“They all carry a piece of my heart”

Christina Floyd shares her love as a
foster parent in Jefferson County

Debbie Snapp
ECB Publishing, Inc.

Caring for children who have endured abuse or neglect, and being a role model for the biological parents who are working to reunify with their children, is a significant responsibility and, ultimately, a matter of public trust.
For local residents Shawn and Christina Floyd, it just seemed natural to want a family after a few years of marriage.
The Floyds had been married for five years before deciding to look into the fostering program in February of 2018.
After learning what went into being a foster parent, Shawn and Christina Floyd began the process of becoming foster parents almost immediately.
Qualifying to become a potential foster parent begins with an orientation, then prospective parents are expected to complete several hours of free foster parent educational resource training. There are child abuse lessons and fingerprint-based criminal background checks that lead up to a home inspection by the state as well as a home study that reviews the readiness of potential parents when it comes to raising and caring for foster children.
After several months of training, inspections and background checks, the Floyds finished their classes in June of 2018 and completed their paperwork in September 2018.
"It rarely takes this long," admits Christina. "We began taking in short-term stays; the children would be passing through and just needed a place to sleep for the night. Or, they were in the process of going to a family member and were just wrapping up the final papers or home-study."
Christina and Shawn love children and have longed to fill their empty-nest home with the laughter of children.
So, they also made themselves available for watching children for other foster parents, allowing other fostering families to have a bit of respite for the weekend, deal with a family emergency, or other such events.
Before becoming foster parents, the Floyds spoke to their family and friends about their plans. "They were all so very supportive," says Christina. "The children in the foster system didn't choose their situation, and we wanted to make a difference in their lives."
They also receive a lot of support from other foster parents, the Department of Children and Family agents and parents advocates.
Now a state-registered foster home, the Floyds have fostered over 10 children in the past year and have offered temporary respite for about 12 other children. The foster children range in age from infants to teenagers.
"The children that we have fostered have unfortunately been in the system many times or for many years. There are children in the foster system that have been placed into 15 homes!" Christina declares. "It's heartbreaking."
While there is plenty of heartbreak and pain that goes into the vulnerability of being a foster parent, the Floyds also recognize the immense rewards and satisfaction of fostering children. The bountiful returns of being a foster parent include a sense of accomplishment and the chance to help children feel good about themselves. There is also an amount of pride that comes from doing a meaningful and essential job; fostering is the opportunity to make a lifetime of difference in a short time.
There are so many rewarding, but challenging experiences that come with fostering, and the opportunity to meet and work with new people and touch young lives is an invaluable opportunity. Many foster parents and families serve many children over several years because they find the experience meaningful and rewarding. These children will grow up to be Florida's next generation of employees, leaders and parents, and as a foster parent, you can help them succeed.
"My biggest challenge is realizing that the child is needing more help than I can offer," shared Christina. "The grieving after they leave us is often times unbearable," she continues. "When the children come to us, our hearts are open and ready, and when they leave us, our hearts ache. The ache comes with crying and wishing there was something more we could do for them. The hurt will last sometimes for two days, and this is where the family support comes in."
Christina Floyd stresses that family support is critical when it comes to signing up to foster because it can take weeks and even months before a foster parent is physically and mentally able to take in another child after saying goodbye to their former child.
Having a family that supports you and helps your heart heal from the loss of a child you love is essential in caring well for the next child. It isn't fair, the Floyds point out, to have innocent children come into your home and your heart not be ready to care and consider them and them exclusively.
While some foster parents have been known to adopt children who have come into their care, the primary role of a foster family isn't eventual adoption, but to provide shelter, attention, food, a warm bed, safe arms and affection to the children who need it most.
Some children have been to their first doctor's visit in the foster system, and caring foster homes can help children regain their educational footing after years of moving between homes and emotional turmoil.
Christine also adds that foster parents frequently face judgment from the community on how they provide the needs that each child requires. As every child is different and comes from a different sort of background and home, there are times when the foster parents must provide a different level of care for the children in their home.
Christine says that there are times when she must be stricter with some of her foster children, and less strict with others – but this is just part of giving each child individualized love and care.
For the children who have moved from home to home or have unsettled family lives, the prospect of living a normal life in a normal home with a normal family can be terrifying, primarily since they have never experienced it themselves. All of these children have their own stories, their own personalities, and different levels of need – which foster families must be prepared to provide.
The ultimate goal of a foster parent is to witness the reunification of the child with the parent. Because, no matter how wrong or bad that parent is or was, that child still loves them. Parents can and do overcome their struggles for the benefit of their babies.
“They all carry a piece of my heart,” ends Christina.
If you want to be a part of helping children in the foster system become productive, thriving members of our communities and enhance your and your family's life in the process, consider fostering a child.
For more information about becoming a foster parent, contact myflfamilies.com or call (866) 762-2237. Another great source of information about the foster care program is Molly Clore, foster family support program manager, at (850) 591-1923.