Fostering is a family affair for the Griffiths clan. When Rachel and James decided to become foster parents through Angels three years ago, they decided to let their two young sons, Caleb and Andrew, be involved with almost every part of the experience.
After Rachel and James establish a relationship with their foster child’s biological families with an initial meeting, they include Caleb and Andrew, who are now seven and five years old in the visits. “We always tell them the age-appropriate truth,” explains Rachel as she sits alongside James in their kitchen, as their third Angels placement, “Annie,” a bubbly toddler, sits nearby happily making a snowman and dolphins from bright pink Play-Doh. “We are able to intentionally teach our kids about these things rather than them learning from other children sometime in the future,” says Rachel.
While Angels’ foster families are not required to maintain contact with the biological families of previous placements, the Griffiths have stayed in touch. They recognize the special bonds that are developed between their children and the children placed in their home. They also recognize the connection that their children have developed with the biological parents. “Our kids’ experiences with our placements’ parents have been transformational,” says James. “They are learning that while people sometimes make bad choices, they are still human beings.” The Griffiths recognize the importance of maintaining the connection between their family and the biological family, when possible.
Although Angels is not religiously affiliated, the Griffiths family is one of deeply held faith. They believe that serving as foster parents is a way to put their Christian values into action and say fostering is a biblical calling.
Fostering has benefitted their sons tremendously. Seven-year-old Caleb has had the chance to become a real caregiver, helping out with the morning routine of feeding and dressing little ones. “He even changed a poopy diaper,” James says. Five-year-old Andrew has also developed leadership skills by getting to be a big brother and showing Annie the ropes at Montessori school. Perhaps most importantly, “The boys get to see firsthand these redemptive stories,” James says.
One of the most gratifying redemption stories for the family was when they all attended a drug rehabilitation graduation celebration for the biological mother of a foster child in their care. Rachel and James recall the woman in her cap and gown thanking all of the people who supported her in her recovery, including the Griffiths family. Caleb and Andrew were able to share in that experience.
Fostering has not only helped Caleb and Andrew practice caregiving and nurturing, it has helped them learn to communicate their own feelings more clearly. As the Griffiths employ “positive parenting” tools they’ve learned through Angels’ trainings and seminars with little Annie, they’re modeling those principles for their boys as well. For example, when Andrew felt frustrated with Annie one day, he was able to articulate that he had merely been trying to help her and his feelings were hurt when she angrily rejected his efforts to be kind. “We loved that he was able to recognize and express what he’s feeling in a clear way,” James says. “It’s the strategies we’ve learned from Angels that helped us give him those tools, and we’re grateful for them.”
Annie has learned a lot from her foster family as well. Like all young children, she is quickly taking in the environment around her, learning whether or not it is a safe, nurturing place. The little girl knows she is loved and cared for by her foster parents. And her big brothers have taught her how to be a supportive friend. When she started preschool, Annie’s teachers said she was the one to help the others adjust to the separation from their parents. Giving her classmates hugs, it was Annie’s turn to offer kindness and comfort.
“A lot of our friends and acquaintances tell us how amazing they think it is that we are a foster family,” notes James. “And we agree, but not in the way they usually mean. When we look at the whole picture – the positive impact on our own children, and the transformation we see in these foster kiddos and their parents, it is so rewarding that we seem to receive just as much from the experience as we give.