Hi, my name is Natalie Watson, and I’m obsessed with foster care! I can’t wait to one day be a foster parent, and here’s why….
A few years ago I was living with a family in Orange County, and they had decided that they wanted to be foster parents. They began the foster home certification process, and when they came home from trainings, they would share about what they were learning, and that was the first time I heard about foster care in depth. There was a video they were encouraged to watch by their trainers called “ReMoved”. After watching this short video, I began to understand the huge need for foster parents with a heart to care for kids who have experienced trauma, and to make sure these have a warm and caring family setting to heal. When the time came for my friends to start taking in their first foster children, I moved to Brazil and ended up working in a children’s group home. Working and living in the group home with children and hearing their stories sparked a new passion and desire in me to be a part of their healing one day. When I returned to the US, I spent years trying to find my niche. I’m not ready to be a foster parent yet, and I don’t know what the process will look like for me, but I found the Family Care Network and moved to San Luis Obispo to work as a Rehabilitation Specialist with children and families, including those placed in foster homes. There was a time in my life when I didn’t even know if I wanted to be a mom or what that would look like, and now it’s my dream to have the opportunity to be a foster parent.
I feel like being a foster parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world. I have seen this first-hand, with the family I lived with who were foster parents, as well as getting to work alongside FCNI foster parents. They get to impact some of the most vulnerable children ever. To not know where you belong or whether or not you’ll be accepted, is one of the scariest things for a child to go through. People who open up their homes to change this story for kids are amazing.
On the other side, it should also be acknowledged that children coming into a foster parent’s home, also changes the lives of those foster parents. Every child has a unique gift, personality, heart, dreams, passions and vulnerabilities. Getting the opportunity and honor to be a part of that child’s journey is life-changing. Each child and their unique story impacts the family who hosts them--the family’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities that others in our community face. I experience this often as a Rehabilitation Specialist as well. Every single client who I meet is amazing. Their stories and personalities are incredible, and it’s an honor to work through things with these kids.
One foster kid who I worked with as a Rehabilitation Specialist had a lot of needs, and I’ve witnessed a lot of intense moments with him in his foster home. He’s so small but has already been through so much, and his behaviors are challenging. However, regardless of his challenges, his foster parents want to adopt him. During weekly team meetings, the Social Workers would often check with the foster parents to make sure that their intention to adopt was still present, and the parents remained adamant that adoption was what they were working towards. These parents’ endurance, perseverance, and their willingness to be open to someone like me who is young and less experienced than them who is coming into their home to support them is amazing. Their willingness to look past all of child’s difficulties to see the boy who needed them underneath the trauma inspired me. When I worked with this young child, I would get to experience his personality and hear his questions, and all of the other challenging things about him would just fade away. We enjoyed a lot of special moments together. It was such a privilege to watch this foster family day after day. They went through a lot of difficulties some days, but they’d always be right back at it together the following day, having breakfast, knowing that being there for their foster child made it all worth it.
My job as a Rehabilitation Specialist is preparing me so well to be a future foster parent. All of the tools and interventions I’m learning about and teaching to our kids will obviously be very helpful. What’s impacting me the most though, is learning to recognize that each child has a different need, a unique story, a unique face, and that one kid won’t be the same as anyone else. The work we get to do with every individual each day, helping them to learn to build on their strengths and cope with the hard stuff, sparks creativity. Learning to open myself up to each client and learning how we can creatively work together to meet their individualized needs is so important. I’ve also been learning from the foster parents, seeing them draw strength from leaning on each other, reaching out for staff support, and being open to the community in whatever way they need.
I look forward to getting to be a part of a child’s story in the role as a foster parent. I plan to one day provide a space of healing, safety and consistency for foster children, hoping that the kids in my care will be able to look back on their time with me and know that it was real and true, and that a healthy and hopeful life is possible no matter how much they’ve been through. I’m excited to learn from every single kid that will come through my door, and see how each one of them will change and mold me as a human being. Foster care is an amazing opportunity, and I hope you catch this vision too!
If you would like to learn more about becoming a foster parent, contact us at (805) 781-3535, or go to our website at FCNI.org!