My wife Bobbi and I had just moved to Colorado when we decided to foster. I went online and research how to start. Choosing the agency to work with was amazingly easy. I read Courage Foster Care Agency’s bio and placed the call. Once I spoke to Kerri it was clear this would be our home, I never even contacted anyone else. This agency connected with my soul and let me tell you it was the best decision we ever made.
Our first referral was for adoption of an ICWA girl, I wasn’t fully licensed yet and so we had to wait. Kerri emailed the caseworker almost weekly to ensure we were placed with her. In my mind that baby was meant to be ours. Once we were licensed, Kerri pushed for her placement with us.
Months went by as they ruled out family, in the meantime we had our first placement, then 2 weeks later our second, then a month later our 3rd. I always made sure to save room for the ICWA baby and waited for the call.
Our first placement was probably the most special placement we’ve had. She came to us at 3 years old. Smart and funny. Vibrant and happy. As with all kiddos who experienced trauma, her behavior quickly changed. She would eat out of the trash, drink out of the toilet, hurt herself, eat her own feces, and many many more behaviors that escalated with time. As first time foster parents, this was a huge learning experience. We leaned on Kerri and other experienced foster parents often.
My 2nd placement was a 5 year old little girl. I quickly built a relationship with her parents. I would go cheer for them in court, help them navigate the system, listen and hugged them when they cried. They needed someone, just one person to be their cheerleader and let me tell you I was that person for them. Both of them worked their plan hard and she was the only kid we’ve had be returned home. If I could give one piece of advice for new foster parents, co-parent with bio families, don’t be judgmental, show compassion as that compassion could be the one thing that keeps them fighting for their kids.
My 3rd placement, newborn boy placed for adoption. I dove into him heart and soul. he was the sweetest most adorable little boy. We cared for him for almost 5 months with the assumption that we were the permanent placement. Then out of nowhere he was moved to Texas for adoption with his brother. The county knows things that you don’t and always remember that thing work out the way they are suppose to and that you as a foster parent have little control. Losing little E was the worst heart break I’ve experienced. Luckily for me, his adoptive parents keep in touch years later. I know with out a doubt that my role in his life was to love him until he could be loved by them.
After baby E left, we were finally placed with our first referral. My daughter Everleigh. Man was she worth the wait. She is perfect in everyway. She required some therapy (OT and PT) from the drug exposure. She was our first adoption!!!!
Months later another referral, newborn boy ICWA. My son Nova was placed with me at 7 days old, straight out of the NICU. He was withdrawing from drugs. He struggled so badly for almost a year. I’ve never cared for baby in his shape. It was scary, but luckily with lots of early intervention he has caught up to peers. He still struggles as with all Fetal Alcohol babies do. Researching and learning is the key to his success. His adoption was exactly one year after Everleigh’s.
Now at this point we have 1 BIO, 2 adopted, and Bobbi was pregnant. We moved back to NY and continued our foster care license there. We decided to only foster teens!!! I know you think that is SCARY, so did we. However, we have had awesome teens come stay with us. Don’t be afraid of the teens, they are amazing.
One month after our son was born we received a call that Everleigh’s mom had given birth to a little girl. After months of discussion with the county, Everleigh and I flew to Colorado to pick up her sister. Temperance is diagnosed with FAS also. She is extremely developmentally delayed and is struggling to catch up to peers, we have a long road ahead of us but we wouldn’t want it any other way! These girls deserve to grow up together and although having 2 infants 30 days apart wasn’t a part of our original plan, we love every minute of the chaos. We finalized her adoption in August 2019.
In closing, my advise to new foster parents….Partner with Courage!!! Ask for help, you are going to see things you never thought you would see. Don’t be afraid of “drug babies”, FAS babies, or TEENS because they are all amazing and with support you will be a huge blessing to them. Love the parents, kids notice! Be involved, go to every court case, intervene, and be transparent with the team and parents. Be resilient, and understand change because everything changes. Last but not least, take care of you, your spouse, your bio kids; because this journey isn’t roses and your family will take a beating.
In 5 years Bobbi and I have fostered 11 kids. Bobbi and I were lucky enough to have 5 children, 3 beautiful children adopted out of foster care. We couldn’t imagine a better way to give back to our community.
Sarah and Bobbi Shepherd
Seeing families reunited after working incredibly hard is a blessing that can’t be described in words. We began fostering out of necessity and continue fostering because we see and understand the need for this great work.