I can give back what I was given’
Neika does not have children of her own, but she has been mother to four children in need.
For Neika — not her real name — signed up as a foster parent to give children a safe environment and a place to call home.
Neika said she became a foster mother almost by accident.
She explained: “I have always been involved with children from the time I came back from university.
“I am a certified teacher, and I taught for a few years in the education system here on the island and then after teaching for a couple of years I became involved in a youth organisation.
“I left teaching to go full-time into the youth organisation. Through that youth ministry I got my first foster child. She was 17.”
Neika was 28 at the time and thought that she would only be needed for ten days, but the foster period lasted two years.
She admitted: “For me, when it was going to be ten days, I thought, yeah, I can do this. But when I realised it was going to be a long-term process, I got nervous.
“I was still a young person and I had thoughts of what my life was going to look like, and I didn’t know if I wanted to take on that kind of responsibility.”
She said her role as a foster mom had taught her a lot about herself and opened her eyes to the needs of some children on the island.
Neika added: “Through teaching, I became very aware of children that don’t stay with their family and that there are children looking for somewhere to be loved and to belong.
“My heart became burdened with these children.”
She said her Christian faith led her to foster parenting and it became her calling.
Neika added: “It is part of the word of God that says we are called to look after those less fortunate.”
She said she credited her own strong family ties for preparing her to provide a supportive environment for the children she has cared for.
Neika at present is looking after an eight-year-old girl, who she fostered when she was just 23 months old.
She said: “When Child and Family Services called me and asked if I would take in a child at 23 months, I said no twice. But she didn’t let me go.
“That was a conversation I had to have with my family, and in particular my parents because I knew I would need help.”
She added: “My family has embraced this child as if I had given birth to her.”
Neika said: “My teenage years were very challenging for me and I know my mom played a big part in me making it through a very rocky period in my life, and now I can give someone else back what I was given.”
Neika said it was important to maintain a good relationship with the families of foster children and she regarded her role as co-parenting.
She said: “I never want her to think that I’m going to keep her from her mom or from her relatives.”
Neika said she may marry and have children of her own, but that she was focused on caring for children who need a place to go.
She added: “There’s a mothering element that I didn’t even know that I had.
“I am a completely different person. They say that having children kills the selfishness in you, and so I have become more understanding and more patient, but I have a lot more to go on the patience level.”
Neika and her family celebrate Mother’s Day, which falls this Sunday, by going out to brunch or to a family member’s home.
She said she also made sure that her foster child has a gift to give to her mom and that holidays are spent together in some form.
Neika urged more people to consider foster care.
She said some worried that they would become too attached to the child.
Neika said: “I struggle with that because it’s a very selfish view.
“I know not everyone can foster because it does require a lot, but maybe there is another way to support the foster-care system and, in that regard, more people need to step up.”
•Anyone interested in fostering should contact the Foster Care Coordinator at 294-5871 or be e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can be made through the president of the Foster Parents Association, Lindsay Simmons, at 505-7764. For more articles on Mother’s Day, visit rgmags.com
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