Foster parents can make a real difference in the lives of children in need.

One of the most rewarding ways I have found to actively participate in someone’s life is to care for other children along with my own.

Through the years, we have had more than forty foster children come into our home. We have given them a safe haven for a night, a week, a month, or longer, and they have enriched our lives beyond measure.

Foster parenting isn’t easy. We have had children whose parents have been arrested. We have had children who we were told were psychopaths. We have had children who had been molested and abused. We have had children whose parents were too ill to take care of them. All have been children in need of love, safety, and security.

One icy morning in February, we received a call to take in a baby with special needs. She was premature, weighing two pounds at birth. Because of her mother’s drug abuse, she had absorbed cocaine into her body. She was what is known as a “crack baby.”

We agreed to take her, but my stomach was churning. Questions flooded my mind. Could we handle this infant? Were we qualified to nurse and nurture her? We made a trip to the hospital that night.

As I picked up the tiny bundle of life, her dark hair framing a perfect face with intense brown eyes, a peaceful presence came over me. I knew this child needed to come home to us. She was an angel that we were allowed to entertain in our home and hearts, and I remembered the Apostle Paul’s counsel: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb. 13:2.)

In preparation for the arrival of this little one in our home, I practiced infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation and learned how to use a monitor to track breathing and heartbeats. I remember how badly my hands shook as I placed those metal sensors on her small chest for the first time. We brought her home right away.

She brought us joy and delight. My daughter and I loved dressing her in Cabbage Patch doll clothes; she was so tiny that nothing else fit. She responded to us and in six weeks grew from four pounds to nine pounds. How we worried about her! How we loved her! How tightly we would hold her in the middle of the night as she scratched, cried, and experienced symptoms of withdrawal from the cocaine. We grieved when she returned to her mother, and we still miss her today.

However, the scriptures brought us comfort: “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself.” (Lev. 19:34.)

Later we took in an angry little boy of eight who had consistently run away from his home. When he first came into our family, I asked him why he ran away. He said, “I’m afraid of my father losing his temper.”

Weeks later, after we gained his confidence and trust, he told me about the physical abuse he had suffered. I was thankful I had the opportunity to listen to him, to help him, and to show him that I cared.

We may have these children in our lives for only a brief time before they go back to their own families. They may not return to ideal situations, but the children go home knowing a little more about how a family unit should function. Later, when they become adults and parents, examples from good foster parents can influence the choices they make in life.

Being a foster parent is one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it is also one of the most rewarding. When a child blesses the food at the dinner table and thanks Heavenly Father for being with us, we are rewarded. When a child runs up and throws his arms around us and says “I love you,” we are rewarded. These moments make all the work worthwhile.

We feel blessed for having chosen to invest part of ourselves in these children, and for giving them a place of refuge and a peaceful night’s sleep.

[illustration] Lettering by James Fedor

[photos] Photography by Steve Bunderson

Carol Jean Caulford serves as a Sunday School teacher in the Clearfield Nineteenth Ward, Clearfield Utah Stake.