Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Finding Inspiration as a Foster Parent and Case Worker ...

It was a difficult time for my wife and me, and we both felt drained physically and emotionally.  Another child had left our family.  Another child from foster care that had been living with us for several months was moving to another home.  This time, it was a little different, though, and the pain of it lingered on for some time.

Little Devon came to our family late one night at 12:30 AM, an emergency placement that was to be with us only for a day or so.  A familiar claim for foster parents, that’s for sure. The four pound baby was on a heart monitor as well as a breathing machine, and required around the clock monitoring. Fortunately for me, I was on a vacation, and was able to look after the tiny infant at all times.  So small was he that he could fit in one of my hands.  To be sure, the first time I changed his diaper, I thought I might somehow break his small body.  His weakened condition required that he be fed once an hour, every hour, twenty four hours a day, as his tiny frame needed nourishment.  His first few weeks with us left me in an almost zombie like state; so exhausted was I from his hourly feeding and breathing treatments.

As expected, my wife and I quickly fell in love with little Devon, and when the child’s caseworker informed us three months later that Devon would be available for adoption, my wife quickly jumped at the opportunity.  I was a little hesitant, as this would be the seventh DeGarmo child, but as always, my heart quickly changed my thought process.  Indeed, I began looking forward with much excitement to the adoption of this little one forever into our family.

Sadly, Devon was not able to become a part of our family, and we were faced with our second failed adoption a month later.  The child our family grew to love as one of our own moved to another foster home, where his older sibling was; a foster home that soon adopted both Devon and his older brother.  I must share with you, it left me grief stricken.  For days, there was a tremendous pain in my stomach, and I felt as if I would break into tears at any given moment.   My wife was suffering, as well.  Four days after Devon left our family, I walked into the bathroom after work, and found my wife crumpled on the floor, sobbing; heartbroken from the grief she felt. 

So, why do I foster?  Why do I take child after child into my family, only to have my heart break time and time again when the child leaves my home to another?  Why do I run myself to the point of exhaustion, looking after a house full of children on lack of sleep and energy?  Quite simply; because there is a child out there, right now, that needs a home.  There is a child out there, today, who needs a family, and who needs to be loved.   I have been richly blessed with so much, I feel called to share those blessings with those in need.

I am often asked how I do it.  How am I able to care for so many children in my home, and how do I continue to have my heart broken repeatedly?  Well, the answer is really not that difficult of one.  My wife is a source of strength, to be sure, but I also look for strength in other places, as well.  I find strength in inspiration.  Whether this inspiration be from scripture, from poems, from quotes, or even stories from other foster parents, I find these inspirational stories, scripture, and sayings fill me with renewed strength, and with renewed energy.  To be sure, there are times when I need inspiration daily, just in order to make it through the day.  Other times, inspirational verses and stories fill me with joy, and encourage me to continue caring for others in need.

            To be honest, I often find inspiration in what you do. I am inspired by your devotion to caring for children in need. I am inspired by your service to others, and placing those in need before yourself.  I am inspired by the many stories I hear from foster parents, case workers, and advocates I meet across the nation.  Thank you, so very much, for all you do, and for making our world a better place.

-Dr. John DeGarmo

Dr. John DeGarmo is a foster and adoptive father.  He has been a foster parent for 12 years, with over 40 children coming through his home. He is the author of many books, including The Foster Parenting Manual, and the upcoming book Helping Foster Children in School.
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