PORTLAND — Eligh was 18 months old when Jeanne welcomed him into her family. His mother, who was finally ready to face her addiction to methamphetamine, found herself in an unfortunate situation where she needed a caring parent to help Eligh out while she focused on getting sober — because she knew that in order for Eligh to be successful, she needed to be successful.
Fast forward to today: Eligh’s mom, Lauren, has her life back on track. She got sober. And then she jumped through every hoop that the Department of Human Services (DHS) put in front of her to show that she was ready to take Eligh back.
“I’m so proud of his mama,” says Jeanne. “We wholeheartedly took on the role of Eligh’s parents knowing that the plan was reunification, and I’m so happy to see him with his mom now.”
Four years ago, Jeanne’s husband asked her what she wanted for Mother’s Day— her response? To become a foster family.
“We really saw the need, and wanted to provide a safe place for kiddos to land,” recalls Jeanne. Since then, she’s fostered three children who she’s helped raise, in addition to her two adopted children. The experience has changed her life for the better, and has undoubtedly helped change the lives of the kids and parents that she has helped.
“When foster parenting is done right, they remain in our lives forever,” says Lauren. “Jeanne fostered Eligh completely out of love… I don’t think I would have been successful then or now without her in my life.”
But isn’t it hard to open her heart and home to children she knows—or hopes—will one day leave to be reunited with their birth parents or adopted into a permanent home? Isn’t it tough for the kids?
“My son was six years old when we started care. Once we were standing in line at Fred Meyers and someone asked me this exact question. He blurted out, ‘well of course we’ll be sad, but we’ll have each other,’” remembers Jeanne. For many foster kids going through difficult circumstances, they have nobody. Foster parents provide a warm, caring environment — and that ‘somebody’ to lean on.
By the time children enter the child welfare system, several other systems have already failed them. Raising kids requires supportive parents, families, and communities— and in the world of child welfare, the saying “we are only as strong as the community that walks beside us” rings true.
“In order to care for these kiddos, we need to care for the people who are stepping up to care for them. Getting a stipend for child care has been huge,” says Jeanne. “We need better care for people who work in DHS so we don’t have such rapid turnaround. And we need more families who are willing to say yes.”
Governor Kate Brown has made it a priority to help foster families get the support they need, while focusing on a comprehensive system of child welfare that ends the cycle of poverty and keeps more families safely together.
Across state government, Governor Brown has called on agencies and programs to put kids and families first. Nowhere is the need more evident— and the opportunity greater— than in child welfare. The Governor’s strategy to help foster children has many facets, including promoting healing for kids by providing the right placements; providing high-quality support for foster parents; and ensuring caseworkers have the tools they need to support families and protect children.
“We will keep giving these kids all the love and support they need when they come into our home. Our house is a hot-mess, and the days are crazy, but I love this work,” says Jeanne.