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Retired Empty Nesters Have Distinctive Ability to Impact Foster Youth

In 2010, the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation neared traditional retirement age, with 496,000 Connecticut residents age 65 or older. And, according to U.S. Census data that number is expected to grow significantly over the next few decades. As baby boomers begin to consider the next phase of their lives, many have found fulfillment and purpose by becoming foster parents.

See Also: Five Ways to Help Kids in Need

There are 4,462 foster children and youth living in the Connecticut foster care system, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau. Fewer than 15 percent are predicted to make it to college and less than 3 percent will graduate. In order to succeed in today’s education system, at-risk children and youth need the stability of a home environment and a family environment and mentor to teach them life skills. These "success factors" are intrinsic to enhancing their well-being and successful transition into adulthood, and economic self-sufficiency.

A family, a mentor, a chance to excel

Empty nesters who become foster parents have become an important demographic with the ability to make a powerful difference in the lives of children and youth in need. Most are experienced parents with decades of child rearing; they are ideally equipped to provide social and mentoring skills, along with years of knowledge and advice they received from parenting. This special group of individuals knows what it takes to prepare a child for college and the opportunities and obstacles that are ahead for young adults.

Two Connecticut residents share their experiences as foster parents.

Mr. E: “I want to do more.”

Mr. E, 48, had never considered becoming a foster parent until an opportunity led him to foster – and later adopt – a 9-year-old boy. After seven years, Mr. E took in a teenager, a friend of his adopted son. "He stayed one weekend and never left," said Mr. E. It was a non-traditional family: two teenage boys, one Hispanic, one Asian; and Mr. E, a Jamaican. "People would sometimes look at us funny but it didn't matter. The house was always full of laughter and mutual trust," he said.

Mr. E said it took some patience and effort to manage and support the boys from their past abuse and neglect issues but together they overcame obstacles. Both boys graduated from high school. The oldest was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Connecticut, and currently has an internship at a hospital assisting with research.

Mrs. W: 16 years, 16 children

Mrs. W, a 69-year-old widow, became a foster parent after her two biological children left for college. "I thought, well, I did a half decent job with them so I decided to reach out to the community and give back," she explained. Remarkably, in the course of 16 years Mrs. W. took in 16 children.

With numerous success stories on her record, one child in particular remains in the forefront of her memory. The foster youth was a 15-year-old girl. "There was something about this girl. Her whole focus was on attending college and being somebody in the world. From the minute I got her all I heard was how she was going to Eastern State," said Mrs. W.

The young girl graduated from high school and at 17, accomplished her goal and left for Eastern State in Willimantic. She now lives on campus and comes home on the weekends. "College has made her into a brand new person and has helped her realize there is a better world to live in. She now feels she can look peacefully at other people. She sees her road to success," said Mrs. W.

The Village’s Therapeutic Foster Care Program

The young people and children that enter the therapeutic foster care system have endured some form of abuse, neglect or severe trauma; these children can exhibit challenging behaviors. The Village's Therapeutic Foster Care Program provides prospective foster parents with an abundance of services, including monthly parent trainings, in-home visitations and on-call 24/7 support.

Learn more about becoming a Foster Parent

Your commitment of 2 to 5 years of fostering a youth can be life changing for that child…and you. Consider becoming a foster parent today. Discover the rewarding experience of helping a child in need succeed.

For more information, visit www.villageforchildren.org or text INFORMATION to 27138.

The Village for Families & Children, Inc. has been serving children and families in the greater Hartford region since 1809. A preeminent not-for-profit mental health/human services agency in the State of Connecticut. The Village services are comprised of three core areas: Placement and Permanency (adoption, foster care and family preservation), Children’s Behavioral Health Treatment, and Family and Community Support Programs.

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