The foster families of NAFI CT share important core beliefs—that all children deserve love, and a place to call home, and that foster families are “blessed to be the blessing.”
We are profoundly grateful to our foster families for opening their hearts and homes to children and teens in need and providing positive nurturing environments for some of the approximately 4,000 children living in foster care in Connecticut.
We shared some of their stories in Facebook posts during National Foster Care Month in May as a way of honoring and thanking them. It is our hope that the excerpts reprinted here will help inspire others to join the team of NAFI CT foster families. Learn more by contacting our foster care specialists at (860) 560-7324.
‘The Most Precious Gift I Could Ever Receive’
Ana Sanchez and Edwin DeLeon are celebrating 15 years as NAFI Foster Parents this year. Ana offered this reflection:
I have always had an interest in becoming a foster parent since I was pretty young. I obtained my license to become a foster parent when I was 24 years old through the Department of Children and Families. As rewarding as it was to know I was helping children and families, I did not feel fully supported by DCF at the time. This unfortunately led me to temporarily pause fostering any children.
Shortly after this experience, I discovered NAFI CT through a friend who was also an amazing and inspiring foster parent. I knew I had the ability to help children in need, and 15 years later I am proud to say that I am still a part of NAFI and so is my partner, Edwin.
Edwin and I have provided a home for six children and we are currently continuing this journey with one child in our care. Although it has been an amazing experience to care for a child in need, it of course has also had its ups and downs and challenging moments. These challenging moments, however, have given Edwin and I the opportunity to grow as caregivers.
On any given day, there are thousands of children waiting for a home. We decided to become foster parents to give children a safe place to stay while also giving their families the chance to receive the help they need. Many of the children who I have cared for throughout the years still keep in touch and will always be considered a part of my family, which has been the most precious gift I could ever receive. Becoming a foster parent is an accomplishment that I am proud of and will continue to fulfill for years to come.
‘Everyone Needs Someone To Encourage Them And Be Positive Mentors’
Crystal and Elson Harrigan, NAFI TFCO Foster Parents (Supportive Mentors), describe their inspiration:
We decided to open our hearts and home to support, teach, and show compassion to a child. Everyone needs someone to encourage them and be positive mentors. We were fortunate enough to have those positive role models in our lives. We both had a village of people surrounding us, filling us with hope, empathy, and courage to be kind, loving, and caring for others. There are so many children out there, and their families need a village as well. Becoming foster parents or what we like to call the term (Supportive Mentors) is a blessing. We have two boys of our own, and we wanted to teach them about being an extended village or Supportive Mentors. We need to make a positive impact in a child’s life. It is part of our purpose.
‘I Believe That All Children Deserve Love’
Dianne Shaw believes all kids deserve a champion. Here’s why she became a foster parent:
There are a couple reasons why I became a foster parent. One of those reasons being that I was a child once and I wasn’t perfect. Many parents forget that and tend to be really harsh on kids, which isn’t fair. What I do differently is talk to them so that they can express their feelings even if they use inappropriate language. Yes, I do stop and correct them, but I don’t attack and jump to conclusions because I’m building a relationship on trust. Another reason is because I believe that all children deserve love. A child raised with love will have more patience and understanding when you speak to them and then share that with others later in their life. I make sure they get praised with words like “good job” or “I’m proud of you”—something most parents don’t do. Those words will help a child’s self-esteem. Understanding, tender love, care & a safe environment goes a long way.
From Being Homeless to Providing A Nurturing Home
Barbara Frankson a NAFI CT Foster (In The Meantime) Parent, told us this story:
I became a foster parent for many reasons, first and foremost I am a child of God and he has truly blessed me, and I believe that we are blessed to be a blessing. When I was 19 years old, shortly after my mother’s death, I found myself homeless, living in my Volkswagen Rabbit in the garage of Central Connecticut State University, where I attended classes and later earned a degree in Business Administration.
I overslept one day and one of my classmates found me in my car and gave me shelter at a time in my life that I didn’t know how to spell God, but I knew that this blessing was from the many seeds sowed by my grandmother. At times I wanted to give up and would hear the many voices of my childhood that told me I would amount to nothing because I was stupid; however my grandmother’s voice drowned out the others and she would say “not my Baba.” She believed in me and prayed over me every day.
My pain created my passion, and now I walk in purpose, and one of my purposes in life is to help those children that have been placed in the foster care system to see themselves the way God sees them, and to learn to love themselves so no matter what anyone says or does to them it will not affect them because they will no longer allow their circumstances to define them, but they will be the ones to define their circumstances. I do not consider myself a foster parent, I consider myself the “in the meantime parent,” and what that means to me is until that young person can see that they are enough, gifted, beautiful, and designed with purpose and greatness in them. God has placed them in my home to help show them the way and drown out those voices and actions that led them to believe that they are not enough or less than. Am I my brother’s/sister’s keeper? Yes I am!
‘These Young Souls Need A Home
Where They Can Be Themselves And Feel Safe’
Sherry and Russ Wilmot have been foster parents for NAFI CT’s Professional Parent Program (PPP), for the past 9 years. Sherry tells their story:
We went into foster care when our daughter was 9 because our last adult child had left our home. Hope wanted to know why we couldn’t have more kids in the house. Our good friends had been fostering through NAFI for a few years, so Russ and I decided to talk to them to see what their experience was. They had glowing reports about NAFI and how they were part of the family. So we called them and got licensed.
