Nanci Weinstein and her family have been special to mine for many years. Her husband David and my husband worked together as Marine Test Pilots. Nanci and I have walked together on some very unique and sacred paths. One I have had the honor of watching is in her role as a foster mom, working with the amazing Angels Foster Family Network out of San Diego, California.
Nanci's family has been fostering with Angels for the last three-and-a-half years, and have lovingly cared for two young infants until they were reunited with their families. Currently, she is caring for a young boy her family picked up when he was just two days old, and he's been with their family for nearly two years. This young boy's case may be headed for adoption.
Here's what Nanci had to say about becoming a foster parent:
Q. Did you ever think when you started this that you'd end up possibly adopting?
A. Well, not necessarily. I mean, I knew it could be a possibility as foster-to-adopt situations do come up within the Angels network. But really? The goal is reunification, and that's what we always assume is going to be the end result. Is it? Not always. But, that's what the intent is, so whenever I've been asked to care for an Angel, I look at it like I will be working with and developing a relationship with the family.
It's not always easy, and there's a lot of sacrifice on my part and the part of the biological parents to make some sort of relationship in the very weird and awkward situations sometimes we are in, but it's always for the best interest of the child. When it's with the biological parents, that's a beautiful thing. But if it cannot be, for whatever reason, it is an honor and a privilege for my family to be considered, as it is now.
Related: Foster Carer Profile: What's it Like to Foster a Child?
Q. I know many families who look into fostering because they are hoping that there may be a chance to go from foster to adoption. But if that wasn't necessarily your goal, why did you decide to do foster care?
A. Well, as you know, I was adopted when I was a baby. I've had a wonderful life, and adoption is the most beautiful picture of sacrificial love from so many players. You may not have known this, but I actually was in foster care for the first two months of my life, while the adoption was being finalized, and I am just so thankful for my family, and the family that kept me until my "Gotcha Day."
I've always thought that adoption and fostering may be in our family's future. I feel like it's sort of a way for me to give back to a circle of giving I was part of very early in my life, and can continue to be part of in the life of other young ones who need it.
Q. I didn't realize that you'd been in foster care yourself. What was it about Angels Family Network that drew you to them?
A. Well, I researched many different groups and organizations; you know what a researcher and planner I am! I really found the Angels model interesting and unique. They only work with newborns to five-year-olds, as that's a pivotal time in development, and it's so very important to give as much stability and love and nourishment as possible during those times.
It's a slower process - I will only have one child or sibling set at a time that I am fostering, and therefore, one family relationship at a time. Angels gives so much support and education and just love to its foster families, and I feel like they really care about all involved - the child, the child's biological parents and the foster families too.
It's just a really great model they have where they support their foster families and I feel like they are changing the old-school stereotypes of what a foster family looks like - replacing it with something that the average family could really do because they offer so much support and focus toward what is best for the child.
Related: Adoption And Foster Parenting Resources
Q. What's the hardest part?
A. Well, it's pretty obvious, and the number one reason I hear people say, "Oh, I could NEVER do what you're doing!" I won't lie, when a child is reunited with their biological parents, it's hard. Not because you wish it wasn't that way, but just because you can't love children and not fall in love with anyone in your care.
When my Angel children are with our family, they are family. And, they stay part of your family, even if only in your heart. I cry, but they are happy tears too because I am so proud of the work the biological families have done, and I'm hopeful for all their futures.
Q. Why do you keep doing it?
A. I know it sounds cliche, but I feel like our family was called to do this. Yes, there are sacrifices, but the fruits of those sacrifices have been unimaginable joys and bonds with the most amazing children. My own children have learned to be so compassionate and eager to help, and I feel like though we don't make a huge world impact, for the families we work with, and the children we love - we make a world of difference.
In traditional foster homes, children are often moved three to five times before they are five years old! This can really impact in a negative way, with lifelong impacts. On that same token, my family has the very special opportunity to make a similarly profound impact on a child in a positive way, again with lifelong impacts. The magnitude of that privilege is never lost on me.
Q. What would you recommend to someone looking to foster?
A. First, be sure your family is wholly on board! The help of my family has made fostering possible. I'd also suggest researching agencies. They vary in their methodologies and missions, and it's important to be involved with one that will support you and help you as you endeavor in this heartwork. I was very blessed to find the Angels Foster Family Network!
Knowing my sweet friend Nanci as I do, my guess is they feel the exact same way!
Photo: Soul of Photography