Tom and Jody’s home in rural East County is a pretty awesome place for a child. There’s a fully-functioning, full-size fire engine with a loud horn and working hose in the front. And in the back, they’ve set up a quilt shop. Not a little room for quilting – a huge quilting center with enough fabric and equipment to keep a quilting bee going for months.
These are what guests notice first because, frankly, how can they miss them? The more important discovery, though, comes a bit later: this is a home filled with love, compassion, and faith. The couple also shares a deep sense of community with members of their church and playgroups.
Tom and Jody have fostered nine infants and toddlers through Angels over the last four years, and are currently caring for an infant boy they affectionately refer to as their “Chunky Nugget.” Although they always approach fostering with a commitment to helping infants and toddlers reunify with their biological families, things may take a different turn with Nugget. The baby’s biological family has recommended that Tom and Jody adopt Nugget. They see that he is a well-loved, happy baby.
“We’ve had very good relationships with biological mothers,” says Jody. “You see the hard work they do to get their children back and you have a lot of sympathy and respect for them.” Tom chimes in with a story about a biological mother of one of their foster children, beaming with paternal pride. “She has a good job, has stayed off drugs, and they are doing great.” The couple stays in touch with all of their past placements, often babysitting on weekends.
Jody says her ability to support biological parents is something that evolved as she fostered babies. “I went into this very judgmental and over time I realized that with just a few different choices in life, I could be right where these mothers are,” she says. “As foster parents, we are partners with them. We are working to keep a family together.” With tears in her eyes, she recalls her turning point. “It was my first Mother’s Day with a baby, and the bio mom wanted to visit, and I was like, when is it my Mother’s Day?! And I was crying and praying and I heard a voice saying ‘This isn’t about you, it’s about (the biological mother). She’s my child too.’” Jody wipes away her tears and continues. “For me it was the voice of God, but not everyone believes in God, but it’s something, maybe insight. It helped me realize that life isn’t about us and what we get out of it, but it’s about service.”
Tom and Jody have a great deal of support through their church as well as Angels Foster Family Network. Because she could not conceive, Jody never thought she’d have a baby shower, but when she and Tom got their first placement, members of their church hosted one, a gesture that clearly touched her. “I also have my Angels playgroup with mommies who know what it’s like to foster,” she says. “It’s a long drive but I go every week because these women all get what the others are going through in a way many can’t fully understand, even though they mean well.”
The couple says they wish more people would consider fostering because there is such a great need for loving homes, especially for infants and toddlers. They say people often tell them they could never foster a child because they would get too attached. “But if you’re not getting attached, you’re not doing it right,” says Jody. “It’s not like you can partition yourself,” Tom adds. Sometimes Jody finds these comments insulting and responds with a little snark. “I say ‘Yeah, it’s too bad I don’t really love him,’ or if they say they would never give the baby back, I just say, ‘Then they’d arrest you.’” Then she takes a deep breath and remembers that voice she heard on Mother’s Day telling her words and actions serve a higher purpose than fulfilling her needs. “The truth is that your heart will get ripped out, but then it will grow stronger,” she says. “I tell them that. And that there is always another baby who needs a loving home.”
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