By Lauren Waddell
“We wanted to help.”
That simple statement has become the driving force for Mary White and Julie Harrison, two mothers devoted to unifying families and helping those in need.
White”s name has been changed to protect her three youngest children, who were removed from their birth parent”s home for safety concerns.
“If there”s anything I want people to understand about foster care, it”s that it”s about helping to reunite families,” White said. “That is our first goal. Foster parents need to be willing to put their hearts on the line for a couple of kids before they can keep one. Eventually, most everyone is asked to adopt. There are so many people who need good homes.”
About 65 percent of children in foster care end up back with their parents, while about 20 percent are adopted, according to Marty Shannon, adoption program director for the Utah Department of Child and Family Services.
White and her husband first became foster parents years ago with the sole purpose of helping children.
“We went into foster care and had about eight or nine children in and out during the first year we decided to do foster care,” White said. “Two of those were little girls who were respite [foster children from another family who take time off for a small break] and we liked them so much we decided to foster them. In the process, a newborn brother was born to their birth mother and we took him in as well. The state ended up taking the birth parents” rights away and we adopted them.”
The adoption of the three siblings increased the size of the White family to 12 people, with four biological children and three previously adopted children.
The process to integrate children into a family, however, is not always easy.
“There”s not an instant bonding; it”s a process,” Harrison said. “You”re afraid to get too attached because you”re afraid they”ll have to go back to their biological parents and that you”ll lose them. That fear is there until the adoption is complete.”
Harrison and her husband adopted two children after fostering them for 18 months.
The Harrisons brought the two children into their home after meeting them at The Christmas Box House in Salt Lake City.
The Christmas Box House is a temporary home for children who have been removed from their biological parent”s home in emergency situations, including neglect and abuse.
Though the process of helping children feel welcome in a new home is difficult, according to White, it is not the primary challenge.
“The biggest problem [potential adoptive parents] entertain is fear,” White said. “You need to be brave. And if you have a desire, well that”s half the battle, and you can make it work. You just need to remember that life is so short and whatever we can do that would help another persons” life be safe and happy is a worthy effort.”