"On the Beach...Surrounded by the Most Important Adults in His Life"
Sharing a profound commitment to fostering in partnership, Becca and Bill Allen from New Haven, Connecticut, became licensed foster parents in 2016. The Allens are a textbook example of the positive effect co-parenting has on a foster child, the importance of fatherhood engagement, and the critical role biological children play in a foster care placement.
The Allens' devout commitment to working with a birth family is natural and effortless - with the result being all the children placed into the Allens' home have been reunified with the exception of one child.
The Allens have a true understanding of the mission and the core values of our department. Considered a role model and advocate, Becca is now a Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI) Champion. Invited to have a seat at this table, Program Supervisor Toni Ligon described the Allens in the highest regard. "Becca is an experienced and seasoned caregiver. An overall great partner. She and her husband are a great team."
Becca explained that she first learned about the need for more foster parents through Jennifer Hartley, a liaison from the Connecticut Association of Foster and Adoptive Families (CAFAF). Ms. Hartley came to a community neighborhood forum to talk about the department's needs. Becca said she knew after listening to Ms. Hartley that she wanted to be a foster parent. “I went home expecting Bill to be a little hesitant with the idea, but he said 'yes' right away," Becca stated.
Ms. Hartley reflected upon the first time she met Becca at that neighborhood forum to recruit foster families and her continued work with them. “Wow, wow, wow! Becca and Bill and their bio kids are amazing! I am beyond humbled at how our lives intertwined," she later added.
The Allens, who have two biological children, Maddy and Owen, shared the idea with both of them during a family road trip. “We wanted to be in tune to how they felt," Bill added. Both were enthusiastic. “Even though they didn’t quite understand the gravity of abuse and neglect the children would have faced, they knew our family could help," explained Becca.
Maddy, who is now 20 years old, has a deeper understanding. “Before we started fostering children, there were some people saying that lots of my parents’ affection and attention would be elsewhere. This did not hold true. As every child entered and exited our house, we grew closer and closer as a family. The love was amplified and there was more than enough to go around," she stated.
Owen, who is now 19 years old, explained his feelings towards caring for another child. “It changed my life for the better. It made me more independent because we had another child to look after. I was not the youngest person in the house anymore," he stated.
Each week, Becca and Bill looked forward to the training sessions, dubbing that night of the week as “Date Night.” They adored the trainer and became connected to other families in the training class. “We were all in," Becca said.
The Allens decided to foster children birth to five years old, determined to focus their time and efforts to help the family heal and reunify. Once licensed, their intentions became empathetic - action. “Working with Becca and Bill was like a breath of fresh air! They were eager to know more about how DCF and the juvenile court worked, but most importantly, they wanted to engage with the biological family, " explained New Haven Regional Office Social Worker Samanda Posila. Becca and Bill committed to their new role as foster parents, working together and leaning on one another for support. “Bill would have coffee with prospective Dads, trying to get other men to foster. Positive father figures are so important," Becca added about her husband, sharing, “Bill also gave me my time to grieve when letting go was hard."
Over the course of the past several years, the Allens have fostered and provided respite care to seven children. With the exception of one little boy, who was adopted by a relative of the Allens in Vermont, all of the children that they have cared for were reunified to their biological families. The mother of the little boy who was adopted voluntarily terminated her rights after meeting with the pre-adoptive parent. “We met on the beach with the birth mom. It was a sad day but a beautiful moment of relief for a mom who knew she couldn’t keep her little boy”, she explained. That time on the beach allowed a little boy to be surrounded by the most important adults in his life - birth mother, foster mother and adoptive mother.
The Allens worked tirelessly to engage the birth families. “We foster the family. I reach out to the moms with calls and pictures and I offer to transport the child to visits. Bill tries to engage with the dad. We want them to know that we are on their side," Becca shared. “Their patience, kindness and flexibility were phenomenal!" explained Milford Office Social Worker Candra Bacote, adding, “Balancing virtual visits, in-person visits, DCF meetings along with their personal lives, jobs and family demonstrated the love they had for people and the dedication they had for the work. I believe that Mrs. Allen's partnership with a biological mother aided in her transformation as a parent.”
While sitting comfortably in the Allen’s living room, they shared countless stories about each and every foster child as they reminisced through each page of the memory books they created. Pointing to pictures and commenting on those special moments, recalling with fondness each and every placement that they had. The chemistry, the respect, the love and humor that Becca and Bill shared was delightful to witness.