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A full house; Foster parents provide love and care for children in need | Kitsap Week
Although they don’t know when the next call will come, Kendra Field and Dee Bennett are ready to provide a safe home for a child on a moment’s notice.
As foster parents, they know the sound of the phone ringing in the middle of the night could mean a child needs emergency foster care.
“Those babies hold a special soft spot with us,” Field said. “The little ones just want to be cared for. It’s when you are needed the most.”
In the wee hours of the morning one of them will rush out the door and meet the social worker at a specified location in Kitsap. They return later with a small child who needs a safe place to stay.
“When we receive a call, I’m someone who says ‘How can we make this work?’” Field said. “Because you want to help. There is a baby out there that needs us.”
If the child has been broken or shaken, Bennett said an instantaneous protective maternal instinct kicks in.
“I know if they are with us, we will keep them safe,” Field said.
Bennett and Field are prepared for any child five or younger who comes their way.
They have a basement full of children’s clothes organized in tubs by size, season and gender. A stash of car seats, cribs and high chairs wait in anticipation.
But most importantly Bennett and Field have an abundant amount of love.
Over the past eight years they have cared for 42 foster children in their home, and through the process were able to adopt their sons.
Bennett and Field, who have been together for 11 years, always knew they wanted children.
“Our philosophy was who was meant to stay would stay,” Field said.
But like many things, that was easier said than done.
For every child placed in their home, they would wonder, “Is this the one?”
“When you are first trying to adopt and you have no kids, it’s heart wrenching when they leave,” Field said.
Field recalls the first time driving home from Harrison Hospital with a newborn.
She called Bennett and said “Holy cow! What do we know about newborns?”
They had the baby boy for about a week and thought he might stay. The couple was crushed when he left.
After more heartbreaking moments Field and Bennett did some soul searching and asked themselves if this was something they wanted to continue.
Luckily they persevered and now have three boys, each one year apart.
Although having three boys keeps them busy, that hasn’t stopped Field and Bennett from bringing more foster children into their home.
“When we went into it, we were planning on adopting and then be done,” Field said. “But there is something so rewarding about it. Our boys will be better dads because of it.”
Some children stay just a day or two, while others have stayed for as long as a year and a half. Field said the foster children who stay for a while really become part of the family and become a sibling to her boys.
It can be difficult for them to say good-bye to the foster children. It helps if they are able to keep in touch through letters and photos. If the child stays local, sometimes they are able to have play dates or run into each other at the grocery store.
By the time this article is published, a foster child who has been with the family for six months will be placed with her “forever family.” Bennett and Field have been preparing their boys for that day and know it won’t be easy.
To send with the child, Field created a memory book filled of pictures of the baby’s time with her family. The book shows a happy and content baby, surrounded by a loving family.
Field takes comfort in knowing that for a period of time in the life of a foster child, her family is able to provide a safe place.
Bennett agreed and said she doesn’t know anything more rewarding than helping children get out of a harmful situation.
MANAGING THE DETAILS
Field and Bennett have devised a schedule that works well when caring for a newborn. They take turns being the caregiver every other night. This makes late-night feedings more manageable.
“You know that even if you are dog-tired that you’ll get to sleep the next night,” Field said. “Your body adjusts and you sleep hard the next night.”
Becoming a foster parent requires a lot of paperwork, background checks and 30 hours of training as well as CPR and First Aid instruction. Bennett points to the irony. It takes training to become a foster parent, but no guidance is required for people to give birth.
According to the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, in September there were 415 children in foster care and 296 licensed foster care homes in Kitsap County. May is National Foster Care Month and Bennett and Field encourage those thinking about fostering to pursue it.
They said a good starting point is to become a respite care family. With respite care, families take foster children for a short amount of time in order to give the long-term foster care families a break. Bennett and Field use respite care when they wish to take their boys camping, or for an overnight stay at Great Wolf Lodge.
It’s important for them to focus on their boys and have quality family time with the core members.
The Field-Bennett home is a cozy one. Just under 1300 square feet, the space has been carefully laid out to accommodate the many children in their lives.
“Someone once asked me how we can live in such a small house,” Bennett said. “I would rather live in our little house and be nice and close to my kids than to live in a 5,000 square foot house and need an intercom system to call them.”
Field agrees. When her boys go up to bed, she can hear if they’re playing instead of sleeping.
Plus, joked Field, when the boys are teenagers, they won’t be able sneak out of this house; it’s too creaky.
“We both grew up in a tight-knit family where we did everything together,” Bennett said. “That’s how I want our family to be.”
Bennett and Field are known to their boys as Mama Dee and Mama K.
“I thought Mama was a weird name. I never would have picked it,” Field said. “But now I think it’s cool.”
EVIDENCE OF LOVE
On a wall of their child-centered home, Field has hung pictures of the many children they have fostered. Close friends and family have fun taking a walk down memory lane and reminiscing about the children that have stayed with the Field-Bennett family.
They remember the two year old who didn’t speak any English. They laugh when recalling the baby who looked exactly like John McCain.
“I know the babies won’t remember us, but somewhere they will know they were loved,” she said. “We gave them a starting place.”
FOSTER PARENTING INFORMATION:
Washington state information: www.dshs.wa.gov
Kitsap Foster Care Association: www.kitsapfostercare.org
Foster Paretns Association of Washington State:www.fpaws.org
Families for Kids: www.lcsnw.org