News

Foster parents share the love

By JACINDA HOWARD

The Mirror

Two Federal Way residents plan to serve as resources and support for community members interested in foster parenting.

Denyce Sprecher and Laura Vaughns both have a history of welcoming foster children into their homes. Sprecher has even adopted.

The women know the hardships these children face as well as how difficult it can be to find valuable information on foster parenting.

At first look, becoming a foster parent may seem overwhelming, even daunting. Many people do not know where to start or who to contact, Sprecher said.

“It isn’t easy to get real, tangible information,” Sprecher said. “You want to get information from people who have done it or are doing it now.”

Sprecher and her husband serve as foster and adopted parents. They took in three girls in the past four years, and have since adopted the two older girls, ages 9 and 10. The younger one is not up for adoption.

Laura Vaughns and her husband, A.J., have one biological son, age 4, and are foster parents to two young boys, whom they welcomed into their home in October 2006.

The couples have learned a great deal through their experiences in foster parenting and adopting.

Now, Denyce Sprecher and Laura Vaughns wish to be resources within their community. They are in the beginning stages of creating Community Care, a service directed toward uniting Federal Way residents and offering information, tips and advice on foster parenting.

Through this program, they can share experiences and advice. The women know how to contact agencies that place foster children, and are aware of the several options for foster parents — ranging from serving as a temporary parent until a child’s home situation improves to adopting a foster child. The women stay updated on foster care laws, and the Vaughns have experience dealing with biological family visitation rights.

The women had the opportunity to share stories and knowledge with community members on April 20 as part of a resource panel on foster parenting. The panel also included a foster parent recruiter and a former foster child who has since been adopted.

Sprecher and Vaughns hope to offer similar discussions in the future through their Community Care program.

As part of the program, the women also hope to disprove myths about the foster system.

One myth portrays foster parenting as expensive, Laura Vaughns said. The state pays for a lot of the foster child’s expenses, such as medical and dental, she said.

“The state offers a lot of help, but foster parents need to know what questions to ask and be serious about being a parent,” Sprecher said.

Many people have a preconceived stereotype of foster children as being troubled kids, but that isn’t always the case, Sprecher said.

People often think foster children have behavioral, emotional or developmental issues. Several of them do have such problems, but that does not mean the problems cannot be solved with the help of a loving and supportive family who is willing to spend time with the child, Laura Vaughns said.

Dedicated

to family

Raising a foster child is hard, Laura Vaughns admits, but so is caring for a biological child.

The Vaughns dedicate a significant amount of time to their family. Their foster boys faced difficult issues when they arrived in the Vaughns’ home, but that has since changed. Laura works from her home and A.J. has occasionally worked nights to make up for the daytime hours missed due to his foster parent obligations.

“One bad story travels 100 times farther than a good one,” Laura Vaughns said. “We want our experience to be one of the good ones.”

Approximately 18,000 children are part of the state’s foster care system, according to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. These children deserve someone who is willing to take a chance on them and risk experiencing the heartbreak that sometimes comes along with foster parenting, A.J. Vaughns said.

“They deserve someone to treat them like their own children,” he said.

Part of the nature of the foster system is being an advocate for yourself and knowing your rights, A.J. Vaughns said.

Maturity, responsibility and patience are required, Laura Vaughns added. One must also take into consideration the emotional challenge of embracing the fact that foster children have a history that doesn’t include the foster parents. However, the rewards are worth it, she said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

State foster care laws

The Community Care program comes at a time when the Washington state Legislature is taking a closer look at its foster care laws. As a result of a lawsuit filed in 1998 on behalf of 13 foster children, the state is reviewing three bills, which if passed will affect the lives of foster children.

The first bill would assist children who find themselves being “aged out” of the foster care system at age 18. It would provide these young adults with housing stipends.

Another bill would extend the age from 18 to 21 in which foster children receive Medicaid coverage.

The third bill would alter the definition of kin in its relation to foster children. This would allow for abandoned children to be placed with their second cousins or relatives of half-siblings, if appropriate.

The regular legislative session ends April 22.

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