When Danielle lost her husband in a car accident 10 years ago, she was pregnant with her youngest daughter, Codi, and caring for her toddler twins, Peter and Coco. In addition to her three biological children, Danielle had also taken in a fourth child, Danny, who was in need of a safe home. Through an agreement Danielle had with his parents, she has cared for Danny (now 20) for most of his life.
Still, she was drawn to fostering. Her friends thought becoming a foster parent would be too hard for her to handle alone. They worried it would be too much for her biological children. Despite their concerns, Danielle forged ahead.
Danielle admits there are challenges. “Foster kids have a lot going on because of their background or mental health issues,” said Danielle. The children and youth Danielle has fostered have dealt with trauma, including sexual abuse, neglect, addiction and domestic violence.
She’s found the first month welcoming a child into her home is the hardest part. “They’re trying to get acclimated to your home and you’re trying to get to know them. You are trying to stabilize some of the behavior that comes out as part of the transition,” Danielle said. However, she is swift to say that the rewards present themselves quickly.
“Sometimes I’m that child’s first experience at having someone care for them – those basic things that we might take for granted,” she said. “Give them the basics and they can blossom.”
Danielle became licensed through LSS Therapeutic Foster Care nearly four years ago. Since then she has supported seven foster children and does continuous respite care with 10 additional children. Most of the children have eventually reunified with their biological parents, and one was adopted by another family.
Danielle originally planned to care for infants, but her first foster child ended up being a 16-year-old. “My passion for working with older youth has flourished since then,” said Danielle. “I feel like I’m really helping with the older kids.” She explained that she enjoys working with teenagers because they are old enough to talk through their experiences.
As a fourth generation foster parent, Danielle is happy to share this lifestyle with her children. “My bio kids consider everyone coming into their home as their brother or sister,” she said. Danielle is proud of how her children have matured because of this experience. “This has taught my kids that everyone comes from different backgrounds and that everyone deserves kindness,” Danielle said.
Danielle often receives a mixed reaction from people about her choice to be a foster parent. People assume that a two parent household is a must. “You can foster as a single parent,” said Danielle. “Children need love and a safe home.”
“I love being a foster parent,” said Danielle. “My foster children have given me more of a sense of purpose than any other job I’ve had.”