After attending an Adoption & Foster Care Information Fair hosted by Barrington nonprofit child welfare agency, Let It Be Us, the Gaete family of five recently expanded to include two young girls in foster care. In our latest Voices of Adoption profile, Eileen Gaete reflects on how and why this Mother’s Day will hold a special meaning.
A Mother’s Gift – Welcoming Two Sisters in Foster Care
As told by Eileen Gaete to writer Mary Klest
I will be celebrating Mother’s Day in the same way I do every year, with my three boys planting colorful flowers in the garden. Only this year we will have two extra pairs of hands to help us. Our family recently welcomed two sisters in foster care to our home.
My husband Raimundo and I are brand new at being foster parents. What initially inspired us was learning that the director of my work team had recently adopted two sisters he fostered and our neighbors became foster parents, too.
We went from not knowing anything about foster care to attending a meeting sponsored by Let It Be Us at the Barrington Area Library, to getting our foster care license in February, to receiving these beautiful girls. It will be a very special Mother’s Day.
We simply wanted to help children in need. I grew up in Barrington and know the resources we and the community can provide, including a good school district and involved parents. Both of us work full time. My husband grew up in Chile and works for an international toy company. I am an international business consultant. We’ve been married for 10 years and our boys are ages 9, 7, and 3. They are in school and attend after school programs.
We discussed the idea of welcoming children in foster care to our home with each other and with the boys. Everyone was open to the idea. After many conversations with our licensing worker and family, everyone got on board. The caseworker interviewed all of us when we were going through the licensing process.
When the caseworker called about the girls, ages 5 and 7, I was on an airplane coming home from a work trip in Dallas. The girls had been removed from their home that morning due to an unsafe environment and were waiting at an office in Waukegan. My husband and sister, who is my identical twin, had to take over. The children arrived with only the clothes on their backs. No coats, not even a toothbrush.
My sister made multiple trips to the store to get food, clothes and toiletries. My husband introduced the kids to each other and got some information about the girls from the caseworker. Local volunteers from Let It Be Us helped us put together some newly bought beds. The executive director, Susan McConnell, helped me craft a list of questions to ask and provided help throughout the process. I didn’t understand the depth and range of support Let It Be Us offers. After receiving a foster care license, they will list your name with multiple agencies not just one. Your exposure is much higher this way. We didn’t have girl clothes, so they put out a call for donations and we received many beautiful things for the girls. They gave us referrals for doctors, counseling services and most importantly other parents in the area who have been through a similar experience. Some of those parents brought us dinner!
Amazingly, the girls settled in after some hyperactivity from a long day. The kids bonded in minutes. Our youngest son has always wanted a sister. He loves all the attention they give him. The girls took quickly to our dog too.
The one question our boys ask and I don’t have an answer for is: “How long will they stay?” We don’t know until the next court date what will happen. Unlike some people, our principle goal in fostering children is not a pathway to parenthood. Our minds are open to whatever is best for the girls. Maybe their mom will get better and be able to care for them again. Maybe the caseworker and court will determine something else, or maybe they will stay with us. All I know right now is that we are the girls’ first experience with the foster care system. We want that experience to be a good one. A time when they feel safe and loved.
We love getting questions about the process and experience of fostering, even though we are so new to it. The only questions that are difficult to answer are questions about why the girls were removed from their home. Knowing other children out there need foster parents, too is what motivates us to share our story. We hope it inspires more people to consider fostering.
While we dig in the garden this Mother’s Day, I will thank my boys for the wonderful way they share their mom and their lives with our new girls. Expanding our family this way has taught me that the world won’t stop if I don’t get everything done. Seeing the girls’ excitement over little things and how they laugh and joke after all they’ve been through is a gift to me as a mother.
Happy Mother’s Day to every woman who opens her heart to a child. We hope you enjoy learning about foster care in Illinois through these stories of love, generosity and kindness. If you or someone you know is curious about how to get licensed as a foster parent in Illinois, please call 847-764-LIBU or visit LetitBeUs.org.
Let It Be Us also hosts a series of “Fireside Chats” on Foster Care & Adoption at Barrington’s White House. Click here for their latest schedule of upcoming sessions. If you’d like to help Let It Be Us help unite more foster children with loving families, click here to donate today.