In honor of May being National Foster Care Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is running a special series designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of foster care and adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
by Kim Phagan-Hansel
I like to call it divine intervention that brought me to the world of adoption and foster care. For the most part, I’ve lived a pretty fairy-tale life with great parents, an awesome husband, good career, etc. But about 13 years ago, I wanted something more. I was tired of writing real estate articles for the newspaper and wanted to break into the magazine scene. What I found was more than a new career . . . it was a calling.
When I started working on Fostering Families Today and Adoption Today magazine, I put my education to work building and creating magazines, writing stories about how adoption and foster care have impacted lives, and editing to make sure the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed. But that was the easy part. Delving into the uplifting and sometimes heart-wrenching stories people shared impacted my life. I had to learn to balance the good with the bad, the happy tales of adopting families meeting their child for the first time with the deep hurt birth parents experience as they let go or the struggles adoptees experience as they try to determine where they fit in this world. And that was just for Adoption Today.
Fostering Families Today was an entirely new realm for me. Having grown up in a two-parent, middle-class family, I was naïve to the struggles some children and families face. I was deeply saddened by the stories of children who entered the foster care as infants and exited at age 18. The stories of families struggling to break through behaviors and challenges presented by children who had not only been abused in their birth family, but had also experienced the negative impacts of bouncing from foster home to foster home pained me. The scariest part for me was realizing that if it was difficult for me to read or write these accounts, I couldn’t even imagine what it was like to live them.
The more I learned about the fostering community, the more committed I became. Families need support and answers, children need love and well-prepared parents. And I felt called to help – not to adopt or foster — but to be the bridge to help. Through these two magazines, I could help families find answers; I could help children find families. And for 13 years, that is what I have done. Each issue is a reaffirmation of my commitment to this community. It’s more than a job. It’s more than a paycheck (if it was about that I would have taken my knowledge and become a social worker or therapist).
Every night I go to bed thinking about the children featured in the magazine who are waiting for families – this month it’s Luis, Adriano, and Alejandro, three handsome Latino brothers, whose profiles say “take them home, make them yours.” I can’t take them, but I can be a bridge like I was for Ja’Qir who was featured on the cover of the Jan/Feb issue and now has a family. That’s my role, that’s my calling — to be a bridge.
I also serve as a bridge to families who need information, who are struggling with behaviors, stress, mental and physical challenges. Let’s be honest, it’s not easy to take in and love a child that you have no idea how long will be with you and then let that child go on a moment’s notice. It’s not easy for foster parents. It’s not easy for the children. It’s not easy for the caseworkers. And all of these people need support and information to make these tough situations just a little bit more manageable. I hope with all my might that when I send an issue to press that it arrives in the mail just at the right time – at the moment a foster parent needed it the most.
That’s my job, that’s what I’ve been called to do – to be the bridge with the information I gather in Fostering Families Today, Adoption Today, my book, The Foster Parenting Toolbox, or the book in process, The Kinship Parenting Toolbox. This is what I have to give in the hope that it will make a difference for those who flip through the pages.
For more information about Fostering Families Today, visit www.fosteringfamiliestoday.com or call 888-924-6736. For more information on The Foster Parenting Toolbox or The Kinship Parenting Toolbox, visit www.emkpress.com or call 732-469-7544.