May is Foster Family Recognition Month, a time to pause and consider that there are nearly 2,000 children in foster care in Maine, and less than 1,500 foster homes. Children come into care every week, creating an ongoing need for families that are licensed and prepared to meet the challenge of providing a loving home while supporting the process of reunification with birth families. Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services works to reunify children with birth parents and places children in relative homes when possible. Sometimes children cannot return to their parents and relatives are not an option. At that point, the foster family often becomes an adoptive family. This is the story of one such family, Charles and Alyson Holland.
When Alyson and Charles applied for foster care, they chose to be Treatment Foster Parents, since Alyson had experience working with children who had special needs. Treatment Foster Parents care for children with high emotional, behavioral or medical needs with the assistance of an agency, such as Spurwink. Alyson says, “We decided to work with Spurwink and have been so happy with our choice right from the beginning. Candace (Rowell, Program Director) and Rana (O’Connor, Resource Coordinator) were quick to respond, and respectful during the home study process. On the day our license came in, we had the most adorable boy, Ari, nearly 4 years old, placed in our home.”
Although this was an unusually quick placement, Spurwink staff was there to offer support. As first-time parents, Alyson recalls, “Angela (Mikesell, Case Manager) provided the guidance and support to help us feel the confidence that we could parent him.” Treatment Foster Care Support Specialist, Nick Sarichney, also joined the team, working with their foster child, Ari, at school and supervising birth family visits. “The connection between our son and Nick was beautiful to see. Even after ending his services, we still share stories of ‘Nick with the beard’”. A Spurwink play therapist rounded out the team. Alyson even enjoyed visits to the Spurwink office in Saco to turn in paperwork, giving her a chance to connect with Administrative Assistant, Susan Cook, whose cheerful demeanor and encouragement made Alyson proud of her foster sons. Yes, sons, plural.
Here’s Alyson again: “Two months after Ari’s placement we got a call at 4:30 on a Friday evening. Candace told us there was a newborn that needed a placement.” Although the baby was born addicted to narcotics and expected to be in the NICU/ continuing care nursery for about a month, Alyson and Charles quickly agreed to his placement. They made daily trips to the hospital, even spending some nights there. Alyson says, “Thank goodness we had all of those Spurwink supporters!! That was tough! But we made it! That baby is now nearly 16 months old!”
The family’s unwavering commitment to the boys has led them from foster care to adoption. “We have now adopted Ari! He’ll tell you, ‘I got my judgment’. He is a beautiful boy and is finally in a permanent home at the age of five.” Although they are still in the foster care process with the younger boy, if given the opportunity the Hollands will adopt him as well.
It’s hard to know where your path will lead when you make the decision to become a foster family. For the Hollands, Alyson had considered foster care, and Charles came around to the idea after they had been married a few years. Alyson says, “We had never thought our story would be fostering, but then we got licensed. We never thought foster care would lead to adoption, at least not quickly, but it did. Our family says we became the ‘insta-family’ licensed and placed with two kids in two months.” It was quite an adjustment, but the Hollands rose to every challenge.
What will your story be?
Feel free to contact me at 615-5878, or complete an inquiry form online at www.spurwink.org/fostercare.
by Rana O’Connor
Treatment Foster Care Resource Coordinator