Catholic Charities staff tied blue ribbons outside of its 7th Avenue office in honor of Foster Care Awareness Month. (courtesy photo)

While countless Americans will be celebrating Mother’s Day this weekend, some 18,000 Arizona children long for a stable mother/parent figure in their life.

While the community routinely hears about the need for foster care families, especially during Foster Care Awareness Month, few accept the challenge to become licensed. The first step is often the what slows prospective parents down the most: the fear to foster.

Anissa Pongratz was lucky. She grew up with friends who were part of a foster family and saw the strong bond that all the children had with the foster parents. “I loved the idea of becoming a foster parent since meeting this family. When preparing to be married, I talked with my fiancée about the option of fostering and adopting, and he was in full agreement. We had a mutual desire since the beginning of our marriage, and we left the timing up to God,” Pongratz said.

Foster Care Info Session

10 a.m. May 12 (and monthly) at Desert Springs Bible Church in Phoenix

6-7:30 p.m. May 17 at St. Thomas More in Glendale

10 a.m.-noon June 9 at St. Paul in Phoenix

6-7:30 p.m. July 19 at St. Thomas More in Glendale

RSVP/Info: email Sally, or by phone at (602) 943-3843

Not in a position to foster? Help foster care families

Pongratz has received foster children and adopted children since 2013 through the program at Catholic Charities. The organization actively recruits and licenses families and single adults who are willing to open their hearts and homes to children in Arizona’s Department of Child Safety. Catholic Charities supervises care and lovingly supports foster families to ensure that the needs of both foster children and families are met. Still, many are hesitant to become foster families.

“Becoming a foster parent brings many anxieties to the surface. My house is too small, we don’t make enough money, I have two kids, how can I bring in another, and on it goes. Trust me when I say, these foster kids don’t care what your house looks like or how big it is. They don’t care how much money you make, and honestly, they probably love having other kids to play with (your biological children)! All these anxieties melt away once you hear their stories,” Pongratz said. “I remember thinking, if this little guy can be happy and play after all he has been through, who am I to have this silly fear limiting me?”

To ease doubts and fears, Catholic Charities has monthly foster care and adoption information sessions available. Pongratz urges prospective parents — married or single — to attend a session, ask questions, meet other foster families and talk about fostering among peers to raise awareness on the issue. You can also read about the perspective of some empty-nesters who became foster parents.

May is Foster Care Month and the need is bigger than ever before. Fostering is a beautiful experience for both parents and children, according to Pongrantz. “Being a foster parent has taught me many things, and I have gained more from the relationship than the foster kids did! I see society a bit differently. It has opened my eyes to a community outside of the one I live in and am comfortable in. I have learned to be less selfish. I learned to slow down and worry a little less about the small stuff!”