Foster parents change lives by opening homes to children in need

Foster parents change lives by opening homes to children in need

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Tyra Sosnicki, a fourth-grade teacher at St. Vincent de Paul School, and her husband, Ted, adopted five siblings through Catholic Charities. From left: Rosa, 7; Yvonne, 8; Isabel, 3; Jonathan, 10; and Adriana, 5.

Tyra Sosnicki, a fourth-grade teacher at St. Vincent de Paul School, and her husband, Ted, adopted five siblings through Catholic Charities. From left: Rosa, 7; Yvonne, 8; Isabel, 3; Jonathan, 10; and Adriana, 5. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Ted and Tyra Sosnicki knew they were called to be parents.

But when they realized they could not have biological children, they thought of adoption. The steep fees many private agencies charge were an obstacle.

Becoming a foster parent

Info: Debbie DiCarlo, Catholic Charities Community Services, (602) 650-4838

The Sosnickis turned to Catholic Charities Community Services and its foster care and adoption program.

Debbie DiCarlo, parish and community engagement director at Catholic Charities, understands the dire need for foster and adoptive homes. There are more than 15,000 children in Arizona in need of a loving and safe home environment, she said.

“The need is huge,” DiCarlo said. “As a Catholic community, we have a unique opportunity to impact this system, this tragedy that’s going on.”

May is foster care awareness month, and DiCarlo hopes that more local families will consider opening their hearts and homes to children in desperate need.

“We are uniquely situated as a Catholic community to deal with this,” DiCarlo said. “We can make a difference.”

Last fall, DiCarlo began working on a plan to boost parish involvement in foster care.

So far, there’s a core group of 10 parishes that have taken on the cause.

The Sosnickis, parishioners at St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Parish in Anthem, became licensed foster care and adoptive parents in 2010. The couple adopted a set of five siblings and also cares for two other foster children.

Tyra is a fourth-grade teacher at St. Vincent de Paul School and her five adopted children are students there. Making room for children in need of foster or adoptive parents is not so out of the ordinary, she said.

“We are a normal family,” Tyra said. “We have chores and they participate in gymnastics, Cub Scouts and baseball.” The children go swimming every day in summer.

All those activities and an annual summer vacation are gifts the children would not have had if they had stayed with their biological mother.

“They still miss her,” Tyra said. “The most rewarding thing is seeing the kids’ smiles and helping them and basically being their parents through their tough times.”

Clint and Deborah Randall had six biological children, but felt called to be foster parents, too. The St. Timothy Parish family opened their door to Jeremiah, a foster child whom they later adopted and who is now almost 2 years old.

“We got involved mainly because we had a good marriage and we had a home that had space for children,” Deborah said. “We knew there was a need.” Many people, she said, shy away from foster care, believing that foster children are “damaged goods” who will prove too difficult to care for. A lot of that, she said, is a myth.

“Yes, they come from rough backgrounds sometimes and have issues to deal with, but human beings grow with love,” Deborah said. “When love is given and a safe environment is provided, children do well.”

Michelle Campbell-Weberknows all about providing a loving and safe environment. She and her husband, James, already had a teenage son, but the St. Clare of Assisi Parish couple felt called to be foster parents. So far, more than 45 children have passed through their home.

The most rewarding part about caring for foster children, Michelle said, comes when “you can put them in the arms of their own family and know that it was the right thing to do, that you are no longer needed… you walk away and know that everything was going exactly the way it was supposed to.”

Five of the Webers’ foster children have been adopted and in August the couple will adopt two more foster children who currently live with them. It’s an opportunity, the Webers say, to add more branches to their family tree.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize that love is not a finite amount,” Michelle said. “Love is expanding. The more you love, the more love you get.”

While some might worry that caring for foster children would be too difficult, Michelle offered a pragmatic appraisal.

“So is being a doctor or being an airline pilot,” she said, “but you find that you are able to do whatever it is that you are meant to do. You just have to take that step. We are meant to be our brother’s keeper, to take care of each other,” Michelle said.

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