Clean clothes. A warm bed. Love and support. These are some of the basic necessities that every child deserves. But for various reasons and circumstances, some parents find themselves unable to provide them for their children.
Foster care allows families to offer a temporary living situation for youth whose parents cannot take care of them. Have you ever thought about opening your home to a child in need? One of the best ways to learn about foster care, including its rewards and challenges, is to hear firsthand from successful foster parents about how it’s changed their lives.
Amber and Ed Thutt, from Lewisville, North Carolina, became licensed to provide foster care in November 2022. Amber teaches special education from home through the North Carolina Virtual Academy. Ed is a corporate trainer for Hafele America Co. Prior to his current job, Ed taught high school science and coached cross-country and basketball for over 20 years.
The Thutts have a family friend who works as a supervisor for Children’s Home Society of North Carolina (CHS). She encouraged them to follow their hearts and become foster parents, which helped lead them to become licensed through CHS.
When the Thutts learned that a friend of Amber’s mother had taken emergency custody of her granddaughter, they were interested in providing a safe, loving home for a newborn in need. The friend suggested the Thutts because she had watched them raise their two children and was pleased with how they interacted with her family.
At first, Ed wasn’t sure if he had the energy needed to care for a baby now that he’s in his 40s. Plus, he wanted to make sure he could balance the responsibilities of caring for his biological children and navigating the various agencies needed to support a child in foster care.
“Once we started taking the classes needed for licensing, we knew it was a step in the right direction for us,” Ed explains. “They assured us that we would receive support for the challenges that children in foster care may face. They also helped us to see how some of our parenting strengths would be beneficial to children who had been through trauma.”
Shared parenting and communication
Amber and Ed have worked hard to maintain a shared parenting relationship with the child’s parents. The Thutts arrange biweekly visits with them. In addition, Amber attends as many court dates involving the child as she can. At these hearings, she sits with the parents to show support.
“We’re trying to show that we’re on their side and have the same goal of reuniting them with their child,” Amber says. “Our experience as teachers has shown us how important it is for children to be with their own families, if possible. Children have better outcomes when they’re with those who love and support them.”
The Thutts have used a shared journal and group text messages to keep the parents up to date on the child’s care and development. Through this communication, they can ask each other questions and share details about their lives.
“Getting to know the parents has given me more empathy,” explains Ed. “I can see that they’re not bad people. They just made some bad decisions and had some bad circumstances that led to their current situation.”
Positive effect on others
One of the greatest rewards of fostering has been seeing the effect it’s had on Amber and Ed’s 14-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son.
“When you’re fostering a child from a less-than-ideal situation, you’re helping to give them a better future, and our other kids get to take part in that,” says Amber. “It has helped them develop into more mature, selfless people. Even their friends are seeing that not everyone is born into a perfect family situation. They’re all seeing the benefits of being willing to help others and reach out.”
Amber and Ed have also loved seeing the baby reach some of their developmental milestones. “It’s rewarding just to see them smile,” says Amber. “They’re also sitting up and crawling earlier than we expected.”
From the beginning, CHS has supported the Thutt family with kindness and compassion.
“As soon as we notified the organization that we were interested in fostering, one of the licensing specialists reached out to us within hours,” Amber explains. “They were very responsive, which is important to me. When she came to our home and asked us questions, she got very personal and became more like a friend.”
After they became licensed, the Thutts were assigned a new placement specialist who has become like a member of the family. He attends their children’s sporting events and keeps up with what’s happening with the entire family. The specialist invites the Thutts to family nights, which allow them to connect with other foster parents. He notifies them about education and training sessions designed to help them keep up with training for their licensing.
CHS has also helped the Thutts navigate all the different state agencies and programs involved in providing foster care.
Ed adds, “They’re great at supporting us. If you have a question or a problem, they provide a listening ear. They’re there to support the child but also to support us as foster parents.”