By Stevie Bonnevie
In April 1993, a young couple suffering from significant substance use disorders had their two children taken from them into the custody of the state. As the mother helped load her children into a police car, not knowing what was to come or when she might see her children next, her two kids looked at her and asked, “Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?” Distraught, in an emotional shambles, and left to figure out what the next steps were, she worried where her children would end up … and prayed they would be kept together.
In August of that year, the mother found out she was pregnant again with her third child. “I’m not losing this one,” she thought. Having been given the requirements on what she needed to do to get her children back, she was able to access a rehabilitation facility specifically for women in similar situations as her. She would spend six months here, fighting for her sobriety, her children, and her baby on the way.
It wasn’t until November of 1993 that the father was able to access services for his substance use disorder — as a result from a run-in with the law. A cop caught him in an alleyway with others using substances and asked, “How did you get here?” to which the father could only respond, “I don’t know.” The cop pulled out his business card, and on the back wrote down a phone number for a rehabilitation facility. The father was on his way to recovery.
This story ends as one would hope. The mother and father successfully completed their substance use rehabilitation programs, obtained stable housing and income, and regained custody of their two children in 1994. Their new baby, a girl, was born healthy on April 1, 1994. That baby was raised with her two parents and two siblings in a happy, loving home with her biological family and parents now nearly 29 years sober, thanks to the programs in their community and other natural supports.
How do I know all this? Because I am that family’s third child, and so this is MY story as well.
While I was not in foster care myself, I am grateful that foster care was there for my family when it was needed. I am so humbled by the foster care staff and the foster parents who loved my brother and sister while my biological parents learned to love themselves, so that they could teach us the same.
And if I could say one thing to Eunice, the foster parent who clothed, fed, and cared for my siblings during that time, I would simply say, “Thank you.”
May is National Foster Care Month – a time to celebrate the amazing individuals who have opened their hearts and homes to children in need, like my family once was. It is also a time to spread awareness of foster care, the need for foster parents, and how we as a community can take steps to support foster children, foster parents, and the staff who support them.
I recently spoke to a fourth-grade class who invited me to come talk with them about my work after they had read an age-appropriate book about a child in foster care. What I told them is this: “You never know who might be in foster care or have been in foster care. They could be sitting right beside you. The number one thing I hear from the children in foster care that I work with is that they just want to be treated like everyone else, which is why it is so important to treat everyone with the respect that we all deserve, no matter our circumstances.”
Did you know that in the state of Maine, there are approximately 2,200 children in foster care, with more children coming into care every day? How can we as a country and community maintain treating foster children like any other kid, while still supporting them? Here are some ideas:
- Send some thank you cards or gift cards for local restaurants, clothing, and toy stores to KidsPeace for distribution to our foster families and the children we care for.
- Take a few minutes to learn more about the foster care system and the work we do at KidsPeace at www.fostercare.com.
- Urge your local media to tell the whole story of foster care in our community.
- Continue the conversation about foster care and the need to support the kids in it with your friends and family.
Like they say – it takes a village to raise a family. Our community is our village to support those families. Please join me, my family, and the KidsPeace team this National Foster Care Month in thanking foster parents across the country for their dedication and commitment to children in need.
Stevie Bonnevie is a family resource specialist in the South Portland, ME office of KidsPeace Foster Care.
In honor of National Foster Care Month, KidsPeace Foster Care will hold its 1st annual “Blue Ribbon Festival” on Thursday, May 12, to support and thank foster parents in the Portland area. The festival will feature music and comedy performances, art exercises and food trucks. It’s scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. in Congress Square Park in Portland.