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Becoming a Foster Parent: Debbie’s Experience

Posted on April 10, 2015 by

Debbie had been thinking about it for a while when she decided to take the first step. Maybe it was because her mother had been raised in foster care—and she’d had a rough time of it. Maybe it was Debbie’s own work with homeless teens. She’d seen up close what a home means to young people who don’t have one. Whatever it was, Debbie was sure:  She wanted to explore becoming a foster parent. Now she just had to convince her husband Tom. Would he agree to offer a child a safe home while she waited for her “forever family?” Debbie felt they could do it together, and do it well.

Tom wasn’t sure he wanted to become a foster parent, but he was willing to go with Debbie to the training. Soon they were enrolled in the foster parenting course, called MAPP Training. Once a week for ten weeks, they met in a small group – six other prospective foster parents a social worker and an experienced foster parent. It was a crash course on foster parenting—really, parenting in general. As they got to know each other and grew more comfortable, the group discussed many topics: friends, meals, daily routines, discipline, teen sexuality—even their own experiences as parents and as children. For Debbie, the class was a surprising bonding experience. It brought her closer to her husband and helped her connect with other people who shared her interests and values. When the class was done, she and Tom agreed:  They would move forward with the process.

That’s when Plummer’s MaryLuz Arling, now director of Plummer’s foster care program, came on the scene. As their social worker, it was her job to help Debbie and Tom find a foster child who was a good fit for them. She made it clear that her highest priority was to find the right match—for child and parents. She worked hard from the outset to make sure everyone was happy with the process. If anyone felt uncomfortable at any point or for any reason, MaryLuz told Debbie and Tom they could put on the brakes.

After several long conversations with Debbie and Tom about what they hoped for, and what they worried about, MaryLuz called with a suggestion. She had a child, a 13-year-old girl, she thought might be a good fit: Kayla, who needed a permanent family, was currently living in a group home. Debbie and Tom were intrigued—they might be able to give Kayla a better living situation while she waited for her “forever family.”

The relationship started with a phone call. Debbie still remembers it: “Kayla told us about her twin brother and her big sister, how her family came from the Dominican Republic, and what life was like in the group home.” Debbie and Tom introduced themselves.  They didn’t have kids yet, but they were feeling ready to start a family. Over the next two months, Debbie, Tom and Kayla gradually got to know each other. They had lunch at a restaurant with MaryLuz; that went well. Kayla and MaryLuz came to dinner—that went even better. After a while, they tried an overnight, and then a weekend together. Each time, confidence, trust and happiness grew, and soon it was clear to everyone:  This was going to work! After about eight weeks, Kayla moved in with Debbie and Tom.

To say it worked out is an understatement. Kayla is still there… she’s found her forever family. Two years after she first moved in, Debbie and Tom adopted her. They’ve also given Kayla’s siblings a home whenever they’ve needed it, and now the couple is thinking of taking in another child. For Debbie and Tom, becoming foster parents was the best decision they ever made. And Kayla says it made all the difference for her, too.

If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, click here for a list of the steps to take. Or simply contact Plummer Foster Care to learn more. 978-935-9555 or


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