Dawnette and Mark Moehling say fostering infants and toddlers through Angels Foster Family Network has been one of the most rewarding things they have done as a family. Not only have they helped young children who need a loving, stable home while their parents get their lives back on track; they’re also teaching their own children, twelve-year-old Kayla and eight-year-old Ryker, some very important lessons.
“Our children are old enough to participate and know that your heart is big enough to love beyond yourself,” says Mark, in the family room of their La Mesa home. Dawnette adds, “It’s easy to get caught up in your own day-to-day life and forget about how good we really have it.” Fostering is a way to anchor the family to these core values and their Christian beliefs.
Dawnette and Mark are fostering their second placement with Angels – two brothers, “Busy Bee” who is nearly four years old, and “Baby” who is 18 months old. The couple laughs at the nickname they’ve given the younger sibling, noting that he is nearly as big as his older brother. Not only are the boys large in stature, they have big personalities and are extremely active, which is a different speed than the family was used to before. “Our kids are quiet and studious,” Dawnette explains. “The boys are loud and boisterous,” she says with a smile.
Dawnette and Mark understand that there’s a difference between being active and being disruptive because they have seen the boys behave in both ways, especially Busy Bee. When the boys arrived 16 months ago, they didn’t know any form of routine or the difference between night and day, staying up all hours of the night. Now, they are voluminously happy and playful. “Busy Bee learned that he didn’t need to be disruptive to get attention,” shares Dawnette. ”And we learned to focus his energy in more positive directions.”
The family’s approach is constantly evolving. From the beginning, Dawnette and Mark made sure the boys knew how much they were loved – both by them and their biological mother, who struggles with mental illness. They have held the boys through their tears and tantrums, assured them they were safe, and treated them like their own. Early on, they bought sound machines to help muffle noise during the night so everyone can sleep. “The volume in the house went up about a thousand decibels when they arrived but you make adjustments,” Mark says with a shrug.
That adaptability is part of the reason the Moehlings are a successful foster family. At first, the couple wasn’t sure they would qualify as foster parents – or if fostering would be a good fit for their family – but they decided to attend an information session at Angels. They were moved by the dire need for foster families in San Diego County. Currently there are 2,500 children in the foster care system in San Diego, 40% of whom are five years old and younger. “We don’t have a lot, but we do have love and we have time,” says Mark. The two exchange a smile. Dawnette adds, “We didn’t know if we could do this and sometimes we think, ‘What are we doing?!’ But we figure it out and we keep going.”