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My Turn, Shawn Squirewell: No greater gift than to sponsor a child

Writer

Shawn Squirewell is the director of foster care services at Nazareth Child & Family Connection.

By Shawn Squirewell

Special to the Salisbury Post

It is the holiday season, the season of giving.

But sometimes giving can be so darned difficult. We complain constantly this time of the year about how difficult it is to find the perfect gift for someone who has everything.

But what about the child who has very little, not even parents or a home? That feeling of emptiness cannot be overcome, not by all the sparkly lights and colorful bows and ribbons in the world.

But wait, there is a “perfect” gift for these children: foster parents. At Nazareth Child & Family Connection, we don’t believe there could be a greater gift this time of the year, or any time of the year, than serving as a foster parent.

Sure, it takes some training, some hard work and a big heart, but it is an amazing gift, truly a gift that will keep on giving … forever.

Consider this: In any given year, roughly 12,000 children and teens are placed in residential facilities in North Carolina awaiting a foster family.

Nazareth Child & Family Connection typically has around 50 youngsters in its residential program. We average 10 to 12 children in foster care, with a constant demand for more foster parents.

The Adoption and Family Foster Care programs at Nazareth Child & Family Connection are designed to find adoptive or foster homes for legally free and at-risk children, who over a period of time have been unable to return to live with their birth parents or with other family members.

When someone comes forward with interest in becoming a foster parent, Nazareth can lead them through the process, from classes and training and assistance through paperwork and state applications. They can also help with the Fostering to Adopt process, which helps foster parents adopt when a child becomes “legally free” from custody of the state. A new training session begins this spring.

There is always a special need to find foster families for teens and sibling groups. Younger children are easily adoptable, but it is difficult to find foster families for teens and groups of siblings

As rewarding as foster parenting can be, there is no denying it is hard work and difficult at times. Let’s face it: parenting, regardless of the family makeup, is work. It’s stressful, time-consuming and emotional.

But parenting is also the greatest show of love there is. It is love given and love received, the type of love and care that comes only from family. Foster parenting offers up an amazing reward to those who open their homes and lives and share them with a child who needs it so desperately. It is truly one of the greatest gifts that can be given.

Anyone interesting in foster parenting should call Nazareth Child & Family Connection at 704.279.5556.

Shawn Squirewell is the director of Foster Care Services at Nazareth Child & Family Connection. A native of Maryland, she moved to North Carolina in 2000 to attend Catawba College. She lives in Salisbury with her husband and two children.

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