May is National Foster Care Month, which means we honor the men and women and families who have dedicated their lives—their hearts and homes—to provide caring and stable homes for children suffering from trauma. There are a million different ways to celebrate foster parents—we could easily highlight the many sacrifices they make, the hours upon hours of training they undergo, the team-approach they embrace so they can provide the best care for children and youth or even the way they continue to give of themselves in the face of setbacks and uncertainties. But this month, we would like to honor those parents who take the ultimate step beyond foster parenting by choosing to become Adoptive Parents. This is no small decision, as it carries lifetime ramifications—for parents and children. Working in a field such as foster care, to see a parent choose to make a foster child a permanent member of their family never ceases to amaze and delight us. There is something so hopeful about circumstances aligning in such a way that a foster parent feels led to adopt a child placed into their care. And we love seeing our foster families become forever families!
Since FCNI inception 25+ years ago, the agency has seen over 200 of its children adopted, mostly by their FCNI foster parents. In just the last fiscal year (from July 1st, 2013 to date), 12 of FCNI’s children have been adopted. While every adoption is memorable, we’d like to spotlight two FCNI foster families--the Valdezes and the Nattells-- for being exceptional examples of fostering parenting heroes!
Jose and Amelia Valdez are described as wonderful and nurturing parents by FCNI staff. With two grown children moved away already, Jose and Amelia became foster parents because they love parenting and had a strong desire to build lasting foundations and instill strong values in children. The Valdez family was certified with FCNI in 2006, serving in the agency’s Emergency Shelter and foster care programs. Since their certification, the family has welcomed over 120 foster children into their home!
During their time with FCNI, the Valdez family became especially close with four young children, ages ranging from three to six years old. While the Valdezes loved foster parenting, they felt that going through the steps to adopt the four children was a natural progress for their family. When each adoption was finalized, they celebrated their immense good fortune in getting to become “forever parents” to their newly adopted child. When the fourth adoption was final, Jose and Amelia knew that they would have to transition away from foster parenting in order to solely focus on their larger family’s needs. But the couple is taking this newest life change in their usual stride, seeing it as just another stage in their parenting journey—another process in living the lives they have been called to lead.
Similarly, the Nattell family has been longtime FCNI foster parents, having been certified over eight years ago to provide Foster and Emergency Shelter Care to children in need. Mike and Becky Nattell have always wanted a large family. At first when they struggled to have a biological child, they took the necessary steps to become foster/adoptive parents, stating that they were set on having a big family and whether their children were biological, adopted or fostered matter little to them.
Over the past eight years, the Nattells have fostered 11 children, adopted four and are currently in the process of adopting another. They have also welcomed one biological daughter who has happily grown up with many foster/adoptive brothers and sisters. Being such a large family requires that the Nattells be extremely organized, with Becky stating how important it is that her family life be structured, and that all family members chip in to take care of the house and pets. Additionally, athletics and their church play significant roles in the family’s life, with everyone staying active and well connected to one another. For the Nattells, fostering and adopting has become their greatest joy, and they’d happily build a bigger home just so they could welcome more children into their lives.
Both the Valdez and Nattell families will tell you that while their lives have changed in every way possible since deciding to foster parent and adopt, they wouldn’t have it any other way. Foster parenting is what made it possible for them to extend their families in profound and miraculous ways—it introduced them to their future children who they might not have met. What a gift these remarkable children and parents have been to one another. We here at FCNI applaud both families for having the resolve and the love necessary to become forever families!