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September 27, 2016

Through the Eyes (and Heart) of a Foster Parent…

Ever since Jeannie Tiner was a child, people referred to her as the “caregiving” type. Being the oldest amid her siblings, Jeannie jokes that she used to run around with a Kleenex to wipe her toddler sister’s runny nose. This caring demeanor is at the very core of Jeannie’s role as both mom and foster mom.

She and her husband began the journey of foster parenting 20 years ago during the time they were raising their own biological teenage children. While many who decide to foster have no other personal connection with the system as they make the courageous decision to move forward, what drew the Tiners in originally was hearing of a cousin who due to drug abuse had lost custody of a young boy. This story stuck with the Tiners, and over the last two decades they have fostered 170 children so far. Jeannie is quick to point out that she and her husband are not the typical foster parents.

“Even to have helped one child, or several, would been an enormous help in the lives of the children and for our overall society,” she shared. Jeannie explains that their focus has been on giving newborns and toddlers the very best possible start and a sense of comfort. “It’s so important to meet their emotional and physical needs.”

To constantly praise them. And, to love them because that’s all these children really want and need. Giving them a chance to bond with parent figures is so important,” the foster mom says. Also, the Tiners would teach these children to be accountable and about making positive choices. “We even took this opportunity to mentor the biological parents, when the opportunities arose, about healthy parenting. And to let them know we’d be there for their children as long as the courts allowed us to.”

The Tiners had never intended to adopt. They knew that just by helping children until lifelong placements were made was providing crucial support. Yet fast forward, they ended up adopting one child and are the legal guardian of another with who they are pursuing to adopt. Being mom and dad to the two children continues to bring so much joy and fun to the Tiner household and makes all the challenges involved with both cases fade quickly in the past.

One key ingredient that helped them over the years was having amazing mentors — the Palmer family – who had fostered children themselves. There is also very caring support within the county to help foster parents every step of the way. And it’s important to note that foster parents can be those who are single or married.

As Jeannie knows firsthand, you need to have a heart full of love, a willingness to slow down (even when crazy busy) to give your kids hugs and to let them know how much they mean to you, to be open-minded, to not judge the child nor their biological parents, to have the ability to give the child all the care and support as if they were your own biological children, and to give them a sense of just how important they are.

Recently, a friend visited the Tiners’ home – where a swing, highchair, play pen, and other caregiving items fill the Tiners’ formal living room. Jeannie apologized. The friend, who Jeannie attests lives in a breathtaking sprawling home, replied, “I’d trade across with you in a second,” her friend then continued, “The difference is, you are living in a home and I am living in a house.” Many fondly refer to the Tiners’ home as “Safe Haven.”

As Jeannie reflects back, she recalls that during her own childhood her parents took in a child — a person who they never adopted but whom Jeannie refers to still to this day as her sister. Paying it forward, one of the Tiners’ sons has adopted a child that the Tiners had fostered. While Jeannie will admit there can be major highs and lows throughout the process, and that it takes a tremendous amount of patience and resilience, one thing remains constant – that giving of yourself to help precious children is one of the absolute most rewarding things you can ever do in your lifetime.

A loving, stable family is the single most important resource that can be provided to abused and neglected children as it has the power to give support, show compassion, provide a safe home and help children find the courage to hope for a better life.  For more information on becoming a Resource Family, please call (888) 871-KIDS, visit www.oc4kids.com or click here for our most recent recruitment publication.

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