Foster parents tackle tough job with big rewards

Aug. 12, 2013 @ 05:51 PM

Being a foster parent can involve hard work, patience, love and possibility some heartache, but for Bonnie and Patrick McMurray, the journey is rewarding.

According to an e-mail from Andrea Quinn, a social worker and foster care adoption recruiter with the Union County Department of Social Services, foster care is a temporary living arrangement for abused, neglected or abandoned children who need a safe place to live when their parents or another relative can not take care of them.

The McMurrays have been foster parents for approximately five years. They currently have one child they are fostering and another that they previously fostered but have now adopted.

While the McMurrays may be local foster parents, there is a need in the Marshville/Wingate area for more foster parents as well as a need for foster parents for children ages 11 and older.

“We had tried for years to have our own children,” Bonnie McMurray said.

After not being able to have their own children, they chose to become foster parents to help some of the many children in the foster care system.

“We just felt there were so many kids who need homes,” she said.

Since becoming foster parents, they have had three foster children. Their first foster child was a young girl, who has since returned to her family. The second foster child was their current adopted son, Nathan, and their third foster child is the one they currently have now, who is known as J. J.

Being a foster parent allows you to provide a child who needs it with a safe place to live but can also have a great effect on you. Even though you are a foster parent, you have to love them like your own even though you may only have them for a short time. Loving their foster children as if they were their own is one philosophy he and his wife work to stick to with any foster children they have. For them one hard part about being foster parents is knowing their living situation is only temporary, Patrick McMurray said.

“It’s agonizing when they leave,” he said.

He and his wife are glad to have had the chance to adopt their son Nathan after being a foster parent to him for about a year but still remember how hard it was when their first foster child had to leave. Though they were happy she was reuniting with her family, it was bittersweet since they knew she would no longer be staying with them. Her eventual departure was made even more complicated by the fact that she was very young and it was hard to explain to her why she had to leave them and the house she had gotten used to staying in to return to her own family. Even though fostering a child is a temporary situation, you are there for everything in the child’s life for that short time and it’s hard to see them go, he said.

“You’re there for the sleepless nights and the boo-boos,” he said.

Since their first foster child left, they have been in touch with her family and have been able to hear some recent updates about her and her life. They are thankful to have had that opportunity but point out that this does not always happen in every fostering case. The situation for every foster child is different and depending on the situation, former foster parents may or may not be able to have contact with their former foster children or their foster children’s families after they leave their home, Patrick McMurray said.

Despite the hard parts of being a foster parent, there are still a lot of good parts that can bring you a lot of happiness. There’s a lot of training, inspections and tasks you have to complete before even becoming a foster parent, but its worth it and she would recommend becoming a foster parent to anyone interested,” Bonnie McMurray said.

“You get to experience the joy of raising a child and that to me is a joy,” she said.

Though they currently have one foster child, they are open to having others in the future. They are also interested in possibly fostering teenagers when their son, Nathan, who is 2 and a 1/2, is a little older. She currently works as an Anson County Early College teacher and before that worked at Parkwood and Forest Hills high schools in Union County. She enjoys working with teenagers and encourages those interested to become foster parents for teens, especially since there is a great need for foster parents in that age group, Bonnie McMurray said.

“What I love most is being a mom, loving these children and being a parent,” she said in reference to why she enjoys being a foster parent.

Patrick McMurray felt similarly and added that he feels that in addition to a safe home, the children in foster programs need love, which is one reason why he encourages people to go through the training to become a foster parent.

For him and his wife, being foster parents has been rewarding and though you may have a foster child only a short period of time, the effect that child can have on you and the effect you can have on that child is important and well worth the work of being a foster parent. Some advice he has for potential future foster parents is to make sure you know why you want to be a foster parent before becoming one and if you do become a foster parent to love the foster child you have like your own, Patrick McMurray said.

“Just be willing to love the children (foster children) you have for the time that you have them,” he said.

There are 75 children in care of the Union County Department of Social Services and only a little more than 45 homes in the county to meet the need. To become a licensed foster parent, a person must be 21 years old and have a high school diploma or GED, complete 30 hours of Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting (MAPP) classes for five weeks, two nights a week, complete a required background check, complete a physical exam for each household member and complete a home inspection. Other requirements of foster parents are to live in a stable, drug-free home and have sufficient income to meet personal needs, according to Quinn’s e-mail.

If someone can not commit to opening their home to a child, they can still make a difference by sponsoring a child for his/her birthday, Christmas, school supplies or monetary donation for clothing allowance.

For more information, contact Quinn by calling 704-296-4469 or send an e-mail to andrea.quinn@co.union.nc.us.