For Cathy and Mark, fostering babies has not only been rewarding, it’s been an education.

“You start (fostering) assuming that you’re going to help,” said Cathy. “You don’t realize how much you get back from these kids.”

The couple has cared for 28 children over their 16 years fostering through Family and Children’s Services (FACS) Niagara, and although they’ve seen kids with similar issues, Cathy says that every single baby she’s encountered has been uniquely different from the last.

“You’re constantly learning.”

For the purposes of protecting the couple’s privacy and their family’s safety, their surname is being omitted from this story.

Cathy and Mark were first introduced to fostering when they saw an ad posted in a local arena calling for families to fill an urgent need for foster homes.

With three children of their own — and since Cathy has a degree in family and child studies — they figured they had skills that could be useful for fostering. Little did they know, fostering would completely alter their family dynamic and how they raised their children.

“I think it was a huge education for my children as well.”

There were things that their kids learned about the world they may not have had the same exposure to if they hadn’t been fostering, Cathy explained.

For example, she said her son recently recalled holding a baby who was shaking because they were going through withdrawal, and the family conversation about drugs and how they affect an unborn baby that resulted.

That child was only with them for a short period of time, but she said that learning to communicate without words had a huge impact on the family.

“They come with little and we love them and we care for them,” said Cathy, who helped teach her kids that it’s not the material stuff you acquire that makes you a person.

Mark said the couple wasn’t surprised to read the recent story about FACS’ urgent need for foster families for 11 babies.

After all, they had been getting calls sometimes after midnight looking for a space for a child in crisis. What’s most rewarding for him is witnessing how a child transforms during their stay.

“When they come here … they’re a little broken,” he said.

He recalled their first foster child, who came out of tough circumstances and arrived in a dirty yellow snow suit; when she left, he said she was happy and skipping and ended up successfully returning to her biological mother.

Something that never gets easier, the couple said, is saying goodbye.

“It is painful, but when there’s a child who needs a home … you can’t not help these children.”

She said Mark is often the one reminding the family that the child is going on with their life and it’s a good story, and they don’t need to cry — only to be the first one with tears running down his eyes.

“You don’t get better at (saying goodbye),” she said.

The greatest of all the lessons Cathy said she’s learned over the years is that every parent loves its child, whether or not they have the capacity or resources to care for them.

“I have never met a biological family that didn’t love their child.”

She said she feels for the biological mothers and fathers, especially considering many never learned how to support and care for a child because they didn’t have that support or love themselves.

Michelle Bernard, the service director of FACS’ resource department, said the dedication and commitment that foster parents demonstrate is second to none.

“Our foster families are extraordinary.”

Since news broke of the need for foster families, she said the agency has received 159 telephone calls or inquiries, and a significant number of those are going to move toward completing the in-service training and home study.

FACS has had to open up five training sessions just to accommodate the increase in applications.

“The response has been extraordinary from our community, and we’re just hoping that that continues.”

Anyone wishing for more information or to initiate an application, is encouraged to call FACS Niagara at 905-937-7731.

Source: Sep 19, 2019 by Beth Audet  Niagara This Week – St. Catharines