Seven years ago, the last thing on Eric Stearns mind was parenthood. Eric was employed at a Spurwink behavioral-health residence in Cornville, where he met a hard-to-forget eight-year-old boy named Ethan. Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and left in the care of the state, Ethan was non-verbal and struggling with family abandonment grief.
Life, love and career advancements brought Eric to the Greater Portland area. He worked at Spurwink to help individuals with emotional, developmental and behavioral health challenges, met and married the love of his life David, and purchased a home. His life was full.
Or so he thought.
Spurwink continued to provide educational and therapeutic services to support Ethan’s special needs. He was relocated to the Greater Portland area to access specialized programs at the Spurwink Glickman Academy.
In 2014, Eric learned from a Spurwink connection that unforgettable Ethan—now age 15—was in need of a therapeutic foster care home. In a blink, Eric knew that the right home for Ethan was his and David’s. Having been raised in foster care with his three brothers, Eric understood the positive impact that a good foster family could provide. He gently approached Dave about starting a family as foster parents to Ethan.
“While there are many adults, like Eric, raised in foster care who want to give back by parenting a foster child, the majority of foster parents don’t have prior experience with fostering. They are drawn to foster care because they understand the critical need for a child to experience a truly caring, loving and stable family”, explains Candace Rowell, LCSW, Program Manager at Spurwink Treatment Foster Care. “Foster parents trust that their commitment will have a positive life-changing impact not only for the foster child but for their own lives.”
David, an assistant bank manager with nine years of experience in the elementary classroom, shared Eric’s family values yet had no foster care experience to draw upon. He needed to get to know Ethan, learn about how Autism affects Ethan, and what support services were available. Spurwink provided David with four days of training in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI). Finally, last December, Ethan came home.
Today, the Stearns family is thriving and beginning the steps to pursue Ethan’s adoption. The once sad, non-verbal boy has transformed into a more verbal and healthy young man. He grew four inches since December and lost 15 pounds. Ethan’s even on track to read at a middle school grade level and is incredibly imaginative. The family is working on creating his very own comforting “sensory room.” And more importantly, Ethan is now expressing joy and showing great affection for animals – particularly Quinn, his new puppy.
A typical on-the-go family is how Eric describes his life today, “Our life now revolves around Ethan’s Spurwink Glickman Academy schedule, in-home Spurwink support, meal preparations and of course dog walks.”
The Spurwink foster care support services are available to individuals exploring foster care and licensed foster families. The treatment foster care program features a team approach, a 24/7 “on-call” team member, experienced case manager support, foster family networking, and access to extensive training and multimedia resources. For additional information about the Spurwink Treatment Foster Care, call 207-871-1200.
Feel free to contact me at 615-5878, or complete an inquiry form online at www.spurwink.org/fostercare.