"No One Can Ever Have Too Many People That Love Them"
For Rebecca Atkins and Andrew Lee, fostering a child was something that they aspired to do once they were married and settled. The couple, who has no children of their own, was first asked to be a resource for a student before they were married. Although it was something that they strongly considered, it was not a good time at that point in their lives, but it began the conversation about caring for children.
As educators in the public school system, Rebecca and Andrew saw the need for foster care resources in their community. Once they were settled, the couple began fostering in 2018, with reunification being of utmost importance. They decided to become foster parents for any student who needed them.
Rebecca and Andrew have fostered six children over the past four years, all of whom were either students or connected to students that they taught in the school system. Rebecca explained that if a child can stay in a familiar setting while their family works on becoming healthy, the child will thrive.
All of the children who were placed with the family eventually reunified.
One teenage boy they fostered was the top wrestler in high school. Now 19 years old, the young man reached out via text to share exciting news about his job, his new apartment, and his volunteer work with the high school wrestling team. He is now competing at an adult level, working towards the professional MMA. “I appreciated you taking me in for that period of time and teaching me and supporting me. You and Andrew are great people," he texted.
Rebecca explained how proud she is and how important it is to her and Andrew to stay connected to the children they fostered and their birth families. “These are the outcomes that need to be shared with others," she added.
As a new foster parent, Rebecca did a lot of reading and tried to find her own support system. When others would learn that she and Andrew were foster parents, there was always a familiar statement of, "it's so great you do that, but..." Rebecca feels strongly that if more people would take that "but" out of the equation, so much more love, connection, perspective, and support could occur.
Rebecca left the field of education and is now a consultant, with her focus remaining on child wellbeing. Andrew, who was named “2022 Teacher of the Year” for the Norwich Public School system, recently left daily classroom teaching to join the district's focus on students’ behavioral issues. Andrew has gone above and beyond the regular duties of a school teacher, making a profound impact on the school, the district, and his community. His holistic approach as an educator has improved the quality of life for many children in foster care.
“We can't let the fear of risk deter us from fostering. Loving a child and having them leave sounds scary, and the unknown about the entire experience can be scary as well," Rebecca explained.
"We need to consider for a moment how it must feel for that child or teen that has to walk through your door to stay a while. What must drive us is that no one can ever have too many people that love them.”