Foster parent Amelia Stapleton says she always wanted a big family and she could feel it in her bones that she was meant to shelter children. Her first placement was her niece Morgan, when she was just three days old. After four years of nurturing Morgan, Amelia is now caring for several youth as well — 17-year old Heaven, 16-year-old Sherilyn, 15-year-old Zharria and 14-year-old Kaiden.

Amelia admits there are tough moments to fostering.  “A hard thing about fostering is when a child first comes into your care – they may have assumptions about you that aren’t true,” says Amelia. Having a child removed from their birth parent’s home can result in feelings of betrayal, anger, shame, and hurt for the parent and child, according to the Children’s Bureau. Amelia expresses her ultimate goal as a foster parent is to be that happy energy for the children in her care and to reassure her children they will not find themselves in the same situation with her.

Amelia says she not only wants to help her girls through hard times — she wants to be a rock for their biological families too. When the biological parents have someone to believe in them and encourage them, it can help enormously with the healing process; the parent’s resilience, and ultimately family reunification.

“Co-parenting is one of the best things that could ever happen,” says Amelia. “Try putting yourself in the birth parent’s shoes and think about what you would want to know about the people caring for your child. I loop the birth parents in on court hearings, doctor’s appointments — down to the medicine the child takes when they are sick.”

Amelia says she’s seen how important it is when the children have a relationship with their parents. She says it makes the world of difference for that child to know that they still have their mom or dad. According to the Children’s Bureau, “not only can it help the child, it can help birth parents feel closer to their children, build trust with you and encourage reunification.”

Amelia not only fosters a connection with the birth parent but also creates space for reconciliation and healing within her home so all of the girls in her care can lean on and support on each other. Amelia says her door is always open for the girls to talk to or simply be near her. “We have family meetings on a regular basis,” she says. “If something isn’t working, we all talk about what’s going on and it gives them the floor to talk about their feelings and how I can help them.”

Over the past four years, Amelia has also found another way to encourage morale and togetherness – matching family outfits! Amelia says it’s a great way to identify her children quickly in public, but means so much more. “Anytime we go anywhere, my girls want to dress alike, even the teens! They genuinely enjoy matching each other. It’s so rewarding seeing them happy, smiling and depending on their siblings.”

Amelia says she wants to build lasting relationships with all of her kids, to let them know that someone will always be there for them. She says if you want a successful placement, you need to treat the children like they are your family — and embrace their family too.

If you believe you can increase stability for youth in care and help children maintain a sense of family, belonging and identity, please go to the FSS Foster Care page and begin your fostering journey.