Being foster parents brought many beautiful children into our home. Each experience was precious, soul-stretching, and heart crushing all at once. Ironically, the pain and discomfort never seemed to outweigh the fulfillment that came from helping children.

At one point we had a newborn baby come live with us for almost 15 months. We adored and loved him. One day, without any warning, he was removed from our home and placed in another foster home. The situation brought grief and sorrow as misunderstanding and mistakes riddled our interactions with the birth family and our case workers.

I wanted to give parents hope that life could be better.

vALERIE mCcAULEY

Seeing the tragic effect of this broken attachment on our foster son and learning of the many foster children who are affected daily in similar ways, we began educating ourselves and advocating for change. We had the privilege to work with our state legislators, the Department of Health and Welfare, and an attorney, to clarify laws and policies to better protect children and prevent these devastating consequences from happening to others.

During our time fostering children, we had the opportunity to meet some of the parents of those who had temporarily lost custody of children. A common message underpinned each interaction that I had with them. I wanted to give them hope that life could get better. I felt their desire to make good choices and raise a happy family, but their struggle to change their circumstances. I knew they could find direction, but I also recognized that the family stability I had enjoyed, had not been afforded to them. With few positive role models and little support, it was a monumental mountain to climb, and few to help them climb it.

Having precious children in my home, I was motivated to see that their best interests were met, even if that meant parents losing custody. But perhaps, in some cases, their best interests could be met by strengthening and focusing on the parents, and preventing the removal altogether.

I wanted parents to feel that there was something to fight and live for. Life could be good, mistakes could be overcome, and they had the capacity to rise above their challenges. I saw the value of having a friend; someone to encourage and walk with them through the painful and long process of growth and change. Someone who would not “hand out” the solution, but work “hand in hand” to become a successful parent. And so…. Hand in Hand Family Mentorship was created!