Nearly every student in the United States learns about Sacagawea, the remarkable Shoshone woman who accompanied Lewis and Clark from the Northern Plains through the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean and back – all while carrying her infant in a papoose!
More than two centuries later, Sacagawea’s descendant, Sacajawea Patrick, is making her own journey through uncharted territory – fostering toddlers through Angels Foster Family Network. It wasn’t her foremother who inspired her to foster, though. The single mother of two teens of her own says she has wanted to serve as a foster parent since she was a little girl. “Where I grew up families always had foster kids and they weren’t always treated so well, so they came over to our house,” she recalls. “Our home was a wonderful place. My father even built a basketball court at our house so all of the children in the neighborhood could come over and play." Sacajawea says she used to love reading to the little children and teaching them sign language.
When Sacajawea was seven years old, she saw a film on the life of Josephine Baker and her “Rainbow Tribe” of adopted children and she knew fostering was her calling. “I told my parents ‘That’s going to be me,’ and they told me they didn’t doubt it for a minute,” she says, sitting in her living room, a warm, homey space with stuffed animals and games bursting from toy chests. There are two brand-new tricycles with shiny streamers spouting from the handle bars for the toddler twins, a brother and sister, who have been with her and her teens Shannon, 16, and Sacajawea, 13, for more than a year. “These children are so full of pureness and joy,” Sacajawea says with a sigh. “It just shows everything that’s good in the world.”
Sacajawea said she was pleasantly surprised to find that she was eligible to foster as a single mother. “I am blessed with a good job and a home, but I thought it was a requirement that I had to be married. I’m glad it’s not because I treat these children like my own and they brighten my day.” Her teens are equally committed to fostering. “They are well-mannered children who are very helpful to me and consider these kids their siblings.”
This is not to say fostering is easy. Each case is different and children may have medical or emotional issues. And sometimes navigating the relationship with biological family can be challenging. Sacajawea has had her share of bumps along the road, but says Angels Foster Family Network has supported her every step of the way. In addition to ongoing education and support groups for foster parents, the agency provides each family with a clinical case manager who is available to answer questions or address concerns round the clock. Despite the challenges, Sacajawea continues fostering because she knows she’s making a difference in the lives of young children and that makes it worth the effort. And if anyone knows how to make her way through difficult terrain it’s Sacajawea. It’s in her blood.