To date, the Knopers have fostered four children, the last two having found successful reunification with their mothers. While this is the central goal of foster care, we know this is not always how these stories end, and we acknowledge how conflicting emotions around reunification can be. “Each child deserves to be loved regardless of the hurt that we will feel when they move,” Leslie commented. Understanding this, the Knopers do all they can to support parents struggling to bring their families back together. Through both the mothers’ difficult work and their own, the bonus children who once filled the Knoper’s home were able to return safely to their own homes once again.
“It was so beautiful to see these women overcome so much to fight to have their children back. And thankfully, we became friends with them along the way and continue to encourage them even after the cases closed,” Leslie explained. The formation of true relationships between foster families and families with children in care is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of this work, and the Knopers have found healthy ways to accomplish this necessary challenge.
“We try to establish good boundaries and lots of communication from the beginning of each case,” they stated, often texting parents to keep them informed. “We pass along art work and school papers, so parents feel a part of their children’s daily life.” They also take steps to include Moms and Dads in those milestone moments like birthdays and holidays, providing it’s safe and has met agency approval. “In the final stages of the reunification process, we do the transportation for visits to build trust. We pray for them and encourage them. It’s so important that parents know we are on their team,” added Leslie.
“We try to establish good boundaries and lots of communication from the beginning of each case,”
This month’s featured foster family depends on their own team of cheerleaders, as well, crediting their friends and family with supporting them through the ups and downs. The Knopers also herald the non-profit organization Mosaic as “a huge blessing” to their family by offering support groups, family events, book clubs and the clothing closet. “Don’t do it alone,” Leslie advises new and prospective foster parents. “You need support, encouragement and a community of family and friends to surround you. And some of these people need to understand trauma. Just being able to share with people who understand is priceless.”
The Knopers are also grateful for the ways in which their family has grown through this process. The lessons of kindness, generosity, and understanding their two children have gained has been immeasurable, and the entire family has learned “how to really trust that God is in control.” Saying goodbye to each of the children that has become a part of their home has been difficult, of course, but the family knows they are called to do hard things as Leslie explained, “That’s why we keep saying, “Yes!”
By: Ashley Wirgau, Michigan Fosters