The kitchen is full of life. A puppy yips and plastic utensils clatter in the kitchen. Two small children sit in highchairs, faces covered in scrambled eggs. Another sits at the table. A puppy with legs too long for its body frolicks, lapping up the bits of egg littering the floor. This is lunchtime at the Young house.
The Youngs have had four foster children, two of whom they just officially adopted. After their own children left home, Tom and his wife Sabine decided to welcome in foster children. They knew that Hillsdale needed foster families and said they felt called to provide a home for children in unfortunate circumstances.
The Youngs live five minutes from the college. Tom has worked in the maintenance department for 12 years and operates a private RV business on the side. Sabine runs a daycare from home.
“We wanted to give a child a better home, a home they can look back on and say, ‘Things were different there,’” Tom said.
But the process has not been easy.
After deciding to become foster parents, Tom and Sabine went through a long process before being cleared by the state of Michigan. Case workers interviewed them and their extended family at length while conducting deep background checks.
In addition, they had to complete the nine-course Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education Program (PRIDE). After completion, they finally received their foster care license from the state.
Then, they just had to wait.
After months without a word, Sabine received a call asking if they could foster a child.
“I called Tom and said, ‘Are we ready to do this?’”
With the “OK” from her husband, their new daughter slept in their home that very night.
Despite the inconvenience and frustration, the Youngs didn’t complain about the long process.
“Our case workers were great and the state does everything it can for these children,” Tom said.
Even after completing the process, the the state still restricts the Youngs in certain areas. They can’t cut their kids’ hair or take them out of the state without asking permission first.
He admitted that this can be frustrating: “We do everything to take care of the children and we still have to ask for permission to do small things,” he said.
While the state does its best, the process is also tough for the children. They get removed from their homes, wait for a family, and often anticipate returning home.
“The kids get caught in the middle of everything,” Tom said.
Nevertheless, the goal is to reunify the children with their parents.
“The state works hard to give the parents every opportunity to earn back custody of their children,” Tom said.
Tom explained that the majority of children are removed from their homes due to their parents’ drug abuse. As a result, drug rehabilitation and scheduled tests provide opportunities for parents to regain custody of their children.
While the reunification process is well-intended, it often results in broken hearts. The parents have the opportunity to visit with the children on a monthly basis, but they routinely miss meeting times.
“I hated telling the kids that they might see their parent today when I knew the odds were high that they wouldn’t show,” Sabine said. “It was heartbreaking to watch them let down again and again.”
For the Youngs, seeing the children hurt has been by far the hardest part of the process.
“I can’t believe that anyone would make anything more important than their children,” Tom said.
The opposite is true for the Youngs. They have made countless sacrifices for the children. Sabine quit her job to raise their foster children and the year of waiting to officially adopt their kids put the whole family in limbo.
Sabine tried to describe the most rewarding part of fostering children but before she could begin, a little girl ran in from the next room calling, “Mommy, Mommy!” As tears welled in her eyes, she said, “Hearing them call me ‘Mommy’ is the best part.”