Parenting All Over Again Is Worth It

Christine and Eddie Gonzalez

"Any time you add a child to your family, it's a new situation. Sure, it changes how you do things. But it's worth it. Children from the foster care system, however old they are, deserve to be treated like a new baby and given a fresh start in life." - Christine and Eddie

What made you both decide to become foster parents?

After raising eight children from our previous marriages, Eddie and I had no idea that we’d start over again. At the time, my biological daughter was going off to college and my youngest son was very involved in friends and baseball. Eddie’s kids were all grown. I felt rather selfish not doing anything to help anyone else, like there was something missing. I wanted to give back. Eddie and I talked about it, and since we had never had any children together we thought, “Why not try fostering?”

What was the initial fostering process like?

In our first orientation meeting, we were told by social workers that foster children can reunify with biological parents. Being human, we tend to forget those words. Sometimes foster parents may get their hopes up, and get heartbroken when their child returns to their biological parents. And sometimes foster parents can go through all the training, background checks—everything necessary to become certified foster parents—and never get a chance to be with the forever child. We’ve experienced both situations, but ultimately, we went into fostering with the mindset that we were going to take care of these kids for as long as they were going to be with us.

The hardest part for us during fostering was dealing with our children’s biological families. The visits were tough. I knew I had to get my babies ready to see their families, but it hurt! I would secretly pray, “Please don’t show up.” Sometimes they would, sometimes they wouldn’t. Having to let them go back to their biological families was also tough and bittersweet. In one particular case, we fostered the cutest baby boy who was taken from his home due to a drug raid, and later returned to his biological mother. From the beginning, she took all necessary steps to get him back, and anyone could see the love she had for her son. In those cases, you’re happy when the child is returned to their biological families. Other times, a foster child’s biological family resents the foster family, which can make things harder for the child and for us. It is of course, understandable, but we all have to work on respecting each other. It may be hard for us to understand why and how they could get themselves involved in whatever caused them to lose their children, but it is not for us to judge.

What made you decide to adopt?

It was after our daughter Lauren was placed with us, that we decided to adopt. She came to us when she was six days old; she was brand new and we were so in love. The social worker came to our home and asked, “Are you willing to adopt if the opportunity should arise?” Our minds and hearts just immediately said “Yes, yes!!!” From then on, we decided to foster with the intent to adopt.

Have you maintained a relationship with your foster/adoption agency been since adopting?

It’s important to keep a good relationship with the foster adoption agency. David & Margaret was extremely supportive, respectful and understanding. Knowing what foster parents were going through, they kept us updated and educated in all matters dealing with foster/adoption issues. They also were fair in dealing with biological families, as well as to the foster families; especially when both sides were emotionally involved. Although we no longer are working with this agency, we continue to be invited to attend their events and get-togethers. If I had a bigger house with many many bedrooms, I would continue to work with David & Margaret.

Do you have a relationship with any of the girls’ biological parents?

Initially when we fostered each of the girls before adopting them, we were told by the court that they had to contact the biological parents, who still had the legal rights to reunify. But reunification didn’t go through, and we adopted all of them. Today, we still don’t know Lauren’s or Carly’s biological parents. On the other hand, we are in contact with Penelope’s and Alexis’ maternal grandparents.

How did you become a family of six?

After our first daughter Lauren came home, we wanted to give her a little sister. Carly was seven months old when she joined our home. She had been in three foster placements. I felt like she was delayed in her development due to chronic ear infections, but after she went through three surgeries under our care, she was back to good health. By this point, we had no more plans to adopt another child, or quite frankly, foster. But when we got the call at church about two more sisters to be placed in our home, we just couldn’t say no. Penelope was five months when she was placed with us, and a year and half later, we picked up her half-sister Alexis right up from the hospital. Now, all four girls are our forever daughters!

3 young girls embracing in sand lot

What is it like parenting and raising four active girls?

All have very different personalities, needs and schedules, so we’re busy to say the least! Eddie is semi-retired. He’s the family “Uber Driver” for school every day. The girls are rather bossy with him, like most women are. They always want to know where he is, why he takes so long sometimes, why he’s driving the wrong way, and how he better be available for all technical and music problems they may experience. There are many challenges we face daily, but we are a family. Together we meet any challenges head on and continue.

