When fostering children in FCA’s Specialized Foster Care program gets tough, LaWanda Martinez thinks back to her own childhood.
“If there ever is a perfect childhood, I had it,” she said. “So, I want to give other children a little bit of what I had.”
Remembering growing up with her nine siblings, LaWanda thinks back to those who weren’t biologically related to her but were always welcome. Her parents often took in other children who needed a place to stay, and that generosity left a lasting impression on LaWanda. She has now been a foster parent for nine years, and considers those she has fostered to be her kids in addition to her two biological children.
LaWanda’s first placement was “Judy,” who came to LaWanda at 11 years old and stayed until she turned 18. They now live just two streets apart, speak every day, and LaWanda even babysits Judy’s sweet baby daughter. When Judy moved out, LaWanda immediately took in a pair of siblings until they were reunified with their father. Because the siblings’ mother is incarcerated, LaWanda speaks with their dad nearly daily and helps him as a co-parent. He has recognized that LaWanda loves his children, and even thanked her for all she has done for them.
“When the kids come into my home they’re my family,” she said.
Now with two new siblings ages 11 and 8, the family is in a time of transition. Chores, hygiene, and manners can all be an adjustment for kids in a new household. “They weren’t taught,” she said.
When LaWanda looks back on her fostering journey, she sees changes in herself as well as the children she cared for. One particular child in her care still makes her emotional to think about. At just 5 years old, he was destructive, volatile, and swore. LaWanda was shocked to see so much anger in someone so young, and relied on her FCA social workers for guidance.
“I would never foster without FCA. They are a support – we have a fostering community and they understand. I’m always able to reach out and they’re always available,” she said.
LaWanda even had to learn sit with the boy during time outs to try to calm his rages. But a breakthrough came one day when his time out was up. She told him he could go back to playing, but he said he didn’t want to leave and asked to stay with her a little longer.
“He showed me things at 46 years old that I never knew about myself. He showed me how strong I was. There were times I wanted to give up, and I didn’t give up because I didn’t want to let him down,” LaWanda said.
Slowly but surely “I hate you” turned into “I love you,” and now that the boy has been reunited with his biological family LaWanda is still in touch. She even gifted him an iPad so they can talk over video chat every day.
“He’s my success story,” she said.