25 Jul Ivonne and Junior
Like many couples, Ivonne and Junior struggled to conceive a child on their own. Even with in vitro fertilization treatments, the pregnancy they had hoped for never materialized, so they began exploring other options.
The couple never lost faith that they were meant to be parents, and felt certain there was another path to building their family. They wanted to adopt a child, but figured they would foster first. “I knew there would be a long wait to adopt, and we have so much love to give right now so I wanted to do something positive in the interim,” says Ivonne.
Junior was a bit hesitant. “If she were pregnant we’d have nine months to prepare, but when you are on that list to foster, you’re going to get a placement right away and that was going to uproot our whole lives,” he says. Nonetheless, he agreed to attend an orientation session to get information and ask questions of the staff and foster parents at Angels Foster Family Network. At the end of the orientation, the Garcias decided to take the leap and enrolled in the education and training program to become certified foster parents. “We felt like Angels was more than a system, it was a family where we knew we weren’t going to be on our own, but have a lot of people who really care about our family,” says Ivonne.
Weeks later, a two-year-old boy they call “Jay” toddled into their lives and has been with them for nearly a year. Jay was initially withdrawn when he arrived at their home so they called their Angels Clinical Case Manager, who is available for parents round the clock. The agency immediately sent a play therapist to their home to offer strategies in helping Jay acclimate to his new environment. The boy quickly felt at home and even gave them a taste of life with a two-year-old when he had a tantrum. They called Angels again and reviewed principles of positive discipline and communication. “Fostering is like parenting with a huge twist,” says Ivonne.
What surprised the couple the most is how much the experience has transformed Junior. “Jay awakened something in Junior he didn’t even know was there,” says Ivonne as her husband nods in agreement. They share a deep connection – and a love for rough and tumble boy stuff like running around the playground together. Junior even goes down the slide with Jay on their play dates. Ivonne shares a love of reading and is every bit the proud mother. “He’s very smart,” she says beaming, as she sits in a family room of their home filled with toys and framed portraits of Jay. “I will read him books and three weeks later, I’ll take out the same book and he’ll remember full sentences from it.” Junior adds, “Words like ostrich and violin.”
Falling in love with Jay was the easy part. Learning to parent took a little work, but the couple says the training they received at Angels was second to none. “Every parent should go through this training whether they are fostering or not,” says Junior. “We learned different approaches to parenting that are all research-based and it really opened our eyes.” As they went through the classes, Junior says they recognized behaviors and character traits they see in their nieces and nephews.
Although 75% of children placed in homes through the Angels Foster Family Network are reunified with their biological families, Jay might be an exception. “We have known since the beginning that the goal is reunification and we are working to do everything possible to do what’s best for him,” Ivonne explains. That said, if the court determines Jay would be best served by being placed for adoption, the Garcias are ready to become his “forever family.”
“We love him so much,” says Ivonne. “We would love for him to stay with us, but regardless of that, we know that the time he spent in our care made a difference in his life and has changed us forever.”