“If I had to describe foster care in one word, I’d say energy.” The fostering experience of Simona and her family.
Simona and her family live in the town of Reggello on the other side of the Arno River about 20 kilometers from Loppiano. She and Alessio have been married for twenty-one years and have two children, Matteo (20) and Davide (17). Their day always starts very early, at six o’clock in the morning, because they cook for the canteens of the nursery schools in the municipality of Florence. This is how they met and fell in love many years ago – cooking. Simona and Alessio are also part-time foster parents of a two-year-old girl. What does that mean? Simona explains: “She only spends the afternoons with us from Monday to Friday. So, back from work we go to pick her up from the nursery at 16.00. She stays with us until 19.30 and then goes to her grandmother. The child has a home, but she needed to be in the warmth of a family while her grandmother was at work.” Simona talks about it with such simplicity that it all seems quite normal, feasible, something that anyone could do.
To tell the truth, it is not the first time that their family has had the foster care experience. “The first experience was in 2014, and it happened because of an email from the Loppiano family group,” she explains. “It was a request for help for a 9-year-old boy who, at that time, was a guest with his mother and other brothers in the Pian di Scò Family Home of the Fraternity of the Visitation. They presented him as a very lively child who needed a lot of attention and a family to have the affection he hadn’t received at home.”
Saddened by the thought of this child who grew up without love and still fascinated by the previous experience of foster care in the Focolare community, Simona proposed to her husband that they take that child with them: “We talked about it a lot! Also argued. I’m all heart and impulsive. He’s down-to-earth with his feet firmly planted on the ground. Due to the urgency of the situation we decided to meet him. . .” The reality was different from what they had imagined: “He was a real Hurricane Johnny! No control settings whatsoever. He teased to get attention, he stole . . .” But in the end, in agreement with their children, Alessio and Simona agreed most willingly to welcome the boy. “His arrival home had a strong impact on our whole family. It is good that we had made the decision together with our children, because they had to share everything with the newcomer. It wasn’t easy, because like all abandoned children, he had suffered much neglect. So, we all tried to give him love, rules, guidance and education …”
Simona and Alessio joined the Valdarno Foster Family Group where they got support and advice from different perspectives. Roberto (an imaginary name used to protect the identity of the child) stayed with them for a year and a half until another family, which already had two of his brothers, decided to welcome him too.
Now, a few years later, here we are again taking in another child to foster, this time part-time with a very small child . . . A different experience. She’s at that beautiful age where she’s discovering everything. She seeks affection . . . her personality is being formed. But it’s always a challenging experience and the support we get from the self-help group is very important.”
Simona, what would you say to a family that was thinking about taking in a foster child?
“I think it’s something you have to feel like doing. Because it’s beautiful, very beautiful to be able to give a family to a child who doesn’t have one. However, I’d also say that you have to be convinced of it. Because you have to give yourself just as you would to one of your natural children. . . and these children come with an already very, very large baggage of suffering. They can’t be sent back. Every “refusal” is another extra-heavy weight that we place on the shoulders of these innocent creatures… On the other hand, however:
“You can’t be afraid of making mistakes or not being up to par, because anybody, with own strength and abilities, can build a welcoming path for a child in difficulty. If I had to describe foster care in one word, I’d say energy, because there are so many things that come into play: physical, emotional and psychological. However, what remains inside you is the positive experience and what you have been able to give to those children and their families. Unfortunately, requests for foster homes for children and teenagers arrive every day, but the offers are quite scarce.”
Perhaps after reading the experience of Simona, Alessio, Davide and Matteo, some of our readers might be interested in knowing more about being foster parents! If so, write to us, we will put you in touch with them!