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Written by Patti Cruz

When we started our foster care program, we all had dreams for the program. Some of us dreamed of the first day we would get a placement, others dreamed about the first time a child feels safe and happy with one of our families, and for me, my dream was this weekend.

This weekend was our first annual foster care picnic. It is something that we have been thinking about for over a year and something that at times seemed impossible. Starting this program meant lots of financial planning, conquering mountains of paperwork, writing, revising and rewriting our proposals, budgets and goals to meet city and state guidelines and finally, finally getting approval to begin work. Starting this program has been a dream of Kelly’s since the inception of Haven and something our whole team is very passionate about.

This weekend I pulled into the parking lot with my family and saw our foster care families, their children and our staff all gathered together and running around the playground. There were bees under the pavilion, an encroaching birthday party and threats of rain. It was perfect. I was so excited to see this little guy (top picture), his foster parents and brothers, who have been loving on him for the past 6 months.

To me it was a celebration of the work that has happened to get us to this point. We have families who are ready and able to accept placements and those just starting as new foster care families. We have families that have been parenting the children in their care for months and are anxiously looking for updates and news from case managers about how long those children will stay. And next year I hope that we have too many families to fit in the pavilion.

Foster care is hard. The families who do best in our program have an expanded idea of what makes a family. They know that family is not perfect and that children never are. Even though I know how awesome our families are, it was another thing to see them in action. They reassured their children when they were scared of loud noises and those pesky bees, they made their foster daughter feel comfortable connecting with adults and children and they knew when their foster son needed to just hang out in the swing for a little while and take a break. I saw our parents make quick bottles at exactly the right moment, to rock their little ones to sleep and have a natural understanding of what those little ones needed.

I think to the outside world our gathering just looked like some sort of family reunion. And in some ways, it was.  To our Haven Foster Care staff, it was so encouraging to see these families who we have trained, written family profiles about, gone to court to advocate for, written endless case notes about and spent hours on the phone with thrive as foster parents. We got them see them being parents, just like they dreamed about. We got to see them talking to each other and forming the beginnings of community, something we dreamed about. And we got to see the children who are in their care – happy, hungry, at times sticky from donuts- we got to see them just being kids and not “cases” or “placements.”

We hope you are at our next picnic. We will have room for you. We will have donuts, pizza, juice boxes and a wonderful community for you to join. There are children every single day waiting to see who will be the family who steps up and provides them with a safe place to stay, stability and most importantly, love. If you feel like you might be the next family to join, and are good at eating pizza, contact us here:

– Patti Cruz