By EMMA BARTLETT
Six years ago, Sue Babin, 70, got the call on a Friday night at 5:30. Within an hour, DCYF dropped off a young girl with one set of PJs and two outfits to her house in Gloucester. …
By EMMA BARTLETT
Six years ago, Sue Babin, 70, got the call on a Friday night at 5:30. Within an hour, DCYF dropped off a young girl with one set of PJs and two outfits to her house in Gloucester. Babin remembers calling everyone in her family asking if they had available clothes and diapers.
Today, Babin serves as the president of the board for The Village for RI Foster and Adoptive Families, a Cranston-based grassroots community agency that has developed a multi-pronged approach to address the needs of foster families. Founded by four foster moms in 2016, the Village is the only foster and adoptive family founded and governed support organization in the state and serves over 400 foster, kinship and adoptive families.
May is nationally recognized as foster care awareness month and the Village is celebrating foster parents who have opened their homes to children in need of a stable home.
“Rhode Island is lucky to have over 70 percent kinship care providers,” said Babin, who works on the Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council and has fostered and adopted two children.
According to the Village, there are approximately 800 kinship caregiver foster homes (where the child knows or is related to the individual) and 600 non-kinship foster homes in the state.
Babin said kinship care is beneficial since removing a child from a home is a traumatizing experience and minimizing trauma as much as possible is important. Children placed in foster care are removed from their homes due to reports of neglect, abuse or mistreatment. Babin said foster families provide loving homes, stability and the opportunity for children to grow and have a good life.
Kelley Fluette is one of the four founding members of the Village. She said she had been fostering for eight years when DCYF sent an email about a new foster parent support group they were running. Fluette said she attended the meeting and people had so much to say that not everyone got a turn to speak. At the following month’s meeting, she and three other women were the only ones who showed up. DCYF eventually dissolved the support group, but the four women decided there was a necessity for a support system for foster parents and started the Village.
Fluette and her husband have four biological children and eventually adopted another two. Fluette is still fostering and said she wouldn’t have lasted this long if it weren’t for the support she received through other foster parents.
The Village uses trained peers to serve as facilitators of monthly support groups to help families with their emotional support and guidance along the way -- in English and in Spanish. They also bridge the gap between various caregivers and services that are available and organize various events for families and children to meet with each other and have fun. In April the Village organized an Easter egg hunt with the Easter Bunny and had 125+ families and children attend. The organization also has an open closet with free resources for families such as toys, wipes and diapers.
Babin went from fostering to adopting two children. One was the young girl who was brought to her house on that Friday evening and the other was her younger brother. The young girl is now seven and a half and the boy is three and a half years old. Babin said she has an open adoption and an excellent relationship with the mom who will stay over at the house and come for holidays and birthdays. Prior to fostering her children, Babin knew the mother from 10 years prior.
Portsmouth’s Tori, 37, and DJ, 36, Canario have been fostering since September, but their desire to foster has been going on for years. Tori said they started talking about fostering when they were dating; both wanting a few biological kids and to eventually foster and adopt.
The couple went on to have four children and, in 2020, Tori went on a mission trip to Texas – close to the Mexican border – where she witnessed a family who had their own kids and took in children whose parents had been deported.
“They didn’t have a lot but were willing to share what they had,” said Tori, who works at St. Barnabas Church in Portsmouth.
When she returned from the trip, she told DJ she wanted to move forward with fostering. Coincidentally, while she was away, DJ had signed the two of them up for an informational session with DCYF. The pandemic hit and delayed their fostering plans, but the couple was able to take online Trauma Informed PS – Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (TIPS-MAPP) training which consisted of a ten-week course that met for three hours a week.
During the TIPS-MAPP course, Tori and DJ met other foster parents and built good relationships with them. The couple received a foster care license in September and have since had two placements of children. The first was a young girl who stayed with them for a weekend and the other was a group of three siblings who came to the family two weeks before Christmas.
Since Tori and DJ’s kids were between the ages of four and 11, they determined that fostering children under 10 would be perfect. However, they found through their placements that they loved fostering teenagers and are interested in helping teen moms and their babies.
Tori and DJ found out about the Village from their TIPS-MAPP instructor who was involved in the organization.
“Having that literal village that had experience and that you can ask questions to is a huge asset. It has been absolutely essential to have those connections with the families,” Tori said, mentioning that it can be scary receiving a placement call and knowing nothing about the child other than their age and that they’ll be at your home in an hour.
Babin said people who are curious about foster care can get initially involved in respite foster care where the person is relieving the foster parent for a short amount of time.
Tori said her favorite part of foster parentings has been seeing the connections built between the family’s biological kids and those in their care.
“It’s seeing the difference we’re actually making,” said DJ, who works as a firefighter in Portsmouth. “Seeing the fruits of the labor just in the kids themselves.”
Babin said DCYF provides a monthly stipend for families which help with paying for clothing and groceries. In the case of Tori and DJ’s family, the Village provided gift cards for the foster kids during Christmas since they came two weeks before the holiday.
The Village has an advisory council which meets with DCYF and was established to raise awareness of the contributions and support needs of kinship caregivers, share information, promote collaboration and unify advocacy efforts for kinship caregivers.
The needs of kinship caregivers are the central concern of the council.
Anyone interested in learning more about foster care or looking for basic information about it can call the Village at 401-481-5483 or visit https://www.rivillage.org/. Additionally, individuals don’t have to be foster parents to help. People can assist by donating to the organization’s diaper drive that is currently running during May. Donations can also be made through the Village’s Facebook page or website. The organization can be found at 139 Ocean Ave., Cranston.
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