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WEST WARWICK—Although Donna LaRose has three grown daughters, and eight grandchildren, she still wanted to continue helping children grow and enjoy life, especially after her husband died three years ago. Now, the West Warwick resident has adopted Evan, a two-year old foster child, and urges locals to become foster parents.
“I wanted to do something to keep me going, and I love children,” said LaRose, who became Evan’s foster parent when he was a six-month old. “I know that I am providing a good basis for him, even though he is still young.”
“He is going to know what a loving home is,” she added.
LaRose became a foster parent through the Family Service of Rhode Island (FSRI), a non-profit social service agency which trains and supports prospective guardians for foster children. Greg Wright, the program manager for foster care treatment services at FSRI, helps to place children coming from difficult family situations into welcoming homes.
“I think that with a lot of people that come in to doing foster parenting, they want to help children,” said Wright. “We try to get the message out there that there are still a lot of children that need homes.”
“There are definitely a lot of challenges, as there are challenges to parenting in general, but [there is] a rewarding factor that you are helping a child to come into a stable situation and grow, whether a baby or a teenager, and to be able to give them a life that they have not had up until this point.”
FSRI works in coordination with a number of state agencies, including the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), and also provides individuals with continuous training and support as they find their way through foster parenting.
“This is a great big partnership, and the foster parent is an integral part of that,” said Wright. “It is important that we provide that extra level of support for foster parents. This is a challenging task they have taken on. When you are a parent, you are navigating medical appointments and things like that.”
LaRose stated that she was well prepared by FSRI to become a foster parent through their training program.
“The training was really helpful in a lot of areas, [and] there is a lot of support from family service,” she said. “I have a case worker that comes to see me once a week. I enjoyed going to the training. They interview you, and we do the courses. There is also training during the year, so it doesn’t stop once you get your license.”
The greatest challenge for Wright and foster parents such as LaRose, however, is convincing potential guardians that the benefits of caring for a foster child outweigh the difficulties. LaRose provided the best example of the rewards when she briefly took care of two sisters until they were placed with their foster parents.
“One of them had a birthday, and they were just so flabbergasted that we had a party for them,” said LaRose. “They didn’t expect it because we didn’t really know them. They never did crafts before, and we had beads all over the floor.”
“On the last day we had them, I took them to school,” she continued. “When I came back to the house, there was a note from the oldest one, which said, ‘Thank you for taking care of my sister and I. We had the best time.’ That meant a lot. You didn’t expect that from a foster child that was 12.”
Wright highlighted LaRose’s story as one of the many which foster parents share with the children which have been entrusted by the state to their care, and for every challenge and difficulty, there is a life enriched.
“Those seem like little things, but they really are not,” said Wright. “Foster parents are opening up doors for children, giving them the things which they are not accustomed to.”
Wright further noted that the biggest hurdle for FSRI and other foster agencies to overcome is finding homes for older children, many of whom have come from abusive or neglectful family situations and have already been bounced from home to home.
“There are unfortunately circumstances [in which] children have been in several foster homes over the years,” said Wright. “Think about yourself as a child at whatever age, someone shows up at your door and says you are coming with me, and they put you at the home of a total stranger. That is traumatic, but we are just not putting a child anywhere, we are matching them with [foster parents].”
“Every single case is so different, but the bottom line is we need more foster parents,” he added.
LaRose, who is also caring for another infant along with Evan, knows that if potential foster parents are willing to face down the challenges and provide a stable home for a child, the rewards are great.
“I hope I have instilled in him the love and affection he needs, that he knows that that is out there,” said LaRose about being a foster parent for Evan. “And that he grows from that.
“People should not be afraid,” she added.
For more information about becoming at foster parent or FSRI in general, visit their website at www.familyserviceri.org, or contact Greg Wright by phone at 401-331-1350 ext. 3305, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.