Elkhart Foster Parents Embrace the Privilege to Show Up for Children
When Joel and Jamie married 13 years ago, they imagined hearing endless laughter and feeling the joy of children filling their newly built home. Joel says his desire at that time was to “use our house to love people.” Today, that dream is realized even more than Joel and Jamie imagined. In their six years as foster parents for The Villages, over 20 children have been loved and nurtured in their home, and Joel and Jamie are in the process of adopting one of the children in their care.
After their first foster parent meeting at The Villages, Joel and Jamie knew this was their calling. “Our hearts were moved by the great need for foster parents in our community,” Joel says. “Reading bedtime stories, watching faces light up opening presents, singing songs, and getting ice cream are particular joyful experiences I think upon regularly with fondness.”
The couple says their journey has been successful because of the ongoing support from The Villages staff in Elkhart. “Fostering can only be done well in community… We so appreciate that they are always available when you have issues or simply need to cry on their shoulders,” Joel says. “The staff is very knowledgeable in many things. And if they don’t have answers, they will seek to find them.”
The couple’s commitment to the foster parent community extends outside their home. Joel and Jamie host respite for families, offer their ministry space in downtown Elkhart for foster parent trainings, and provide support to other foster parents.
“They are always reaching out to families when needed and willing to provide extra love,” said Jennifer Doty, Foster Care Case Manager. “In addition, they are also partnering with other local agencies to host trainings that will qualify for additional face-to-face hours for our parents. We are truly blessed to have them on so many levels. They never think twice about giving back.”
Joel says he is grateful for every experience as a foster parent. “I look back at the big picture and soak in the privilege I had to show so many children they were loved.”
Jamie says she appreciates the opportunity to show children in foster care something good, safe, and different. She says she also enjoys continuing relationships with some of the children after they return to their families.
For families considering becoming a foster parent, Joel and Jamie say unconditional love for the child and respect for the biological parents are important facets of the experience to keep in mind when making a final decision. “Come into it with a mindset of reunification being the best thing for children who will love their parents no matter what,” Joel says. “Speak well of the parents. Know you are doing something that will impact these children for the better, even if the time is short.”
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, attending our virtual Info Sessions is a great place to start. Find upcoming meetings hosted by Villages staff in your area.