Elisabeth and Matt both work in helping professions: she is a special education teacher and Matt is a mental health clinician. During her career, Elisabeth worked with children who had difficult family lives and often “wished I could bring them home and give them a stable home environment.” Matt adds, “We help people in our professional lives but felt we could do more personally.”
After purchasing their home, and having more room for a child, they began researching foster care agencies. They found Children’s Aid and Family Services and attended an information session. “We learned this is therapeutic foster care and would require a higher level of preparation and commitment from us,” says Elisabeth.
After attending comprehensive agency training to help understand the children and how to work with them, and becoming licensed by the state of NJ — an intensive process that took nine months — 9-year-old Aaron was placed in their home. Aaron’s parents struggled with addiction, and he endured severe neglect and trauma. Aaron needed to feel safe and learn to live in a family.
“Children such as Aaron, who have gone through so much instability and neglect, need to learn the basics that parents teach their children,” says Marcia Fisher, Administrator of Adoption & Permanency Services. “Elisabeth and Matt are wonderful foster parents, full of patience and creativity. They were strong role models for Aaron, teaching him values, expectations, and how healthy families function as well as working with him on his educational needs.”
For the nine months he was in their care, Aaron made strides. “When he first came to our home he had nightmares and trouble sleeping,” says Matt. “Elisabeth and I created a safe environment for him, and after a while, he was sleeping well and doing better in school. He learned to ride a bike, played soccer for the first time, and made friends with the kids in the neighborhood. He grew while he was with us.”
Adds Elisabeth, “Being a foster parent to a child with complex trauma has its challenges and the wrap-around services that Children’s Aid provides, such as therapy, case management, monthly training, and communication and support are very helpful. These children need more than typical children do but by working together, we make an impact and change their lives.”