My daughter Abigail is a senior in high school and had to do a mandatory service project that involved researching a societal issue. Abigail and her partner chose to do their project on foster care, and the shortage of foster parents.
One of the requirements of the project is to have a written piece published and to try to garner some feedback from the public on the subject. So, I would greatly appreciate it if you could leave a comment at the bottom with your thoughts on foster care. Thank you.
by Abigail Zableny
Imagine being 17 years old and moving into your 30th foster home. This is the life that real children here in Rochester have to face. There are thousands of children that are put into foster care because their parents are not equipped to take care of them. These children are often unsafe at home, abused, or neglected. If they are not properly loved and cared for as a decent family would treat them, then once they age out at around 18 years old they have to live independently without any basic skills or a family to fall back on when life throws obstacles their way. It is our job as a community to seek out these children that need our help and guide them towards bright futures that any child deserves.
As a senior at Our Lady of Mercy High School for Young Women I have found one of our own community members, gym teacher Stephanie Barbero, who took on the generous experience of opening up her home to a foster child. Upon interviewing Stephanie, she explained the process and somewhat strenuous tasks that she and her family had to experience. A 17 year old girl approached Stephanie and asked to be a part of her family. This request was one Stephanie could not refuse. Before bringing the young woman into her home, she held a meeting with her family to inform them on what was going to happen. She described the situation as being “in it to win it” with her entire family. The Barbero family was able to accept another member into their lives and thankfully not worry about finances being strained. However, mental and emotional life was a different story. Some of Stephanie’s children were the same age as their foster child so they had to learn to share with one another which is sometimes difficult for 17 year old girls to do.
Despite the emotional toll of taking in a child with a rough background and opening up her entire life to her, Stephanie states that she would do it all over again if she was presented with the opportunity. In the future however, Stephanie would be apprehensive in how she handles another foster child. She reports that her family actually gave the foster child too much which was hard for her to deal with since she had moved around so much. She wasn’t used to having her own bedroom or other personal items and the Barberos provided her with everything she could ever need as if she was one of their own children. This ended up being too hard for her which leads Stephanie to the conclusion that next time she would ease a foster child into this new life of loving care so that they feel more comfortable with having their own personal items for possibly the very first time in their life.
Stephanie’s final thoughts on the issue of foster care touched on what are called the Core Values of Mercy, which are held by our school Our Lady of Mercy. These are basic attitudes and behaviors that when fulfilled, live out a spirited life of Mercy. Two key values that relate to foster care are hospitality and compassionate service. Regarding hospitality Stephanie states, “You need to just open up your entire world to this one person”. She agrees that you must have compassion to open up and attend to whatever their needs are and try to understand their past but accept them and treat them like a human being no matter what struggles they have gone through.
Stephanie Barbero proves the point that being a foster parent is not an easy task, however it is definitely a rewarding one. From the very moment that 17 year old girl walked into the Barbero home, many lives were changed forever. Stephanie now knows what it is like to give to a young child that needs guidance and love but hasn’t received it until almost adulthood. Any child in foster care deserves to be treated with these qualities especially since that has been a vital missing part of their lives. The Barberos are just a normal Rochester family that did an extraordinary thing for someone else that they didn’t even know. As a community, we must be more accepting towards these children that so desperately just want to be reunited with their parents or just be with a family that will love them unconditionally. If we see someone struggling and we have the resources to help and provide for them, why not help them?