31 May Jennifer and Grant
At the opening of the old TV series, the Andy Griffith Show, Sheriff Andy Taylor and his son Opie kick a rock down a dirt road in Mayberry, fishing poles slung over their shoulders. This family is like a modern version of that wholesome, outdoorsy family. They look a little different than the Mayberry lot, though. Jennifer and Grant are white professionals in their forties. Their younger foster daughter, “Kay” is an 18-month-old African American and their older girl “Dee” is a three-year-old Latina. Other than that, the San Diego natives and Mayberry bunch have a lot in common. They value family and nature – and they love to go fishing. Each young girl has her own fishing pole, Mickey Mouse for Kay, Cinderella for Dee.
“We’re outdoor people,” says Grant, who grew up in La Mesa enjoying fishing and hunting. There are hints of this throughout their home: pictures of fish and ducks, and photos of camping trips. But the pièce de résistance is the 10-foot marlin hanging over the sofa.
Jennifer says it’s fun to see Kay and Dee embracing the great outdoors. “We do beach trips and camp in the mountains. There’s a lot of mud pies and mud soup, then they go from that to wanting to put on princess outfits,” she says with a smile. All six of their placements with Angels Foster Family Network have been girls, though this has been coincidental.
They have been fostering for four years now and were introduced to the idea by a fluke. “We got a fundraising call from a foster care organization over the winter holidays,” says Jennifer. She declined to donate because she didn’t know enough about the group, but it got her thinking about being a foster parent. After she and Grant researched options in San Diego, the couple attended an orientation at Angels and decided to open their hearts and home to children in need of care.
It’s hard work, but well worth it, they say. “It’s fun to watch them grow and change,” says Jennifer. And it’s rewarding to see them begin to regain trust and attach with adults. As for their own attachment, Jennifer and Grant agree that saying goodbye to children when they reunify with their biological families is tough, but they feel prepared for the transition. “Part of you leaves when they do, but you get used to it, and Angels really goes over that in the certification process,” says Grant. “It all boils down to what’s best for the kiddos,” he says. Jennifer adds, “It’s fostering. This is the way it goes.”
Though 70% of foster children are reunified with their biological families, they are in the process of adopting Kay. They are also Dee’s legal guardians after the biological family asked for their continued support after they were first reunified. At first, the biological family asked for assistance with babysitting, then asked the Werdicks to raise the child full time. The couple was happy to welcome back the baby they had said goodbye to months earlier.
According to the pair, the most important things foster parents need to succeed are a little patience for paperwork, a lot of love, and quality time. Jennifer says she has a friend with a high pressure job who talks about possibly fostering, but she wonders how this would be possible with her 12-hour work days. Just like any other parent, foster parents have to make the decision to clock out and hang a sign on the door that tells the world they’ve “Gone Fishin’.”
That won’t be long for this family, who look forward to their next outing. Grant smiles like a proud father, and points to Dee, saying, “She even caught a fish once! I was surprised to see everything come together like that so young. She was pretty excited.”
Jennifer laughs, “He was more excited.”