Acknowledging the role of foster parents this May

Published: May. 8, 2022 at 8:08 PM EDT|Updated: May. 9, 2022 at 6:07 AM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - May is National Foster Care Month.

Rutland’s Robyn Sweet could be considered a “super-mom.” She’s a paralegal who is also a biological mom, a stepmom, an adoptive mom and a foster mom.

As someone who came into foster care in her mid-teens, she says she has a unique understanding of what children in foster care are going through.

“Being able to look at a child who’s really spinning out or spiraling because they don’t understand and being able to truly explain to them. I can look at them and say, ‘I really understand what you’re feeling here, so let’s talk about it,’” Sweet said.

Sweet says she and her husband began fostering children in 2014.

Since then, around 40 children have come through their Rutland home through the years, whether it was for one night or a year.

Through fostering, they met and adopted their son, Karter.

Sweet says, on a day like Mother’s Day, she and her children travel the state to acknowledge the influential people in their lives, whether they be the children’s grandparents, biological parents, or other trusted relatives and friends.

Sweet says fostering is a fulfilling job.

“I think the best part is seeing them overcome their traumas, and seeing them be able to learn to have trust and faith in adults again,” said Sweet.

But she says the job is not without its challenges, some of which stem from not being a party to the child’s legal situation despite being the daily caretaker, or on the occasion where she’s unable to talk to the family of the children they’re fostering.

“We’re here to help the child stay safe and cared for while the family does what the family needs to do to be able to care for the child themselves,” said Sweet.

The Department for Children and Families says there are around 1,080 children and youth in foster care currently, and around 1,500 caregivers supporting these youth.

Around 34% of the children are within a kinship foster home, meaning a trusted known person’s home.

DCF says 50% of children will be reunited with their biological families this year.

“Foster and kinship families are truly the cornerstone to child protection. They provide a safe, temporary home,” said Carrie Deem with the Department for Children and Families.

Deem says the pandemic has drastically impacted child protection and the families they serve, and there aren’t as many foster parents as there once were.

“We’re hopeful, more hopeful with spring, we’re hopeful with the month of May, that, you know, families are starting to feel a level of normalness and so being able to, you know, kind of take a step back and make that really big decision about whether or not they’re in a position to open up their homes and open up their hearts,” said Deem.

Sweet says there are lots of ways to support foster families and children, even if you aren’t able to open your home or are unable to be a temporary caretaker.

“Consider you know, donations of finding out what the foster community in your district needs, whether its clothes, car seats, strollers, things like that,” said Sweet.

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