How foster care will change your child’s life
Growing up alongside kids in foster care shaped Alexis and her family.
Q&A with Alexis, 19
What was it like, growing up with kids in your home through foster care?
My parents talked to me and my brother about foster care, and we also watched a movie about it. So we got to see what we would be doing to help the kids. Over time, we developed a relationship with the kids who stayed with us, and they became like family. I’m still really close with a lot of them, and I think of them like brothers and sisters.
How do you relate today when teens your age come into your home?
I think it helps them feel more comfortable, and I feel more comfortable as well, because we have things in common and it’s easier for us to get along. We can go out and do things together. It takes time to get that close, but it’s always worth trying.
They’re going to be shy, and I get really shy too, when new people come into the house. But I also try to make them feel more comfortable. And my parents talked to me to help me understand they’re just as scared as I am. They’d say, “Go talk to them. Go hang out with them. Get to know them. They’re nice people.”
At first I was really scared to do that, and then I’d see that a lot of the kids felt the same way—they were no different from me. I think being the same age can help, but I can also get along with younger kids, and I can help take care of them.
How has fostering changed your mom and dad?
At first, being a new foster parent, you yourself are learning. Whenever you start, you’re trying to learn how to get to know the kids. You’re trying to understand each kid individually, and you just kind of have to adapt to them, and that’s what will make them feel welcome.
I feel like that’s a lot of what my parents did. They learned to get to know each kid differently, and every kid wasn’t the same. And my parents really learned to treat them like they’re their own kids, so we’re just like one big family. And once you learn that foster kids are no different from other kids, I feel like you just learn to make a family with all of them.
My parents are really kind-hearted, and they know how to take care of a lot of people. They really just want to take care of everyone’s kids. I feel like my life wouldn’t be the same if they didn’t do this. It has definitely changed my life as it has changed theirs.
How has being part of a foster family impacted you?
I’ve become more understanding. I’ve heard a lot of stories kids have shared, and it’s opened my mind. You don’t know the life someone else is living. And the fact that you can be a part of helping provide a home and even just being a friend, a sister, a brother—whatever they want while they’re living here—I think that helps.
What has this experience taught you about being part of a family?
I’ve learned that family doesn’t have to be blood related. It’s the same as having friends, like super close friends. You just grow up to have love for these kids, and they become a part of you, and you just really learn how to take care of them, and they help make a family.
I don’t know how to explain it, but I’d say having them here has definitely made me who I am. So foster care doesn’t just change the kids’ lives, but it also changes ours. It’ll change your family, and it helps open everyone’s eyes because you learn what you’re really helping them for—you’re giving them a home, you’re providing for them, and they become like your own family. And it’s nice.
What advice would you give someone who’s thinking about fostering teens?
I’d say don’t shy away from it because a lot of parents definitely do. You don’t get to see them grow up from when they were little, but you get to see the person you can help them become. And it happens so much faster because they’re getting older faster.
I honestly think helping teenagers is amazing because there are so many teens who need a safe place. I have friends who are foster kids, and some of them have stayed with us before. They’re really nice kids.