Jennifer Stone

Foster Parent Since 2016

What inspired you to take your first leap into foster care?

The first time, it hugely impacted my family and the love I have for them. After that, when I realized how much I can positively help somebody else’s life, I knew I wanted to keep fostering other children. Not having any biological children myself, it was a large leap. But still, there are children out there that need somebody who is going to love them. And that is unconditionally. Somebody who is going to stand by them no matter what. You put your emotions to the side for the positive impact that you can have on the child.

How do you personally benefit from being a foster parent?

The greatest benefit that I’ve had from fostering is that it made me more compassionate. It helped me to have greater empathy for others. These children may already be frightened, they’re coming into a new environment with people that they don’t know. It’s important to show genuine care and love. And so, I’m not thinking about the way that I feel. I’m thinking that I want them to feel comfortable. To do that, you have to be your real self. Kids know whether you’re lying, or you’re playing with them. They know if you’re being real. I think mostly about making sure that they feel loved and comfortable, that they feel at home with me. And that makes me feel good about it all.

How do you relate to the children who are put in your care?

I’m a big, big kid myself. I make sure that I’m not serious all the time with the kiddos. I make sure that I really enjoy myself with them. I do things that will engage them where they are. That’s important. I don’t want them to feel just like another number. Because every child is different, you have to be thoughtful about how to best engage and interact with them. I take the time out to get to know each kid … to know their likes and dislikes. And then respond likewise.

Was there anything else that motivated you to become a foster care parent?

There’s a motto that I use from college: “Each one, teach one.” And so, it’s important how we influence other people’s lives. I’m not only being a foster parent; I’m also being a mentor. I’m very passionate about our youth and making sure they succeed. Getting to where I am in my own life, I’ve had people that really cared and lent a hand to help me reach the success that I have today. And so, I must give back. Another thing that I would say is that we shouldn’t ever give up on a child. Everybody needs somebody. And so, if you can help impact a child’s life, and help them to be successful, why wouldn’t you do so?

How did Beech Acres help you through the process?

Beech Acres was a huge positive influence. I don’t know what I would have done without my foster social worker and the whole network. They’re there for the parents, they’re there to empower us. They’re there to help strengthen relationships within the foster family. They were so important for the whole household to be able to succeed.

They are the best foster organization that I know. If I hadn’t had their support, I honestly don’t know if I would have continued my journey. They’re very supportive. Just about everybody knows me by name here now. They’re like an extended family. And so not only do they genuinely care about these kiddos, they care about the homes that they go into. The matches that they make are very deliberate. They want kids to thrive. They’re always going to be there for the parents and the children. It’s so important.

Did you have any challenges along the way?

I have had my challenges and at times even wanted to give up. But I’m a very determined person and once I start something, I’m going to finish it. When I was faced with any type of conflict, I reached out to Beech Acres, and they helped with mending whatever issues there might have been. Whether I or the child needed personal counseling, we did so as a family unit coming together. I was able to focus on asking what does this child need? Is there something that I’m doing that might be throwing this child off? Or that might be causing conflict? And what can I do to help strengthen our relationship? With patience and an open mind, we found solutions.

Can you explain whether you felt joy in your experience?

I would say the joy is powerful and overflowing. No matter what foster kid I get, I have joy. I just had a respite child this past weekend. Seeing the joy in his eyes when he came toward me, feeling as though he had somebody that would listen and genuinely care about him brought me great joy. These kids may be scared. We may not know what past they have had or what they might have been through. I make sure they don’t feel any more uncomfortable than they already do. He loved drawing and so I encouraged him to have fun drawing. You help the child find a joyful place and always keep an open mind to help create joy in each moment that you two can share.

What would you say to someone considering foster care?

There are a lot of kids that need a home, and that means the need is for a lot of homes. And so, I would say, you should definitely try. In fostering, there may be challenges that you go through. It’s important to have a great support system. It doesn’t matter if they’re family, or friends, or coworkers, focusing on self-care and having a circle of support is vital. And the team at Beech Acres can help with all that. You need to be patient. I think you need to be compassionate. You need to be open-minded. Every child deserves to succeed, and you can make a difference. Why wouldn’t you try to help with that?