Becoming a Foster Parent

Being a foster parent in America can be one of the trickiest jobs out there. The data shows that not everyone was made to be a good fit to be a foster parent. In surveys over the past decade, about 25–45% of foster children face neglect or some other form of abuse during their time in the system. While that is a dangerously high number, there are many parents who are successful and nurturing foster parents.

Lisa Wright, a family doctor, is currently a mother of four — two boys and two girls where both of them came from foster care. She has always been guided by strong faith and a trusting relationship with God. One day, a member of the church she attends made a prayer request for two young children. Wright then found out more about these two young girls and how they have been roaming around an apartment complex asking neighbors for food.

After time passed by, she registered to foster and soon became their new foster mother after Child Protective Services were notified. Wright eventually took the girls, Bailey, and Melony in and helped them for their biological mother was fighting an intense battle with substance abuse and addiction. The girls lived with Wright for almost three years until a final adoption was made.

Wright says that “[she] is very grateful for the blessing Bailey and Melony have brought her and hopes that [she] can give them a much better life.” Bailey and Melony are now 14 and 9 and have lived under Wright’s care for almost 5 years. This is a success story for them both, but it wasn’t always easy.

Photo of Lisa and her family. Bailey (left) and Melony (middle) and her husband Wayne taken the summer of 2020. Photo courtesy of Lisa Wright.

I was lucky enough to sit down with Lisa Wright and hear their story be told in a Q and A session.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced in fostering these two?

A: “I have never been a parent before Melony and Bailey,” she explained, “They came from a really heartbreaking place, and with a struggling mother I faced all of the behavioral repercussions. I never had experience with children who screamed at strangers or would bite other people when they were upset.”

Q: What was the process like with their birth mother?

A: “It was really hard. I could see the pain their mother faced in her battle with addiction. As a doctor, I know how that affects and disrupts individuals. I felt sad for her, but I also made it a point for her to know her kids were safe. Originally, the goal was to give their mother the time and resources to get clean so she could parent them. That didn’t end up working out how we hoped it would so I made the decision to foster with intent to adopt. Their birth mother really struggled with losing Bailey and Melony, as any mother would, and the four of us [the girls and their birth mother] have shared some very difficult conversations because of it.”

Q: How has it been being married to another foster parent with children of their own?

A: Wayne (Lisa’s husband) and I were both fostering kids before we met. His two sons, Nick and Dalen, were adopted from foster care before we met while my journey in fostering with intent to adopt was just beginning. It was comforting having his kindness and help and for the girls to have two older brothers who have walked a similar path. Getting married right after I adopted them helped smooth the entire process and we became a big family.

Q: Can you talk about how the adoption process went for you?

A: From the beginning, I loved and cared so deeply for the girls. It frightens me that there are so many children out there who suffer and come from broken homes. But after taking them in, it wasn’t long until I knew I wanted to foster them with the end goal being adoption regardless of how hard and long that process would take. I do not hate their birth mother and they don’t either, but they quickly understood why they now live with me permanently. Part of that understanding might be from their age and maturity. Their mom really had a hard time getting it but after many conversations from myself and other caseworkers she began to understand. In the end, we all just want their mother to take care of herself and get better. After a couple of years, I was able to legally adopt these girls as my own and they still occasionally see their mom with supervised visitations.

Q: What advice would you give to other foster parents?

A: Find a way to make that child feel loved. Learn who they are and where they come from. Foster children are forced to grow up quicker which diminishes their childhood. It is common for adults who came from the system to have a lot of trauma and mental health issues. As foster parents, we should let these children stay children and give them something worthwhile. It is a hard job to take on, but it is also the most rewarding thing I have ever done. As foster parents, we have the power to reshape a child’s life and we need to do better collectively to save the children of our world.

Q: Would you foster any more children?

A: Well funny you ask that because while I value being able to be one, I am actually pregnant with twins. By the end of 2021, my husband and I will have six children under one roof so I don’t think I will be able to provide for any more children. I would love to but unfortunately, I no longer have the means or space to, but I am so grateful to have been able to foster and change these girls’ lives prior to this pregnancy. I know our family seems chaotic and such, but I have grown to be very proud and happy to have what I have.

For the full transcript please contact Sarah at sarah.neff@rams.colostate.edu