“She reminded me of me,” says Ann, recalling the moment more than 15 years ago when she first met the teenage girl who would become her family’s first foster child.
Ann had been a foster child herself and always had an interest in becoming a foster parent. However, it wasn’t until she met this particular girl – a friend of their biological daughter – that she and her husband, Bob, went through the process to become licensed as foster parents through HopeWell.
Since that time, Ann and Bob, who have three grown biological children, have had more than 20 placements, ranging from infants to late teens, including a pregnant teen who gave birth while in their care, and various emergency placements. Ann says they love the HopeWell social workers they’ve worked with over the years, and they’ve benefitted from the monthly trainings HopeWell provides to foster parents.
Ann and Bob say the toughest part of being foster parents is reunification, when a child returns to live with his or her biological family. Even though they miss all of the children who once shared their home – sometimes for days and sometimes for years – they are comforted in knowing they gave them all the love and support they could. Bob adds, “There’s always going to be someone else who needs help.”
The Almeidas stay in touch with many of their former foster children – some are now adults and have their own children. Flipping through photos of them on her phone, Ann says, “They’re our extended family.”
One foster child did become a permanent family member. Seven years ago, Ann and Bob were offered care of a two-year-old named Bryce. They hesitated, since they previously only cared for teenagers and no longer owned all the “stuff” that toddlers need. It was the older children in the house who convinced them that it would be fun to have a little boy around.
Bryce blossomed in Ann and Bob’s care. Ann says he was “a sponge” who loved to learn, even reading by the age of four. When the goal for Bryce changed to adoption, the Almeidas didn’t hesitate, and the adoption was finalized on November 22, 2013 – National Adoption Day. Today Bryce is a smart, compassionate, and energetic third grader. He’s a member of the Friendship Club at school and still loves to read. He thinks it’s great to have so many big sisters and brothers too.
“When you hear about the childhoods they’re up against, it breaks your heart,” says Bob. “None of these kids asked for this.”
“What they bring to your life is unbelievable.” – Bob