Kris and Eric Calder adopted two brothers through foster care when they were toddlers. The children came to their home when they were 11 months and 26 months and now they are 8 and 10. The boys are thriving as is Hana, who was placed with the Calders in May of 2015. Prior to coming to PCHAS, four year old Hana had faced many challenges. Both of her parents struggled with addiction and depression and they loved Hana, but they had a difficult time meeting Hana’s most basic needs. Prior to coming into PCHAS’ care, she was so used to not having enough food that she would gorge herself at each meal and ask each evening whether the family would have food to eat the next day. The Calders recognized that Hana’s behavior was rooted in a deep insecurity about whether food would be consistently available to her. So the Calders began to take daily trips to the grocery store so that Hana could select food items that she liked. On these grocery trips and at each meal, Hana was assured that she would not go without food and that her foster family would make sure that she did not suffer from hunger. Within a few weeks, Hana’s fears about hunger subsided and she became happy and relaxed at the family dinner table. What follows is a Q&A with Kris and her family’s journey to adoption.
Q: Tell us about yourself and your family.
A: My husband, Eric, and I were unable to have children of our own, so in 2009 we decided to adopt. We especially felt called to adopt siblings out of foster care. There is a great need for sibling adoption. There aren’t very many foster parents who can take sibling groups. We are very happy to have these brothers; and we thank God that we were able to adopt them and love them.
Q: And you felt you were called to foster a second time?
A: Yes; after a few years, we were called to foster again. We became foster parents to a two-year-old girl, Hana. We felt called to foster for many reasons: it seemed that we were meeting people all the time that were talking about foster care and adoption. When we fostered our boys we happened to move into a neighborhood that had four other foster families. God calls us to help the needy and help orphaned children and feed the hungry (this is our interpretation of the Bible).
Q: And you’ve now adopted Hana?
A: Not exactly, we share custody with her mom. As you can imagine, this is unchartered territory for foster parents like us who did not have a relationship with Hana’s biological parents prior to her coming into care. Her mom had a tough life and was also in foster care as a youth. She adores her daughter but felt like she could not care for her the way she needed to be cared for. We were able to reach an agreement that provides Hana and her mom regular visits with one another.
Q: You have a special relationship with Hana’s birth mother?
A: Yes; I was able to get to know Hana’s birth mother. I formed a relationship with her mom; I act as her mentor, in a way. I feel blessed to have been able to guide her. Many foster parents are afraid to get to know birth parents but we are very glad that we did because now we will have the chance to have an ongoing relationship with both Hana and her birth mother.
Q: I understand you have a special relationship with the PCHAS social workers who were assigned to your case?
A: Yes; our social workers, Keri Moran and Ty Cliffel, have been a tremendous help; we work as a team. The training they provided is excellent. They taught us how to care for children who have known deep pain; they taught us a style of parenting that is crucial for helping children from troubled backgrounds. They bringing hope and healing.
Q: You have said that it takes a village to raise a child.
A: This is absolutely true. Our neighbors are wonderful. They leave bags of clothing on our porch for Hana; some have gotten background checks so that they can babysit our children. In fact, one family has recently become licensed foster parents for PCHAS!
And of course God is watching out for us as well.
Q: You are an advocate for foster care in the community. Can you tell us about that?
A: Yes; we are now trying to get the word out about the need for foster parents. I speak at conferences whenever I can and get the word out through Facebook too. We desperately need more people to help foster children.
Q: You also want to improve the reputation of foster parents. Can you tell us about that?
Foster parents are so often portrayed by the news media in a negative way. I want to help people see foster care in a good light. Likewise, the foster care system and Child Protective Services (CPS) has faced a great deal of criticism and the system definitely has room for improvement. We need to do whatever we can to improve the foster care system in this country.
Q: What advice would you give to couples interested in becoming foster parents?
A: I would say, “don’t go into this thinking that if you love the children enough all will be fine and you can fix any problems that may arise.” Raising them takes time and patience. Being loved is unfamiliar to them, so they need time to understand that and acclimate to you and to your home. You need to give them time to connect with you and to recover from the trauma that they have gone through. I would also tell them to look for support; don’t be afraid to ask for help. The first time I fostered, when things would get tough, I was really afraid to admit to my friends and family that I was having a hard time. But it’s okay to admit that it is difficult.
Hana’s transformation over the last year is astounding! She is receiving all the care, love and gentleness that she needs to be healthy and happy. All children deserve to be loved and to be cared for. PCHAS has faithfully shared God’s love and hope with hurting children for the past 114 years. Please help us continue to transform the lives of children like Hana by keeping suffering children in your prayers and by supporting the ministry of PCHAS. Your prayers and gifts will enable us to serve more children and families in the months and years ahead. Thank you for recognizing the critical importance of our work and for giving selflessly to care for children who suffer.
By Margaret Barry