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Lots Of Love To Give - National Foster Care Month

May 5, 2021

Morgan Family
The Morgan Family, from left Chase, Paityn (12), Dylan (10) and Michelle. 

As a volunteer and then employee at Court Appointed Special Advocates of Ventura County, Michelle Morgan was familiar with the foster system. CASA of Ventura County (not to be confused with Casa Pacifica) recruits, screens, and trains volunteers who advocate for court-dependent children.

As the CASA Program Manager, Michelle began to manage and follow the cases of several foster youth. Although she only knew the youth and families on paper, many of the stories were the same: biological parents with mental health or addiction problems, neglected youth, multiple placements, or failed family reunification attempts.

After many years and many cases, there was one story that for reasons she can’t explain connected with her. Four siblings. Brothers. The oldest had been in twelve placements by the time he was ten. Knowing their history, and seeing the kids move from place to place to place, Michelle could only imagine how helpless they must have felt, and decided to step in.

“In December of 2019, I went home to my husband and I said, hey, I think we need to shift gears and consider fostering.” The couple had many open, honest conversations with their biological children Paityn (12), Dylan (10) and decided to move forward.

Michelle contacted the social worker on the case. Because the boys were in Casa Pacifica’s Intensive Services Foster Care (ISFC) Program, Michelle and her husband started the process of becoming a resource family through Casa Pacifica’s Foster Family Agency (FFA). With classes easily accessible online and the ongoing support of the FFA team, Michelle and her husband were able to complete their certification in about four months.

Jameson (name changed for privacy) has been living with the Morgan family for almost 11 months. Michelle says that in a weird way the best part of fostering and the most difficult part of fostering are the same, overcoming challenges. “Being able to work through things together has been transformative for all of us,” she says. “Becoming an ‘us’ is a constant negotiation of how to work together. I have to be more thoughtful, not reactive. I have to be more considerate of what I’m saying to Jameson because of the implications of the relationship we’re building.”

Days at the Morgan home are pretty typical. Everyone is up early and gets ready for school or work together. Afternoons include lunch, homework, limited video game time and sometimes having a friend over. All of the kids are looking forward to more sports and activities as things start to open up, Jameson is especially looking forward to basketball. In the evenings the family usually takes their two dogs on a walk and they always have dinner together.

“How do you expect these little people to ever make a life for themselves if they don’t have adults nurturing them through their childhood?” said Michelle.

Michelle has seen some positive changes in Jameson and feels sure they are making a difference in his life. When he first came to live with them Jameson was very introverted and wouldn’t talk about his feelings. Now Michelle is able to correct him or give him constructive criticism and he doesn’t completely shut down. She says he’ll listen and talk, staying connected instead of running away from the conversation. He takes responsibility for his actions and has learned that it’s ok to have disagreements as long as you work through them together.

“I feel like we’re making a difference. The other day he was asking me all these questions about graduation and community college,” says Michelle. “We talked about career planning and that tells me he’s thinking about his future.” There are still issues to be worked out in the courts but Michelle says, “Our heart is for adoption,” and she and her family hope to one day make Jameson’s placement with them permanent.

Michelle says the process of becoming a foster family was initially a lot of work, but nothing too difficult and the support from Casa Pacifica’s FFA team has been great. When asked what she would say to others considering becoming foster parents, “Don’t go into it thinking you’re going to save some child. You have to be open to what the child needs from you,” she says. “It’s hard. You have to work with them through their toughest days. And they need lots of love.”