In a couple of hours of that prayer, those three little children were in our home. We were still assembling baby beds from Walmart when they arrived. Tierra and Michaela pulled up first and the DFCS caseworker and the children were right behind them. They did the room inspection, and that was it. We were fully committed, and they were staying the night.
That must have been a memorable weekend! What happened next?
Veronica: We were trying to get a daycare set up so that we could go to work the following Monday. That Saturday, we put everybody in the car and said, “We’re going to go look at daycares.” We alternated days off from work that first week, and my sister came in from out of town to help. By Friday, everything was rolling smoothly and we had a daycare lined up for the following Monday.
Tell us about your three foster children.
Veronica: We have a little girl who’s the youngest; we will celebrate her first birthday next month. The middle child is a boy; he’ll be two next Tuesday. The oldest will be three years old in two months. We celebrate a birthday this Saturday, another one in a month, and one a month after that! We get asked if the boys are twins because they’re close in size. They’re right there together. It’s great!
What does a regular day look like in your home now that you have three children under the age of three?
Veronica: The day doesn’t come without challenges. We both work full time, and the kids are in daycare. They get sick more often because of daycare, but we’re making it work. They’re thriving and growing so much. They’re speaking. Their language has developed so much! When we first got the boys last fall, they called everybody “momma.” They had no language. Every single adult was called momma.
Tyler: Now we’re giving them goals and being proud of them when they achieve it. Every morning, I have them help me get the baby’s stuff ready for daycare: “Who’s going to carry the milk today? Who’s going to bring in the food?” They love those tasks.
Veronica: They love structure because they know what’s coming – like knowing socks go on before shoes. They like to be able to run their day. We wake up in the morning and get changed to fresh diapers, breakfast time, teeth-brushing time, and school time. They crave that structure and love it.
Have you had the resources needed to help you adjust to instantly becoming parents of three young children?
Veronica: Tierra and Michaela with Crossroads will help in any way and they’re always there for us. And we have my dad. We have a family here. People at work have been very supportive, too. Everybody is a phone call away.
Tyler: It takes our village for sure. When we first got the kids, Michaela and Tierra helped with the checklist for what we would need – like juice, sippy cups and all the other things you need for young children. We can’t say enough about how helpful they have been through the process.
Did the Crossroads training prepare you for foster parenting?
Tyler: IMPACT is a 24-hour training program. We’d meet up after work, swing through a drive-thru and go to Christian City from 4:30 until about 7 or 8 pm. It took us a month or so to complete the training.
Veronica: And we would learn. The training was very, very good. Since I am a teacher, I do a lot of training and go to a lot of conferences. But, it was totally different. The activities and things we worked through made us analyze what our life would be like as foster parents. I thought it would be more like basic facts and how to handle children with disabilities. But, it was so much more than that. It was self-reflective and eye-opening.
Tyler: It was about why you’re doing it; the reasons you’re doing this; making sure it’s not just about one reason but a bunch. You’re not only trying to build a family, but also answering a calling from God.
Veronica: It was awesome. We left those nights just going, “Wow, that was so powerful!” Given my experience with training, I didn’t expect us to be so emotionally invested in learning about ourselves through this whole process. It was so good!
Tyler: We also took CPR training and first aid training.
Tell us about the changes you’ve seen in the children over the past 6 months?
Veronica: One reason the children were placed in care was homelessness, along with failure to thrive. The oldest child was developmentally delayed. He could not speak in sentences six months ago. It was one word – if you could understand that word. Now, it’s sentences. He’ll say, “Mommy, look at my yellow car.” It’s so rewarding to see changes every single day. We’re catching up!
Tyler: When they came into our care, the middle child didn’t want to walk, because he preferred to be carried. He was 18 months old, so he should have been walking. He should have been able to stop, bend down and get something. That was one of the milestones at that age, and he was nowhere near that. The younger brother’s language has gotten much, much better, too. Honestly, he’ll say words now that I don’t think his big brother knows yet.
How do you balance the care of three small children along with your full time jobs?
Veronica: Yes, the kids have many needs, and both of us have full-time jobs, and it is about balancing. As a teacher, I’ve always been committed to my job. In fact, I’ve allowed it to define me because it’s my passion. I just pour everything I’ve got into it. I’ve been super devoted and knew it was going to be a change there.
I thought it would be more of a struggle, but I try to get work done at work. It’s a different way of life we’ve moved into, but it just came naturally. Like most working parents, you just kind of figure it out. It comes together.
Tyler: On my way to work, I’ll swing by daycare and drop off the kids. And I pick them up on the way home. Veronica and I get home around the same time to handle dinner, baths, books, and bedtime together.
Since the goal of the case plan is to reunify these siblings with their biological parents, tell us how you’re helping to bring this family back together.
Veronica: We didn’t initially have contact with the biological parents. The kids had a supervised visit scheduled where they would see their parents once a week. As of now, they have unsupervised visits one weekend day. They will go for a full day on Saturday or a full day on Sunday at their parents’ home. We meet the parents, and the kids go with them. Then we meet back up and bring them back to our home.
Tyler: We’ve really tried to team up with the parents so that they don’t miss seeing the kids and spending time with them. And things are different from a few months ago. When we all go to dinner with the parents now, it’s not chaotic like in the past. The kids no longer toss food or paper on the floor. They even offer to put the paper in the trash.
Veronica: We meet up with the parents and talk about how things are going for them, ask if there’s anything we can do, or just try to help them with resources and the things they still need to work through on their case plan. We speak to the kids’ parents on an almost daily basis and give updates on the kids and how they’re doing. I feel like if I just send them those updates and keep them in the loop, they really do appreciate it.
Now that you’ve become foster parents, do you think you made the right choice?
Veronica: We are sure that this is God’s plan. What the future looks like, we don’t know. But, we love these kids, and we’re just having fun every day. We’re so much happier. We feel like we’re doing exactly what we’re supposed to do.
Tyler: We’ve adapted to change. Instead of going to do something for us on the weekend, we’ll go to the zoo, or the aquarium, or go camping. It’s been fun. It’s all those things we thought and knew that parenting would be and the things we wanted to get to do and have in our lives, plus some, and with all the greatness of three at one time.
Veronica: We’ve never been overwhelmed. Now, we’ve had plenty to do and a lot on our plates, but we’ve never been overwhelmed. It’s been so great. For us, this has been seamless; everything has gone smoothly.
Tyler: We know we’re blessed because we couldn’t ask for greater people to be in these kids’ lives and in our lives to help us all along the way.