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Foster moms say work is rewarding

by Merrie Leininger

Being a foster family can have its stresses, but two Douglas County women say the good has always outweighed the bad for them.

Kristine and her husband George Nash, foster parents for 6-1/2 years, have helped raise many foster children alongside their four children. Currently, they have three foster children and their youngest daughter still lives at home.

Kristine Nash had been a volunteer with the Court Appointed Special Advocates program when children she had been working with were split up into different foster families.

The Nashes decided to become licensed as emergency care for foster children and the family just took to it.

“People may not really know how much fun it can be. For me, I’m from a large family and I slipped into this very easy,” Nash said. “It’s been such a positive experience. I think it’s great for my children. It makes them see there’s more to life than their lives.”

Diane Woodside has been a foster parent for 10-1/2 years and has no biological children.

Woodside said the foster children love living at her house, which teems with life – horses, a miniature horse, chickens, pygmy goats, geese, ducks, peacocks and poodles. And she, in turn, loves the children.

“I have always adored children. I am a single child and I always wanted at least six kids of my own. So this is kind of my way of having them,” Woodside said. “I have three kids right now, who are 16 months to 3 years old. I usually take younger children. Probably because I like to give them a secure beginning,” she said.

Woodside said she hopes her care has an impact on what probably has been a difficult life so far.

“When a child is taken into custody, it’s because the child’s family is lacking in some ability to care for the child, whether it be abuse, living conditions, not being able to deal with the child or arrests,” she said. “Consequently, the children we take care of, when we give them a safe and loving home, with food and clothing, you are working on the end result of having an adult who can respect other people. And, hopefully, when the child grows up, he or she will pass it on.”

Woodside also does training for those interested in being foster parents. Becoming a licensed foster parent takes 36 hours of training. Foster parents must be fingerprinted and have home inspections. They must have safety equipment in place, such as fire extinguishers. She said there are different levels of care; foster parents can become licensed to care for a special needs child or take in children in emergency situations or do respite care, which is caring for children when their foster family has to leave town.

“We give them the rules and regulations, plus tell them about the absolute need. There are so many children and just not enough homes,” Woodside said. “There are very few of us here (in Douglas County). Sometimes Douglas County children have to go to other counties because we are full. Taking in a child, you can have them for as short as 24 hours and as long as a year. It is a tremendous commitment, but also exceptionally rewarding.”

Woodside said the most important aspect of a foster family is flexibility.

“You have to be able to go with the flow. Things can happen at any time,” she said.

Nash said each family has to find its own niche, or comfort level. For instance, she prefers to have grammar school-aged children, but the three children living with her now are not. She said when a child comes to live with the family, there is always a period of adjustment, but the whole family, including long-term foster children, has the opportunity to vote if a child disrupts the dynamic.

“You have to find what your family as a group has to offer kids and what kids work best in your family,” she said. “Then you just concentrate on that group. You have complete control over who stays in your home. The system is tough and it has its challenging moments. In the long run, I’ve found it’s a compulsive obsessive behavior. When there are no foster kids here, the house seems too empty and I feel useless. It can be heartbreaking, but before you know it, you get more.”

To get more information about foster care, call the division of child and family services at (775) 688-2700. Call same number to learn about foster parent training or to contact Diane Woodside

To contact Kristine Nash, or learn more about the CASA program, call 782-6247.