While most people think of babies and toddlers when the words “foster child” come to mind, many older children and teens need care. And as Sheli, an EmberHope Youthville foster parent, and her former foster son, Derrick, can prove, even a short time with a loving foster family can greatly impact youth in crisis.
“Derrick came to us when he was seventeen and a half,” Sheli tells us. His upbringing had been riddled with difficulty, as both parents were incarcerated. “We provided a safe environment, established boundaries, and set him up for success,” Sheli says. “Like any teenager, he tested those boundaries from time to time, but he was very respectful and funny. There were issues along the way, but we worked through them together.” Sheli says the whole extended family got involved with his care.
“Being a foster parent is not always easy; however, I can say with certainty that it has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had,” said Sheli. “I’ve gained just as much from the foster kids I’ve had in my home as what I’ve provided them.” Sheli continued saying how foster parenting provided her daughter with exposure to sharing, problem-solving, discipline, honesty, and learning about new cultures.
Derrick, determined for a better future, joined the United States Coast Guard (USCG), and Sheli and her sister were thrilled to travel to New Jersey for his graduation ceremony. “When I landed in Sheli’s foster home, it allowed me the opportunity to be a kid and not worry about the pressure of where I would live or how I would continue high school,” said Derrick.
Now married and with three children of his own, Derrick served in the Coast Guard for eleven years and is currently pursuing a career in Physical Therapy. “We try to connect around birthdays or when we’re close by,” said Derrick. “I am so thankful for the care and support of Sheli and her family. Life would look much different if I didn’t have their guidance and support.“
As the child welfare system bursts at the seams with a record-breaking number of children, the need for foster parents like Sheli is more significant than ever before. At EmberHope Youthville, we are grateful for all of our foster parents, who play a critical role in providing the care and support for youth like Derrick, so they can create a brighter future.