Orange County Foster Care Network

Success Stories

Elsa & Albert Castellanos… Providing 31 Years of Foster Care!

At the May 7th meeting of the Orange County Legislature, County Executive Steve Neuhaus officially proclaimed May as Foster Parent Month in Orange County. At the meeting Elsa & Albert Castellanos were acknowledged for being foster parents for 31 years!

Originally certified in February 1984, they have fostered more than 60 children over the years and continue to provide care for children in need. They have fostered every age child from infant to teen mothers and their babies. They continue to foster and they even provide a home for some of the young moms who have aged out of foster care but still need their help. They have also adopted through foster care.

We are incredibly grateful to the Castellanos family for their service to the families and children of Orange County.

Pictured left to right are Albert Castellanos, Elsa Castellanos, Deputy Commissioner Anne Caldwell, County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Legislative Chairman Stephen Brescia.

 

 


The Wileys… Sharing their hearts paved the way to happiness

I am happy, no, thrilled, to share my experience with foster care and adoption. Simply put, it has been exceedingly above and beyond what I could ask or think.

At first, I was ambivalent about either commitment. However, my husband gently, but purposefully, pursued certification. So, I joined him attending MAPP classes and other functions, where we met wonderful case workers, home finders and other current and hopeful parents. In retrospect, the process worked very well to gradually prepare and encourage us.

After a while a few calls for placements came in, but for various reasons could not be accommodated. Then we received THE call. A newborn baby girl was available and we would meet the case worker at the hospital the very next day. That night we raced through Wal-Mart grabbing baby essentials and an outfit in which to bring her home. Of course, we were nervous and excited.

The following day, we were shown by the hospital nurse how to swaddle, feed and care for our baby, and the case worker took pictures. She seemed to genuinely share our joy. Her demeanor never conveyed the feeling of being rushed or that she was just doing a job. It was truly a bonding experience, much, much more than I expected.

After a long process of mandatory steps, our little baby moved from being a foster child to an adopted daughter. Along the way, we had consistent support from various County case workers (and a veteran foster/adoptive mom we met at a picnic). As expected, there were hurdles to overcome and milestones to meet, but we always knew that we could count on the assistance of our case workers.

Also during this time, we received another call for an emergency foster placement. This time for a nine-month-old boy, who was a month younger than our daughter. It was late on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, and we said “yes.” From that point, our home life was essentially that of having twins, but concurrently, we were also dealing with the foster and adoption processes.

The situation lasted almost a year. Then, it was exactly one week between the time when our daughter was finally legally adopted and the little boy was successfully returned to his mother. It was a comfort that the adoption was first. Our daughter does miss our foster child, but we’re happy she had a “twin brother” for one of her first two years. We know the boy thrived. It was all very poignant, but ultimately very positive.

We have given ourselves a couple months to enjoy our new “official family” by doing the requisite summer vacation stuff. Now we look forward to welcoming other children into our home. My husband periodically catches my eye and points out that our lives are permanently and beautifully different - and happier.

- The Wileys


 

The Forever and Always Family

Twenty-two years ago, my husband Tim and I became foster and adoptive parents. We adopted two beautiful children and went on to have two more children of our own. Thinking that four children were enough for anyone sane, we decided that maybe it was time for us to stop fostering. But our story doesn’t end here. We can’t be sane we thought, but something was calling us back. This story is different than any other…

It is about a group of five children that was placed with us about seven years ago: one girl and four boys ages 9, 7, 5, 3 and 11 months. Seeing that we already had four children, adoption was not something we were thinking about. We really never considered it. We loved and cared for them like we would have any child, but we really had no intention of adopting them.

We even went as far as seeking other homes for the children. Not because we didn’t love them, but because we did love them. We really felt that the children should be with a family that maybe didn’t have any children of their own, a family that could maybe give them more than we could. It took the courts 5 years to finalize the termination and place the children up for adoption. Five years… that is a long time to spend with children and NOT get attached.

When we got word that the children were legally up for adoption, my husband and I looked at each other and both asked the same question: “How could we say goodbye to these five, that were truly part of our family? Could we?”

We sat down with our other four children and they too said the same thing. They were already a part of our family. Adopting them would only change one thing for us: we would have a piece of paper to say that they were family, but the children would have so much more. They wouldn’t have to go to school or to the doctors and list a different name, or explain their situation to anyone. They wouldn’t have to be labeled as a foster child, or feel as though someday they would have to move. No packing up and saying goodbye to yet another family dealing with another loss in their lives.

