Like many people who are considering fostering, Chelsie and Tony Wright weren’t entirely sure at first if they could handle the enormous responsibility of caring for a young child. After all, infants and toddlers in foster care are there because they’ve experienced trauma. They need and deserve nurturance and care from adults who are up to the task.
“It’s so tempting for people to look at fostering and think they can’t do it,” says Tony. The couple looks at one another and laughs, adding “This was us.” But the need for foster parents is so great they couldn’t turn away. “It’s right there in your face, there is this real need right now,” Chelsie says. In fact, there is such a shortage of foster parents in San Diego that Angels Foster Family Network cannot accommodate most of the requests it receives from the County Department of Health and Human Services.
The Wrights attended an information session at Angels Foster Family Network and quickly realized that they would have a great deal of support if they decided to foster infants and toddlers through the organization. “Angels doesn’t set up anyone to be an island,” explains Chelsie. Foster parents have access to a team of case managers, continuing education, and support groups because, as the couple says, “nobody is fully capable of this on their own.” Foster parents are also able to call for respite care when they need to take a break for a family vacation or just need a weekend off.
The Wrights have been fostering for two years and have had more than a dozen short-term placements. When people foster with Angels, they are asked to commit to a single child or sibling set until the child or children are reunified with their biological family members or are placed for adoption. A placement can last anywhere from a few days to several years depending on the situation. But the Angels philosophy – which is guided by evidence-based research – is that young children are best served when they can remain in one home where they can receive consistent, focused care and attention.
The Wrights were also pleasantly surprised by just how gratifying it has been to get to know the biological families of the children in their care. “It is one of the most complex social dynamics you will find anywhere,” says Tony. “The thought was terrifying at first but then we were like, Holy Moly, these are real people who love their children. This is a time of loss and separation so it’s important to treat families with dignity and make this a partnership.” Chelsie adds, “We never compete for the affections of the children and often ask parents for advice on favorite things to eat and things they enjoy.”
The Wrights are currently expecting their first child, but plan to continue fostering with Angels after the baby is born. The newly expanded family is looking forward to trips to the San Diego Zoo and eventually spending long nights playing board games and doing puzzles.
As for the pain of saying goodbye to children who stay in their care, the Wrights say it’s worth it. “Attachment is part of the game and the beauty of the process,” Chelsie says.