Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 05/15/23
God’s work. With yesterday being Mother’s Day and today being smack in the middle of National Foster Care Month, Kathleen Paydo, author of Fostering Love: A Glimpse Into Foster Care, opens up about her own experiences as a foster mother with the support of her Catholic faith, her husband of thirty-five years Ron and and their four biological children.
JWK: What does it mean to be a foster parent? What are your responsibilities?
Kathleen Paydo: Being a foster parent means having a calling to a vocation for a special type of parenting where we love a child who comes into our home and we do our best to heal their physical and emotional wounds by advocating for their needs. We continue to care for them, help them grow, and find their…momentum in life whether that be an infant who is now being properly cared for, a toddler who knows better how to control his emotions, a preteen who is more stable or a teen who is pursuing activities of daily living skills. All need help healing and finding their momentum!
JWK: What sort of help do you receive from the government or foster agencies?
KP: We receive help from our licensing agency by way of a case worker for our foster child and another social worker foster care coordinator for us, the foster parents. The children receive government health care as well as counseling and public schooling. We receive approximately $25 (a) day per child for reimbursements of our out of pocket costs.
JWK: What led you and your husband to decided to take on the challenge of foster care?
KP: Ron and I decided to become foster parents thirty- five years ago, shortly after we were married. We basically felt a calling to help take care of the needy children and teens in our community and did this for 10 years. After having our fourth bio child we took ten years off to raise them before returning for another stint as foster parents. We have been “back” for 15 years.
JWK: How many children have you fostered over the years?
KP: To date we have fostered 165 children who were placed in our home, which means we signed official agreements to take care of them full time. We have fostered many others through respite placements, old fosters coming back for visits, adoptive homes who need a break, and seven exchange students (during our ten year break). We also mentor many new foster parents.
JWK: What was the largest number of kids you had in the home at one time?
KP: During Covid we had eight foster children…which consisted of two sets of siblings. Two in one family and six in another. Homeschooling getting dropped unexpectedly in our laps with eight children was a story unto itself!
JWK: What was the dynamic like between the children – particularly between your foster children and your biological children?
KP: Raising biological children along side of foster children is definitely challenging. There are several hints that helped us through this process over the years. We took in foster children of a different age than our bios. When our children were young we took in teens and when they were teens we took in littles. We worked very hard to give each child individual attention each day.
JWK: What have you personally learned from being a foster parent that you might not have fully appreciated otherwise?
KP: We have learned that the effects of trauma, abuse and neglect have such devastating effects on children and that wrapping a child in layers of love, including a stable home environment, can help a child through that trauma. We never realized how much parenting we would be doing with our foster children’s parents as well. They often have suffered abuse and neglect in their lives too so much of our parenting turns out to be multigenerational.
JWK: Have you kept up with your foster kids after they moved out of your house?
KP: Yes! As Ron and I like to say, we are happily collecting a lot of children. I text with a half dozen fosters daily, I would say. We still have a big Halloween party every year for any Paydo foster children alumni and thoroughly enjoy seeing the children and their families again (those who want to stay in touch). We get the occasional call from an old foster years after they left our home with updates on how they are doing, or word on a new job or to give adulting 101 advice, from time to time.
JWK: What do you want the public to understand about foster care – and why it’s important to all of us?
KP: We work hard to spread the news that trauma causes children a lot of toxic stress and they need loving people who will stand by them and support them – whether that be us or another adult they met during their foster care journey – having a meaningful and long term relationship with them is invaluable and what helps a child through this chapter of their life. Think of a pebble tossed into a lake and the ripple effect it has. That’s the true world of foster care. We are affecting many more people than just the child placed in our home. This is God’s important work.
JWK: Do you need to be a couple to foster a child or can single people do it?
KP: Many single parents are foster parents and are doing an excellent job. We think that behind every effective foster home needs to be five support homes. That is the secret to lasting multiple years in this system. There are many difficult days and our foster parent peers and support families helping us out is how we muddle through and don’t feel the need to quit after a bad day. We just phone a friend and they come to our rescue giving us the support we need. No one understands the unique trials of being a foster parent, single or a couple, like another foster parent!
JWK: What advice do you have for people considering foster care?
KP: My best advice to those considering foster care, and as a good friend once told me, “just do it!” It’s a tough job, it’s highly rewarding and it won’t be anything like you think it will be ahead of time. We do not regret being foster parents because we feel like we have gotten more blessings out of the program than we put into it.
KP: Emotional bonding is in high need in our world today It helps battle loneliness and depression. Foster parents wholeheartedly bond with children, not because we will keep them forever because statistically we probably won’t. We are showing the child what a meaningful relationship is and this will help them bond and have meaningful relationships in the future. All of these factors lead to more stability in the child’s life and in the end makes our world a better place, one child at a time.
John W. Kennedy is a writer, producer and media development consultant specializing in television and movie projects that uphold positive timeless values, including trust in God.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11