I guess there really was only one answer. Of course we were going to adopt! There wasn’t a question in our minds. We were a family, and family sticks together no matter what. That’s us, a forever and always family.

 


 

The Barretts... A story of love and family

Our story starts with one phone call to Beth in the home finding unit in 2009. It was never our intention to adopt. You see we had at this time 3 birth children age 21, 20 and 15, all grown. It was killing me that they had lives of their own now. In all honesty, I wasn't ready to be done being mom. So one day I said to my husband we should renew our foster care license. My husband's response to everything is 'whatever makes you happy', so off we go to renew with the intentions of doing as much as we could for as long as we could for the children that came into our home.

On a beautiful day in July of 2009, two little girls ages 11 months and 6 years old came into our lives. They were cousins. The 6 yr old had behavioral issues, but with structure, time and a lot of love and patience she learned appropriate behavior. Then in 2010 we took in a 6 year old boy and his sister who was 8 . Needless to say we adopted all four children .

We were blessed with three case workers who believed in an open communicative relationship. The list would go on and on to thank the people at Orange County DSS. I know it seems like fostering children before you adopt seems like a long haul, but it's a necessary one. It's like building a home you need to start with a strong foundation and that's what foster care is They give you the tools to make your foundation strong. And then you wake up one day and you think I can't imagine one day without this child in my life and your home, your heart, and your family is complete.

We are now a family of nine and our oldest is 25 our youngest is 5 and we wouldn't have it any other way. If we could offer any advice, it would be to never hold back. Show a child how much they are worth in love. Help them believe that they are important and can be anything they want to be. Tell them everyday you love them and communicate with the case worker. If they don't know they can't help. It's amazing how much your case worker can feel like family. Would we do it again ???? In a heartbeat !!!

- The Barretts

 


 

Fostering Motherhood

(Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.)

I will always remember the day my husband and I met our foster son, baby Luke. More so, because it was also the day we unexpectedly met his birthmother.

Prior to baby Luke’s discharge from the hospital, his caseworker provided paperwork giving us permission to visit him. Our car ride was full of anticipation, excitement and curiosity as we discussed our imaginable new love. What is his personality like? How will he respond to us? What type of care will he need? How will his arrival affect our foster daughter? How long will he be with us? It never crossed our minds that we were about to meet baby Luke’s mother, Grace.

Walking through the NICU door, we saw a young woman near the counter of the nursing station. She was talking with one of the nurses. Our entrance interrupted their conversation, as the young woman turned towards our direction. Quickly assessing the weighty meeting, the nurse quietly introduced us to her as ‘the foster parents’. It was obvious Grace had already assumed who we were, but those three words, spoken aloud, immediately twisted each of our identities into the polarized antagonistic roles of ‘birth’ and ‘foster’ parent.

My husband and I were genuinely uncomfortable. Fumbling for words, I began to excuse our interruption, “We will come back later.” I wanted Grace to know we respected her time and space with her newborn son. Curiously, Grace stepped towards us as she cautiously welcomed our visit and invited us to sit with her while she fed baby Luke. It was an invitation from which I wanted to run, and yet I was inquisitively drawn to accept.

We apprehensively gathered chairs and nervously introduced ourselves. I don’t remember the details of our conversation that evening, but what I do recall is that the initial anxiety and unease of meeting Grace face to face disappeared. The precarious unknown ‘birthmother’ that we discussed in MAPP class was not the ‘birthmother’ that sat before me.

I learned something about myself that night as a foster parent. A known mother seen tenderly feeding her son filled my heart with compassion. And I never wanted the indisputable significance of Grace’s role as Luke’s mother to be reduced to a disparaging label. Simply put, she was a mother, and no different than any other mother I knew.

Baby Luke lived with us for seven months. His presence in our lives and our relationship with his mother will always be treasured.

Unpredictably stepping beyond the ‘birthmother’ stereotype with Grace taught us the ‘how to’ of honoring and loving her family without typecasting them. Our relationship with her also helped to reinforce the significance of learning to keep our opinions and judgments directed towards our own lives and not the circumstances of our foster children and their families. Now, foster parenting isn’t only about caring for and loving the children in our home, it’s also about reaching beyond our comfort zone and fostering the growth and development of an established family outside of our home. I would never have guessed such an unforeseen awkward meeting with a birth parent would become a turning point for us as foster parents.

- Orange County Foster Parent

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