Foster Care can be a rewarding experience. That is the takeaway of one of Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area’s (LSSNCCA) foster parents, Allison McGill.
Allison and her husband, Joe, have been foster parents with LSSNCA’s Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program since 2016. The decision to add to their already two children household – with both kids under the age of three – was during the Syrian crisis. Having previously spent time in the Middle East, they were drawn to assist by opening their home to unaccompanied minors from Syria that needed a home.
By the time they were licensed and had their home visit, it was the weekend of the Trump administration’s ban on refugee resettlement and travel from predominately Muslim countries ban went into effect. So, naturally, they adjusted.
While it took longer than they expected due to all the new immigration issues, in 2018 LSSNCA asked if they were interested in taking in, Dieudonne, a teenager from the Dominican Republic of the Congo, who at the time had already lived in been placed in three different foster homes.
“We met him and right away – yes… and I mean, he’s our son.”
And before they knew it, the McGill’s also took in his older brother who had aged out of the system. “His older brother was in college when we met him and he just kept coming to visit Dio and just started to call us Mom and Dad and we were like – yeah. We ended up getting two adult children out of this. I have four sons. I’m definitely a boy mom. Even our fish is male,” Allison quipped.
However, Allison and her husband didn’t go into this process blindly. “Any child in foster care is going to have some trauma. Being placed in a foster program for any reason is trauma. So, that goes with the territory.”
Luckily, her family did not have to go at it alone, “I will say [LSSNCA] really gave us great training and continued with our bi-yearly training where I felt equipped for trauma. We felt very trained (by LSSNCA) to identify things.”
‘Still, trauma manifests in different ways. Dio and his brother’s trauma was exhibited through their hard work and perseverance. “When Dio was in high school we had a rule that he had to go out one night a week and do something fun. That was something on our radar. He needed to have fun. He was a teenager. Trauma can make it to where you work so hard trying to make it to where you never go back to that place.”
Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area stayed with the McGill’s throughout their process. “We were very close to [Dio’s] social worker. I felt like I could call her with anything. I felt like she celebrated Dio with all the things he did to celebrate. We had a very close relationship with her, which was very helpful.”
Allison is grateful that LSSNCA not only prepared her for fostering but also made the pairings of foster-child to foster-parent a priority. “[LSSNCA] really took into mind our situation with young kids, so I felt like they really tried to put a child where it was a good fit and I would absolutely recommend [LSSNCA] we had a great experience.