Beth Purpur and Sean McParland knew fostering infants and toddlers would be an experience filled with surprises. After all, they both had worked for many years with young people facing difficult circumstances. Beth spent many months volunteering at an orphanage in Nicaragua and also worked for a year as a teacher at a day treatment center for abused and neglected children in Seattle. And in the beginning of his 30-year career in social work, Sean had worked at group homes and crisis residential centers for teens. So if anyone knew how to be flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances, it was them. And yet, fostering with Angels Foster Family Network has offered more surprises than with anything they’d ever done before. Thankfully, enough of the surprises were good ones, all of which led them to the adoption process with a six-year-old girl and her four-year-old brother.
“We didn’t think we wanted to foster a sibling set, but when the opportunity presented itself, we knew how important it was to keep them together, and felt we had to try,” says Beth. “Everyone expected this to be a short stay.” Soon, the couple realized that they could, in fact, handle two children. A full house was actually lots of fun with the chatty little girl bursting into the room with enthusiastic accounts of her day, and the charming preschool boy who shares his sister’s zest for life. Smiling, Beth explains, “He talks in all caps, all the time.” And the children’s “short stay,” which began three years ago, will soon be their “forever home.”
Sean and Beth had talked about adopting children internationally since before they were married. In fact, they asked their wedding guests make their gift a contribution to their adoption fund. Sean’s father was adopted from an orphanage in Northern Ireland in 1938 and the couple knew there was a great need to care for children already in this world. “It was something we could do and should do, and we really believe in intervening early in life,” says Beth. The couple was in the process of adopting a baby from Ethiopia until they were informed that the Ethiopian government was considering discontinuing all international adoptions.
The couple decided to set aside plans to adopt and explore fostering. Each independently found the Angels Foster Family Network website and were surprised once again. “We didn’t have any concept that 40% of the children in foster care are five years old and younger,” says Sean.
They attended an information session and realized that fostering was a perfect way to provide a loving home for infants and toddlers who needed a healthy, nurturing, and stable environment. Their first placement ended in reunification with the child’s biological family, which is the goal and likely outcome when fostering. “It is an opportunity to make an impact and help these children form healthy attachments during those critical years,” Sean says. “Whether it’s for three weeks or forever, you can be that bridge for them.” The couple then got the call asking them to consider fostering the siblings. Since the children were split up upon entering foster care, the little boy arrived in their home first, with his sister arriving three months later. During that three-month period, Angels facilitated weekly meetings between the siblings to ensure that their sibling relationship was uninterrupted.
The couple shows pictures of when the children first arrived at their home three years ago, and proudly charts the progress each has made. Beth says, “Having read about the impact of early attachment, we knew it was important, but fostering is seeing it in action.”
Beth and Sean have had many surprises in their four years of fostering through Angels. But the greatest one of all was falling in love with the kiddos and having the opportunity to expand their family permanently. They’ve been parenting the siblings for many years, but will make it official later this month and celebrate with a party for their entire neighborhood. The party may not be a surprise, but their future will be filled with them. And that’s okay. This family is ready!
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