Sitting down with Karla
Fostering is a calling that is best understood by those who have become foster parents themselves. Hear from one of our teen foster parents as she shares a piece of her foster journey.
Karla Dennis has been fostering with Encourage for more than 2 years. She chose to specifically foster teenagers for a couple main reasons. Her love and comfortability with teens had been fostered through her career and she knew that the need for foster parents for teens was great. Although Karla started as a respite home, she quickly took in her first teen placement over a year ago.
“Encourage has been great and very supportive. My case manager always came twice a week but offered to come every week for extra support if I needed. She was so sincere and so supportive that I knew if I needed anything she would be there.”
Karla shared that being a foster parent has been rewarding as she has learned a lot from the teens who have come through her home. Karla admits that if she was in their position as a teenager, she may not have been able to process all the trauma that had happened to her.
“It’s sad that they had to gain the qualities of strength and resilience at such a young age. But I admire that about them.” Karla shared the joy of seeing a specific foster teen being so grateful to simply get a weekend in Columbus in a hotel and swim in the pool. “She didn’t take it for granted.”
Karla encourages anyone interested in becoming a teen foster parent to truly see teens as the kids they are, even when they act like the adult they had to be to survive. “Understanding the trauma’s effect on the brain is (also) important to know. This can help you have more grace.” Thankfully trauma-informed care (TBRI) is a piece of the training conducted by Encourage Foster Care and a part of the ongoing learning process.
Karla shared that with all of the inconsistency, abuse and/or mistrust that had occurred in these foster kids lives, they need a person to PROVE their words. This includes the words ‘I love you’, ‘Trust me’ or even, ‘I will pick you up at 6’.
“Connection is the only road to healing,” says Karla. “Connecting can look different (depending on the child) and needs to be intentional, consistent and calm.” Although this may take time and patience, Karla shares that there will be rewards and progress, even if they seem small.
Through the foster process, there can be ups and downs. Karla shares that as a foster parent, an important thing to have is community. The most helpful thing to her was to have a friend who was also a foster parent and could help with (and understand) situations, processing and even being there for an exciting call about a new foster child coming the next day. Karla also gains support and joy from several different teen foster parent Facebook groups.
We at CCHO are so grateful for foster parents like Karla who have opened up their heart and home to a youth in need. Our foster parents are a true example of being the hands and feet of Jesus.
Be their dream. Foster a teen. CLICK HERE to learn more.