Fostering young children is not just something the Borkowski family does. It’s a way of life.
Sitting at the kitchen table of their bright and airy home in Tierrasanta, Kendell and Patrick explain that providing a loving home for infants and toddlers is part of how their family lives their values. “We believe in loving others and loving them well. What I love about fostering is that we have the opportunity to intentionally make those choices every day,” says Kendell. Patrick adds, “We both gain joy and fulfillment from lifting up others. It’s a big part of who we are.” The couple says they never look at fostering as a way to give their family a child, but instead, they feel they have a family to give to a child.
Their home bustles with life as Ladell, their four-year-old son whom they adopted at birth, draws pictures in his composition book and practices the hip-hop moves he’s learned at Culture Shock Dance Center. Sophie, a 20-month-old girl the Borkowskis recently adopted after fostering since she was two weeks old, chases after her brother, trying to imitate his every step. Sophie will learn a lot from her brother, who seems to have a sixth sense about what people need to hear at any given moment. Patrick smiles as he recounts how Ladell regularly approaches people and offers kind observations such as “you are so beautiful” and “you made my day.”
Sophie was the couple’s first placement with Angels. They fostered another baby girl for four months before she was reunified with her biological mother, who took the steps she needed to regain custody of her child. Saying goodbye was difficult, but the rewards of fostering were greater. “I’d better be hurting or it means I didn’t do it right,” says Kendell, with a dimpled smile.
Though the Borkowskis are deeply committed to giving through community service, they realize that they gain a lot from fostering as well. Interacting with birth families has been particularly rewarding for the couple. “This is one way I can keep developing as a person,” says Patrick. “It’s easy to stay in your bubble, but if we weren’t immersed in people’s lives in a loving way, we wouldn’t have run into them. And it opens you up, and makes you wonder why we aren’t having relationships with people outside of our comfort zone, because it gives a new perspective on life.” Kendell agrees. “Having a relationship with birth parents and loving on their humanness is easier than people would think.” Patrick says their family may have adopted Sophie, but they felt mutually adopted by the baby’s birth grandparents. “There was an unspoken emotion that pulled us in as they gave us big hugs,” she says. The families plan to maintain contact throughout Sophie’s life.
The Borkowskis say the key to being successful foster parents is having strong community support. They belong to Bridge Church in City Heights and are active with New Chapters, an orphan care advocacy group. They say Angels is a community unto itself, though. The organization offers ongoing education and training as well as round-the-clock support from clinical case managers. There are also playgroups and support groups for foster parents who want to connect with people who understand the unique rewards and challenges of fostering. Kendell and Patrick say everything about Angels appealed to them from their first visit to the website. “It was all about the children and birth families,” Kendell says. “There was so much passion and nothing felt forced. There was a feeling that they were going to be there to help you do this and do it right."
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