What made you decide to become a foster parent?
When we began going to a new church we met many incredible individuals who were fostering and we began to learn more about the crisis in our community. I remember thinking how outrageous it was that there so many children needing homes in a large city with so many people. When our two sons got older we decided that we would foster. The push we had was meeting a little boy who was on the pathway toward adoption. We decided that this was the right time for us to start our journey toward caring for vulnerable children in our own community.
What has been the most enjoyable and life giving part of being a foster parent?
I have enjoyed the community we have gained. We have met some really close friends who also foster and have created such a unique bond as we navigate this journey together. Not only do we have close friends, but our children in care can develop friendships with other kiddos who are in the same situation as them and know that they are not alone.
I have loved seeing my sons love these girls so quickly and so well. My sons call them “sissy”, asking for their sissy’s when they are at school or at a visitation. They are family to all of us.
What has been the most challenging part?
Learning how to respond to behaviors with connection, connecting with them and loving them through their trauma reactive behaviors.
Helping the children learn that this is a safe place where they can share, and be heard, This has come through navigating conversations with them in a way that does not shame them but empowers them and makes them feel safe and heard.
What advice would you give to individuals considering fostering?
Learning about TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) and Connected Parenting (Current Purvis Institute) before getting your first placement, or becoming a foster parent. Being trauma informed is really essential in learning how to care for these children well.
Also, make sure you have, or develop, a community who understands fostering and can support you. We felt like we could say“yes” because we have such an incredible community who understands fostering and kids in care, and we could lean into them when we need to.
Don’t forget that it essential that you take the time to take care for yourself, and give yourself plenty of grace.
What impact do you hope to leave on the children that you foster?
I really want these kids to know that they are worth all the patience, kindness and love in the world and more. That they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, they are absolutely worth it.
-Natalie Brenner, Foster Parent and Author of This Undeserved Life: Finding the Gifts of Grief and Fullness of Life
If you would be interested in following Natalie you can find her at www.nataliebrennerwrites.com