When Margit Boyesen got a call from her sister asking her to foster a friend’s twins, she didn’t hesitate to volunteer. An elementary school teacher, Boyesen loves children, and has always dreamt of having her own.
“I didn’t know a thing about foster care, but these children needed help so I wanted to try and figure it out,” says the single 45-year-old teacher as she had an after-school snack at her Carmel Valley townhome. As it turned out, she wasn’t able to foster the twins because they lived in Los Angeles, but it got her thinking. “If I said yes without flinching or taking a breath, why am I not a foster parent?” Months later, she attended an Angels Foster Family Network fundraiser and decided to take the leap.
After extensive screening and training at Angels, a San Diego-based agency that works closely with the San Diego County Child Welfare Department, Boyesen was asked to foster a toddler who gave herself the nickname “Naya.” Twisting a strand of blonde hair, the teacher tears up as she describes a day the two shared at the beach during their six weeks together.
“It was magical and lovely, and you felt like everything was just right in the world,” she recalls, explaining that many foster children haven’t had the chance to enjoy the simple pleasures of a stable life. “We built sand castles and took selfies, then came home and had an impromptu dance party.”
Boyesen says that the benefits of being a foster parent far outweigh the challenges, but it’s a tough job. “These children come to you traumatized and sometimes have very good reasons not to trust adults, so it takes a few weeks for them to let their guard down,” she says. The hardest part, though, is saying goodbye. She understands the goal is to reunite children with their parents after they’ve complied with court orders, typically for drug or alcohol rehabilitation. Still, it’s hard.
“I fell in love with the ‘Little Man’ at first sight,” Boyesen says about the 3-year-old boy who recently reunited with his mother after a three-month stay with Boyesen. “He came to me like a little tough guy, but after two weeks began to feel more comfortable, and at six weeks it was super fun,” she says. “He couldn’t pronounce Miss Margit, and used to look up at me with that big mop of red hair and call me Mit Mawdit. How do you not fall in love with that?” She says she quickly discovered his love of all things related to transportation. “Trains, planes, trucks, cars, if it was noisy, he loved it.”
She took Little Man on visits to the train museum and airport, and even arranged a special trip to the local fire station. “The firefighters let him sit in the truck, hold the hose, use the heart monitor, they were so good to him. And he was so happy, he was shaking.”
Boyesen created a picture book about Little Man’s day at the fire station as a keepsake of his time in her care. Not only did she want to give him a tangible memento of his stay at her home, the teacher also discovered that the child responded well when she drew pictures of where they were going and who was involved. She explains that a child in foster care might have several appointments each week, including visits with parents, therapists, social workers, case managers, and doctors. “When you have your own children, you might be taking them to soccer and swim lessons, but foster children can have appointments almost every day,” she says.
Little Man’s life had plenty of fun as well. Since Boyesen is a full-time, working, single woman, Angels had no problem with her enrolling the toddler in a licensed preschool. And she connected for playdates with friends who have children. “Both Naya and Little Man loved splashing around the pool,” she says, pointing outside. Beside her, a large basket of water toys sits next to a rocking chair filled with stuffed animals.
Foster parents receive a small stipend for incidentals, but Boyesen says the real payoff is making a difference in the lives of children. She says she winds up spending more than she receives, but she doesn’t mind. Plus, Angels Foster Family Network helps offset her costs by supplying foster parents with diapers, clothing, formula, and toys when they are available.
Though saying goodbye is always difficult, Boyesen says being a foster parent is worth it. “The waiting and the unknowns are hard, but once the children learn to trust you, and you figure out what they like to eat, it’s a lot of fun.”
For more information about how to become a foster family, or how you can support foster families, please visit www.angelsfoster.org