Fostering infants and toddlers was an idea that had always appealed to Max and Rae’ah Maningas, but they weren’t sure they would be considered ideal candidates.
They live in an apartment, Rae’ah works part time, and Max is a student. They decided to explore fostering and attend an information session at Angels Foster Family Network. What they learned made their decision clear.
“When they told us they had to turn away a staggering number of children last year because there weren’t enough foster parents in San Diego, we knew it was our responsibility to do this,” says Rae’ah as 19-month-old “David” rests in her arms. Max adds, “If nobody else is going to care for this kid, who else is going to be there?”
After completing the certification process, the couple began providing respite care for a toddler with autism. Then they got a call that set their life on a new course. When the phone rang, Max just looked at Rae’ah and told her, “That’s our baby.” It turns out he was right. It was a staff member at Angels asking if they would be interested in fostering a newborn baby boy who was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at UCSD Medical Center. He had drugs in his system and was being observed for medical complications. They agreed, and Rae’ah headed over with a new car seat, ready to carry home their first placement with Angels.
As she sat in her car in the hospital parking lot, Rae’ah told herself that this was either going to be the best or the worst decision she and Max had ever made. “We were definitely terrified by the fact that the baby’s toxicology report was positive,” she says. Then she met with the doctor, who gave her a long list of things to be aware of, such as shaking, heavy breathing, and incessant crying. As it turned out, David suffered very minor withdrawal symptoms and quickly developed into a cuddly infant. Rae’ah says as soon as she saw the baby, something inside her told her everything was going to be fine. “I knew we just needed to take care of him,” she explains. “It turned out to be the best thing we ever did.”
Today David is a robust toddler with a big smile, lush curls, and a toy tool kit he totes around everywhere. Like all Angels foster parents, Rae’ah and Max understood that their goal was to help the biological parents or family reunify with their children in the foster care system. They had a positive relationship with David’s mother, who always seemed grateful for the care her son was getting. “She never held it against us that her baby was taken away and always knew that her son could have ended up anywhere, so she was happy he was with us,” says Rae’ah. “She didn’t have good parenting skills, but she is definitely a good person.” Ultimately, the biological mother lost her parental rights and the Maningas family is in the process of adopting David.
Fostering isn’t easy. And it’s not for everyone. But for those who are able to provide a loving, stable home for infants and toddlers, serving as foster parents can be the most rewarding experience they’ve ever had. Like most people who are interested in fostering, the idea can be equal parts intriguing and terrifying. There are so many questions and unknowns. The first step to seeing if fostering is right for you is to attend an information session at Angels where you will hear from foster parents like Rae’ah and Max. “Angels provides a very realistic picture of what it’s like to foster. There is no pressure. If anything, they really emphasize the hard parts.” With a laugh, Rae’ah says, “I guess they figure they only want the truly committed."
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