Our oldest Lauren, 11, has Asperger’s syndrome, which is a very high functioning form of Autism. To help her at home and in school, she has a therapist, caseworker, psychiatrist and behavioral specialist. She has the best support team at her middle school, they are always there for us. They’re such a special group of people: from the custodian who always finds her backpack, to the librarians and secretaries who show compassion, to her teachers who work constantly to keep her on task, to the admins who give us quick calls just to say she’s doing great. In our school district, we have a wonderful preschool for children with special needs. We want her to be happy and let any stress out.

Our next oldest Carly, 8, tries hard at everything. Learning does not come easy to her. Ear infections have caused her to have a speech delay. She will be seeing a therapist soon to work on self-confidence.

Our two youngest; Penelope, 5 and Alexis, 3, are half-sisters and love spending time together and with the rest of the family. Penelope has the personality of Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez. She adores herself and is a natural born performer. When she’s not in tumbling or hip-hop classes, she enjoys talking to people. Alexis is the baby and she knows it. An active child who loves to run and jump around, she also does creative dance and competitive performances like Penelope.

Starting over after having raised your own kids, what’s it like?

We are older parents and we also have grandchildren. But like every parent, we have aches and pains. We must keep up with technology, fashion, what is trendy, playdates, grades, accelerated reading, best age appropriate activities, “Mommy and Me” classes, etc. Sometimes they turn into “Daddy and Me” classes—yeah!! The playdates are uncomfortable sometimes, because a few of the moms could be my daughter! But in starting parenting all over again, I’ve met some of the most amazing young moms. They have become my mentors. They explain to me the ins and out of ordering kid’s clothing from Instagram, what the best lipstick to use is and where to go for fun playdates.

What role does your community play in your family’s life?

I live in a community where there is a lot going on. I socialize with younger moms in the neighborhood who are just starting their family, and I’ve become close with a few over the years. I try to find parents who are younger, so when the girls get older and we’re not here to care for them, they at least have someone in the community they can look up to.

Can you share what your fostering journey has been like overall?

Becoming foster and adoptive parents has been the most rewarding experience ever. Eddie and I are coming up on our 25th wedding anniversary in June. At first, he was more cautious than I was, asking me, “Are you sure fostering is what you want to do?” Now he adores our girls. For my family’s ongoing needs, I give thanks and gratitude to The Alliance for Children’s Rights, Regional Center, Family Lawyers at Edmund D. Edelman Court and Pacific Clinics Pomona. In the end, I think this has all worked out for a reason. This was meant to be. We’ve found a way to become a forever family the second time around.

What advice do you have for other parents who may be considering fostering or adopting?

  • Be sure that this is something you really want. Both husband and wife should be in agreement.
  • Have a sense of humor.
  • Know and understand what is involved in being a foster parent.
  • Don’t do it for the money!
  • Understand that some foster children have experienced great trauma, and you need to care about them, even if their actions might say otherwise. They can heal and trust again, but it won’t be overnight. They might not be that sweet child you dreamed about, but think about the possibilities! In reality, we don’t even know what our own biological children will turn out to be.
  • Learn what your school district’s resources are, specifically for foster children.
  • Have a lot of faith and patience. If you are yearning for that forever child, keep your head on straight. It might not be #1 or even #15, but it is all in God’s hands; not ours.
  • Just remember, fostering and adoption is a long process; so learn it and educate yourself.
  • Make your relationship with your social workers work. Just like everyone else, social workers have different types of personalities. They work with you to coordinate the necessary family visits, so cooperation is key. They aren’t our children until all the “t’s” are crossed and the “i’s” are dotted, and the court hearing takes place.
  • RESOURCES, like a Head Start Program and WIC, are very important! Talk to seasoned foster parents, social workers, family doctors, teachers, google and take classes.

Why Not You?

It only takes one caring adult to make a difference in the life of a foster youth. Find out how you can get involved at ToFosterChange.org.

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