Written by Jamie Feather, Amara Volunteer and Former Foster Parent
A South Sound Family Making a Big Difference for Kids and Families
Warning: Spend time talking with Amara foster parent Devon Abejo and you just might walk away thinking that being a foster parent is something you can do. And thinking you can do it? That’s the first step to being able to do it. And realizing you are able to do foster care? That’s a very, very good thing, according to Devon, who, along with her husband James, is a passionate advocate for kids in foster care in Washington’s South Sound. We had a chance to catch up with Devon recently and are excited to share the insights she has for people considering becoming foster parents.
A Winding Path to Becoming a Foster Care Family
Devon and James began their foster care journey with the intention of adopting a baby. But something happened along the way: the couple fell in love with foster care and quickly realized the tremendous impact they could have on children and families as foster parents. “We want to be there for kids who need an adult to advocate for them.” The Abejos have opened their home to 16 children who have been separated from their families and placed in foster care. They remain in contact with most of the kids who have been in their care as well as with their families. Their foster care journey may not look the way they thought it would in the beginning, but it has been more fulfilling than they could have imagined. Devon encourages potential foster parents to try to keep an open mind about the experience and follow the path where it leads them.
Transparency with Families
The Abejos approach families impacted by child welfare with a sense of deep empathy, believing that bad things can happen to individuals and families in a social system that doesn’t have a lot of safety nets. The Abejos most recently opened their home to two young brothers. When the boys first came to stay with them, Devon told their mother, “I am not perfect. My job is to care for your children and keep them safe until they can come home.”
Of course, words are not enough without follow through, and Devon managed to follow through in a big way, sharing adorable “Outfit of the Day” pictures with mom and facilitating daily FaceTime calls. Having these daily touchpoints with the boys was critical for this mom. Knowing that her children were safe and loved by someone who was on her team allowed this mother to do what she needed to do to regain custody of her children. Now that the boys have been reunited with their mom, Devon remains in close touch with the family, noting that mom feels comfortable reaching out to her to ask questions and receive support.
Supporting Kids of All Ages
In addition to being a foster parent, Devon is also a Teen Librarian for King County, and those worlds mix more than you might think: “Libraries are places that are utilized by kids in foster care and their social workers. When I learn that one of the kids who has been coming into the library is in foster care, I give them my business card with my cell phone on it and tell them to give it to their social worker and let them know I am available to help.” She wants more people to be open to caring for older children in foster care, noting that “an eight-year-old or a thirteen-year-old is just as deserving of a safe place to live as a two-year-old.” She notes that on the foster care placement email distribution lists, people rarely step up with availability for older kids, while there are frequently multiple responses for babies two and under. Being the person or family to open your home to an older child may be just the thing they need to get through a challenging time in their life.
Give Respite Care a Chance, too!
In addition to longer term placements, the Abejos also provide respite care to other foster families. Respite care is perhaps one of the unsung heroes of foster care. Being a licensed respite care provider means that you can step in and pinch hit for a foster family who needs support temporarily. It might mean you babysit for a date night or have a child come stay with you for the weekend while their foster family has to go out of state for a funeral, for example. And according to Devon, it also means “You get to spoil the kids, give them pizza for dinner, get them a treat, and then send them back with their foster parents!” Respite care is also a great way to meet other foster parents and to build a network of caregivers who can provide respite for you when you need it.
Work with an Agency that Mirrors Your Values and Supports You
Devon also suggests that potential foster parents look for an agency that feels right to them. This means that they should find an agency whose values aligns with their own. For the Abejos, Amara was the right choice because of tour commitment to diversity and inclusion and respect for families of all types. They are an interracial couple with lots of friends in the LGBTQIA+ community and they knew when they set out to be licensed, they wanted to work with an agency that deeply valued all of the communities they belong to.
Not all agencies will be right for all caregivers but Devon hopes that all foster parents can find an agency to partner with that supports them along their foster care journey like Amara has for her and James.
Most importantly, Devon wants potential foster parents to know this: “You can do it. Everyone thinks you have to be superhuman to do it. You don’t. You just have to have a room and food and the desire to help children and families. You just have to start.”
Amara is grateful to the Abejos and all of our families who work every day to support children and families experiencing the foster care system. Learn more about Amara’s foster care services program or how to get involved by visiting our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.