We tend to lean towards our special needs teens but not all. We have some tough times with them but so many more wonderful times. I always said it’s about 70% normal days and about 30% rough days. I’ve only had about 7 long term kids, and longest they’ve stayed is about 3 to 4 years. One young lady we became plenary guardians for. She is in a wonderful active group home now and full member of our family.
My other kids still call and keep in touch. We never could have made it with all the challenges if not for our NAFI family. At any given time if we needed to vent, cry, or say ‘I just can’t do this,’ they were there for us to talk us through and to validate our emotions and feelings as normal.
These kids have been such a blessing in our lives. … What a blessing it is to see a broken child who trusts no one, who doesn’t know what it means to be loved and to feel safe, come into your home and slowly begin to learn that’s it’s ok to breathe, and that it’s a safe place where they don’t have to keep looking over their shoulder all the time. To see them start to realize they can be themselves and be accepted for who they are good and bad … that’s why we do foster care: because these young souls need a home where they can be themselves and feel safe.
‘It Gives Me Joy To Make A Difference In The Lives Of Young People’
Novelette Hainsley, NAFI CT Foster Parent, shared this story:
From as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to help and nurture children. So my ambition in life from I was a little girl was to became a teacher and to foster and/or adopt children. I wanted to nurture children and teach them to survive and thrive, where they would benefit from the wisdom and knowledge I gleaned over the years of my journey in life. Growing up in an inner city community in Kingston, Jamaica, I learned many survival mechanisms to not only succeed but thrive in a harsh environment. I was blessed to be able to get a great education here in the United States. With a lot of hard work and grit, I was able to achieve my goal of having a career in education. With that goal achieved, I set out to become a foster parent so that I could help and nurture children not only on the job, but also at my home. I became a foster parent so that I could pour into the lives of young people. My goal is to help young people who are of a similar impoverished background as I, and who may have experienced certain struggles in life such as abuse and abandonment. It gives me joy to make a difference in the lives of young people, who may have had challenges or who were not given enough love and attention in their young lives. As a foster parent, I am honored to get the opportunity to give young people a balanced, structured life, where they feel safe and nurtured. Here at my home, I teach them the skills and tools they need to survive and thrive in life.”
‘My Children Are Positive Role Models For The Twins’
Patience Barimah, a NAFI CT Foster Parent, offered this reflection:
The reason why I became a foster mother is that I enjoy helping children. I remember as a child in Ghana, my mother and grandmother always loved to bring people that are not related to us to come and stay with us. So I believe I learned to help people when I was young without even realizing. As I became a mother of two and went through a divorce a few years later it wasn’t easy. I found myself raising two children together, and I made sure I provided both with a safe environment to live, guide them, and always teach them right from wrong. Over the years I also went back to school to better myself, and made sure I also had time for my children, and made sure they do their school work, and always have enough rest. Currently, my son is going to be a junior at UConn and my daughter going away to Loyola University in New Orleans. Looking back I can honestly say I did an awesome job, and this makes me believe I will do an awesome job raising the twins in my home. My children have also accepted them with open arms and I am happy about that. My children are positive role models for the twins. We have come to love them and I am looking to adopt them when the time comes.”
‘They Will Always Be A Part Of My Family’
Ms. Palmer, a NAFI CT foster mother for 10 years, shared this journey:
I have been blessed with two sons, the younger deceased twenty years ago while serving in the Navy. I had the passion to become a foster mother. After being turned away at an agency, I was disappointed and wondered whether or not I had raised my own children well.
After several months, I applied with doubt that I would get the opportunity to serve, however NAFI accepted me. I am a NAFI foster mom for ten years. At first I believed that I would be able to face the challenges my foster sons came with and quickly resolve them independently. My dependency on NAFI’s invaluable staff, as well my attendance at group meetings where parents share their concerns, became exceptionally useful resources.
I can recall telling one of my sons that this will be his last home after he informed me that this was his 17th home. That became his last home after living in the home for two years. Yes I was tested and tried by him. He wanted to have stayed only 3 months, his challenges were huge and many, and I can recall him taking my vehicle without my knowledge or permission and returned it in my parking lot smashed. The police was summoned and I was encouraged to get him arrested, I refused and remarked that everyone needs a another chance. That young man was aged out of the DCF, but my home had been always open for him for whatever he needed. I always thought of him. I realized that what many of them were yearning for is unconditional love, and wanting to be included.
You’ll notice that I said my sons. I treated them as if they are my biological children. Yes, they know that I was not their mom, but several of them refer to me as mom. They know that they can call me at any time and I will be there for them. One went to his family in Puerto Rico and I still hear from him, especially on Mother’s Day.
My intent was to change these young men to be better prepared for society. However, I realized that it is a two-way street, because by my serving these young men they made some positive changes, but I have made some changes also. I am more confident, exercise more patience, take things more often with a smile, and better yet I am more resilient. I give God thanks for being there with me, by providing caring, understanding and passionate staff from NAFI who have been my great support. The lives of the children that I have served have surely become my legacy. They will always be a part of my family.
Become a NAFI CT Foster Family!
Foster families come in many forms. Foster children placed with relatives make up one-quarter of all children in the foster care system, and you don’t have to be married to be a foster or adoptive parent. Single parent homes represent one-third of adoptions from foster care. NAFI CT is also proud to welcome LGBTQ+ individuals and couples as foster parents. Learn how you can help a child find a forever family by contacting our foster care specialists at (860) 560-7324.