- Massachusetts Department of Children & Families
Donna can’t remember what made her stop at a foster care recruitment table at an event she attended years ago. By the time she walked away, she’d signed up for 30 hours of training to become a licensed foster parent for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF).
As she learned about foster parenting, she decided she wanted to foster children of all ages who needed a home in emergency situations. After a while it became clear she was a favorite of the teenagers who stayed with her.
“I was advocating for the kids, even though they were only staying with me for a short time,” said Donna. “After that the teenagers started asking to come back to my home, so I started taking placements for longer and really bonding with them.”
They quickly found that Donna was fair with them and treated them with respect. And when she met her partner Cathy, they became a team seeing children through high school, college applications, and first jobs and helping them build their foundation for young adulthood.
“I connect with teenagers. For me, the reward is the lasting relationships I’ve had with these kids,” said Donna. “I’ve met a lot of good kids and the bond I’ve been able to have with these teenagers lasts much longer than the time they’re in your home. I gave them consistency and love and they remember and appreciate that.”
There are approximately 8,200 children in Massachusetts who need foster care. About 35% are aged 12 to 17 years old and, like any teenager, they are experiencing tremendous personal growth and change.
Like Donna, all prospective DCF foster parents are assigned their own social worker and enroll in the Department’s Massachusetts Approach to Parenting Partnership (MAPP) training. MAPP is broken into a series of classes over the course of several weeks with varying timeframes to best fit your schedule. All MAPP trainings are currently being held virtually.
“I would tell people if they’re thinking about it, go for it. It’s a part of my life I cannot imagine not doing,” said Donna. “I absolutely love it. It’s part of who I am at this point.”
A few years ago, a young woman came into their home and by the end of their first day together, a bond had formed. She eventually joined their family and now all three of them work together to support children and foster parents in Massachusetts.
“All I want to do is to make a small difference in the lives of every kid that comes through my door. If I can do that, then my job is done.”