By Guest Blogger Greta Argenta

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

When people ask me why we got into foster care/adoption I can say with total certainty that it was a calling. As a kid my favorite game to play was “orphanage.” I would pretend to be  a single mom with 10-15 orphaned kids. Didn’t everyone else play that game?! I am sure the movie Annie probably played a small part of my imagination and desire to have an orphanage. I was called from a very young age to adopt and love those children who most needed love. That was the first sign, but I can truly say that so much of my life has been preparing me for this role as a foster parent.

When I met my now husband (we were both in high school) I saw how awesome he was with his siblings, my siblings and loved by all of the kids that he taught swimming lessons to at our neighborhood pool. That sealed the deal! He would be a great dad to my entourage of kids! Seriously, that was not the only reason we got married but it was something that I considered priority. He was also on board with fostering children. Double score!

My husband, Joe, and I have been married for 21 years and we have three awesome biological kids ages 13, 12 and 7. Even though we both always knew that we would foster or adopt, it took some time for the cards to fall into place. We tried several times to start the adoption/foster care process but the timing wasn’t right. I got pregnant, we had to move, etc. We moved around a lot the first ten years of our marriage while Joe was in school. During that time, I taught lower elementary and tutored.

We finally moved back to Winston in 2008 into a great family neighborhood.  We joined the church we were married in and we were so happy to be surrounded by great friends and family. After our youngest started kindergarten and all three were in school full time at a fantastic school, I felt we were settling down and maybe it was time to look at this foster care thing. The kids were on board about adding to our family (my 13 year old girl was a little less enthused but well, she is 13…)

And it was great timing because in 2017, God spoke loud and clear and everything fell into place. We began training in June of 2017 to be foster parents, and we were certified by October. It would have been faster but there was a lot of paperwork … we got a little behind.

In order to foster through North Carolina you are required to do a class that takes approximately 10 weeks to complete. The class is twice a week in the evenings . Our class at the Crossnore School & Children’s Home in Winston-Salem was incredible.  As a former teacher, and someone with severe ADHD, I cringed at the thought of sitting in “trainings.” However,  these classes were hands on and I learned a lot about what these kids have been through. I also learned a lot about parenting!

After we were certified, we got several calls for children. In fact, we got a call the day we got our letter saying we were certified. I would have taken every, single one of those kids if I could!  My husband is the level headed one in our relationship and reminded me time and time again that we have three other kids and we really need to consider the best fit for our family. We wanted to keep birth order so we decided on children younger than our youngest – less than 5 years of age. We knew we could not take children with any severe delays or impairments. Those were our only real stipulations. Oh, and my 12-year-old son wanted brothers. That did not exactly happen.

On March 5, 2018, we got the call about two little girls, ages 17 months and 2 ½. We were so excited! Our first placements. We picked the girls up at the back of DSS. They were beautiful and we fell in love right away. Those first few nights were hard. A lot of tears (from everyone!) and we got used to having babies in the family again. Looking back , it was HARD, but at the time I didn’t think it was too bad. Sort of like when you have a newborn. God covers you.

God’s grace is perfect because I know that is the only way that we got through that time. Oh, and our amazing friends and family. The ones who brought us meals for the first month every night, the friends who listened (and continue to listen) to all of the drama and ups and downs of fostering.

I can honestly say that you need a village to parent but you also need a large city  to foster or adopt. You will need support, like from friends and family who are willing to take background checks so that they can help you watch these sweet girls. You need the friends who will sit in the car with your foster babies screaming so that you can run into the store and shop for birthday presents. You need friends who will pick up your foster kids from school and take them to McDonalds, who will take your bio kids for an entire weekend without batting an eye. We even had friends and family that took our kids for two weeks in the summer while we were out of town celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. You need the prayer warrior friends who pray with you and for you. You need friends who understand that right now you may not be able to give the 50% in the relationship and you may be more like 20% some days. You also need friends who understand that you have a giant and loud family but still love you anyway (we were loud and crazy before – we just added to the numbers ). Those are the people that made this journey happen. You need those kinds of humans on your side 🙂

We have had these sweet girls for a year. There is a lot of paperwork and time involved in fostering. The girls had visits with their parents twice a week. I meet with social workers at least twice a month. We have court dates, therapy, and did I say paperwork?!  Oh, and we have three other kids who have their own needs too. My heart is full.  Every bit of it is worth it. God is good. We are moving onto our next chapter and life is starting to normalize. I feel like I can now give the 50% to my friends and some days even 80%!

The need for foster parents is HUGE right now. There are over 12,000 children in foster care just in North Carolina. All ages.  We are certified through Crossnore (formerly known as the Children’s Home on Reynolda Rd in Winston-Salem). They are incredible and I strongly recommend going through an agency to foster/adopt. They guide you and advocate for you and your family. We have also had great social workers from Forsyth County Department of Social Services (these social workers are for the parents of the children). It is just nice to have that person in your corner who is just there for you and your foster/adoptive children. There is a lot to navigate and an agency will  help you through those hurdles. Crossnore also uses sanctuary model for training and it is phenomenal.

I could go on and on about foster care and adoption. Our family has been so blessed by this experience. It is not easy, but it is absolutely worth every bit of hard. Even if you can not foster, you can still help those families who do foster. There are kids and families who need your help right here in our community.

“Never worry about numbers. Help one at a time, and always start with those nearest you.” Mother Teresa

Here are some links to get you started if you’re feeling called to foster/adopt or want to get involved in volunteering:

chsnc.org/
co.forsyth.nc.us/DSS/adopt_foster.aspx
guilfordcountync.gov/our-county/human-services/social-services/prospective-foster-adoptive-parents/foster
crossnore.org/
adoptuskids.org/adoption-and-foster-care/how-to-adopt-and-foster/state-information/north-carolina
ncdhhs.gov/divisions/social-services/nc-kids-adoption-and-foster-care-network/how-foster-and-or-adopt
ebenezerfamily.org/fosterparents
7homes4kids.com/

For additional blogs on adoption and fostering on TMoM, click HERE.

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