Fostering Hope

Samantha MacNeil, Copy Editor

Angela MacNeil takes time to read to a few of the children she has fostered.

Foster care is defined as a system in which a minor is placed into the home of a state-certified caregiver, usually arranged through the government or a social service agency. Of course, the relationship in which a person is connected to the foster care system can alter their perspective. There are three main types of people involved in foster care, the state worker (social worker), the foster parent (caregiver), and the foster child. As you may guess, each carries a different view of the current system. 

Angela MacNeil, a foster parent of twelve years, describes foster care as, “[The] caring for children on a temporary basis. It is messy, chaotic, unpredictable, 

rewarding, and beautiful.” In Washington, on average, 8,100 kids are placed into the foster care system each year. There are various reasons for this, however, an overwhelming reason is due to parents dealing with substance abuse, although this is not the only reason a child could end up in foster care. Currently, there are approximately 5,000 licensed foster homes in the state of Washington. When Angela was asked why she and her family do foster care her answer was simple, “I have always had a heart/passion for helping children.” 

With so many kids in the system, it can be hard to find a place for them. “It is easy for untrained or unsupported parents to stop serving children. We do not support our foster families enough. Such a valuable unrecognized community service!” said Lily Parks, a social worker for the past ten years, when asked about the difficulties in locating spots for kids. She went on to say,  “kids will resist help. It has been their life experience that adults can’t be trusted.” The situations that these kids go through are often unimaginable to those outside of the foster care system. 

Two of Angela’s former foster kids were gracious enough to open up about their experiences in foster care and share some of their own thoughts on the system as well. Cynthia, now 22 years old, and Marissa, 19, have very different foster care journeys, both of which happened to end at Angela’s house. Cynthia was in foster care with her two brothers. They were placed with three different foster families during their time in the system, but after the second placement, the youngest of her two brothers was separated from them and placed into a different home. Marissa was originally placed with her four siblings. She described her time in foster care as “a rollercoaster”, and she never knew what to expect.

While the stories may differ, both Cynthia and Marissa stated that foster care is important and takes kids out of bad situations. When asked about the lasting impression foster care had on them, Cynthia explained that it had a lot of negative impacts but also good ones as well. She continued, “[All] the families have their effects on my life.” Marissa added that through foster care she could see the good in the world and has been inspired to become a foster parent herself one day.  

Dangling their feet off the couch in the early years of their journey through foster care with Angela MacNeil are (left to right): Marissa, Samantha (Angela’s daughter) and Cynthia.

As for Angela and Lily, when asked how foster care has impacted their lives, Angela quickly responded, “It has grown our family by adoption and by the relationships with kids who have returned home but still remain a part of our lives.” Lily added, “I am considering becoming a foster parent when I retire.” All four of these individuals have been involved with foster care in one way or another. Despite its ups and downs, one thing is certain, foster care changes lives.