I (Matt) am a substitute teacher. Part of what is fun about being a substitute teacher is getting to meet a lot of people. A few months ago I was subbing at a local middle school and met an amazing lady, Tiffany McKnatt-Smart. She was so good with the students. As I got to know more about her, I learned that she is a foster mom. She shared stories with me about her experiences and I was just amazed at all that she does to help kids. I saw a love in her for kids that reminded me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 19 where the disciples are shooing the children away and Jesus stops them and says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”
The month of May is “Foster Care Awareness” month and I thought it would be great to do an interview with someone who is fostering children. Right away I thought of Tiffany. I hope you enjoy it.
1. What is your name?
2. How many children have you fostered?
I have fostered a total of 7 children in 3 years.
A 14 yr old girl still with me who is now turning 17
A 14 yr old girl still with me who is now 17 and whom I have adopted
A 17 yr old girl who aged out at 18 but still comes to me for guidance (she was with me for 6 mos)
A 16 yr old girl who was with me just for respite (babysitting), but she messed up in her other home and last I heard she is in a girls school
A 1 yr old boy (respite) while a home could be found, he is in the process of adoption by the family and we keep in contact
A 14 yr old girl who just came to me
3. What lead you to start fostering?
I have two reasons why I decided to foster:
1. I was a kid who was on the streets at 16 and could have ended up with a horrible life, but people came along and helped me make good choices, so I am paying it forward.
2. I work at a middle school and see many of our kids fail at school and life because of “misery at home” and wanted to do something to change that.
4. What is the most rewarding thing about being a foster parent?
All the little moments that you see these kids blossom. When you see a hurt child change into a confident child with just a few scars left from their past, makes it ALL worth it.
5. What is the most challenging thing about being a foster parent?
For me the most challenging thing about being a foster parent is realizing that I can’t erase years of neglect and hurt and make this child all better. I am such a control freak and this is one area I can’t control and I have to give it to God, do my best, and then let it go. The next biggest challenge is the flaws of our foster system. We have laws that are not “kid friendly” but instead “Government make money friendly.” The whole foster care industry is so flawed (ie. parents have years to work on getting their kid back with little effort, so the kid just sits in foster care waiting to see whether or not they will be adopted or if their parents will get it together and get them back) and needs reform, but that is not a reason for us to not do our part and help these kids as much as we can.
6. What is one thing that others could do to help you as a foster parent?
If someone wanted to help a foster parent there are many ways: We don’t get a break unless we send the kid to respite and for my girls they feel like I am “giving up” on them so I don’t use it. I could use a support person to come to the house and let me have some “me” time. I am trying to get a program off the ground where each foster family would have 2 families be the support family. What that would look like is the support family would do a background check and then they would be willing to volunteer 2 hrs a week to help the foster family with things like transportation to appts., tutoring, respite, projects at the house etc… It would give families a chance to see foster care without jumping all the way in and maybe some would decide to do this and others could just continue to be a support.
7. What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a foster parent?
DO IT!! We currently have 600,000 kids in the USA looking for a home If not you then who? I would also tell them make sure they go through an agency that is known for supporting their foster families, make sure they have their own life together before they get into this because it can be mentally draining, and most of all get linked up with a good church for support.
8. Do you have a favorite resource about foster care that you would like to share?
God, my church, and facebook sites that are for foster parents to share ideas
9. Do you have any other comments?
I am available to help anyone that wants to walk this journey. It is so worth it.
I am so proud of my mom Tiffany I am one of the foster kids that she has had,and she is simply the best!! Love her to pieces.