Open your heart, home to local children in need

May is National Foster Care Month, so I am compelled to share my story with as many people as possible. My journey of becoming a foster parent is one I hope will help inspire others to open their homes and hearts to children in need. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would become a foster parent, I probably would have thought you were crazy. I didn’t think that I had the tools to do it. I had my own kids and grandkids to watch, and I was just about to begin enjoying my retirement.

As a police officer for nearly 30 years, I had seen one side of foster care: calling Child Protection to report abusive or neglectful behavior and removing children from homes that were unsafe. But I never knew what happened next for those kids. Sure, I would get a report with some basic information, but I always wondered if the children were in a good home.

It wasn’t until my granddaughter was born, and I built a relationship with her father’s family, that I ever thought becoming a foster parent was for me. Her paternal grandparents, Caroll and Lawrence, were foster parents, and I couldn’t help but love their foster children as my own. The children came to my home every weekend, wanting to spend time with Grandma, as they called me. Caroll kept pushing me to become a foster parent. I wasn’t sure at first, but I remember her always telling me, “We need you.” Even though my children thought I had lost my mind, I knew what I needed to do. I went through the training and certification process with Child & Family Services, and have been a foster parent for six years to numerous children.

Becoming a foster parent is not easy. There are trainings, background checks, court appearances and children who have gone through more in their young lives than many of us will ever experience. Yet I take great pride in knowing I am the one to keep children safe, secure and loved.

With nearly 800 children currently in foster care in Erie County, there is no better time than now to learn about how to become a foster parent. It is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have.

Nadine Wilson