To love, nurture and raise your own children is natural and a beautiful gift of parenthood. To be able to find room in your heart and home for children that are not biologically yours, to love them and provide a safe space for them, is truly an act of unconditional love. Many years ago Kelli Bock felt the call to be that soft landing space for children in transition and children without a home. Kelli tells her story so eloquently and beautifully that I will let her share it...
My husband (Stephen Bock) and I began taking the classes to become an adoptive parent (through foster care) about seven years ago. During the class, we were hesitant about becoming anything but adoptive parents because we had three biological children at home, and (honestly) we didn't think that we could handle "giving them back". However, it was during one of those classes that we heard of a two week old baby that had to be sent to a group home since there were no beds available in the tri-county area. We knew that we could fulfill that need, and we could walk our family through it. So, we changed our license & home study to become foster parents.
We became licensed foster parents in 2011, and we have had 18 children in our home (varying durations) over the years. We now have 8 children in our home. Three years ago, my (now) boss approached me about becoming an advocate for foster families and the children in their homes. Fast forward to today, I am the foster family advocate for Seminole County. I am contracted through our local Community Based Care of Central Florida to assist families navigate the system of care, mentor them, answer questions, be a listening ear, or assist in any other manner that may pop up. My husband and I are also active members of the Orange Seminole Foster Children Association. That's a great organization that provides a safe place for the kids and families to network, attend trainings, and gain support from a community of others that understand the challenges that we might encounter on our fostering journey.
I have learned what it means to truly love unconditionally. I have learned that the ones that fight the hardest are worth fighting for. I have learned that every child matters, and that there is a tangible way to make a change in another person's life...it just takes actions towards the first step. I have learned that compassion is waiting within all of us to be awakened or put to use. I have learned that my children are amazing, and they have the biggest hearts. They make me so proud. I've learned to not sweat the small things, and I've learned to celebrate things that most people take for granted.
I have learned more from these kids that I ever had sitting in a classroom. I have learned what it means to truly love unconditionally. I have learned that the ones that fight the hardest are worth fighting for. I have learned that every child matters, and that there is a tangible way to make a change in another person's life...it just takes actions towards the first step. I have learned that compassion is waiting within all of us to be awakened or put to use. I have learned that my children are amazing, and they have the biggest hearts. They make me so proud. I've learned to not sweat the small things, and I've learned to celebrate things that most people take for granted. Examples: My (now) daughter came to us when she was 15 months old. She had a very rough start in her little life, and she was terrified upon arrival to her second home in about a month. Almost three years later, we adopted her (and her brother). One night, we had another little girl arrive to our home in the middle of the night when all of the other children in our home were sleeping. She was about two years old, and my daughter was probably four getting ready to turn five; they were to share a room. After getting the toddler ready for bed, I set the two year old little one in the crib. I tried to creep out of the room quietly, but she began to whimper and cry. Before I made my way back into the room, I heard my four year old's tiny voice whisper, "It's ok, baby. You don't need to cry. It's really ok...you're going to be ok. You are safe now. Don't be scared. This is a good place." I stood outside the doorway with misty eyes. My little daughter could remember the fear and terror of her early beginnings...at lease enough to empathize with this little girl and comfort her.
We provide children with a safe and loving family and support them until they're able to reach permanency. When they walk through the door, they're our children. That's what we provide. It doesn't matter if they're with your for 24 hours or 24 months, it stings when they leave, and it even stings when they're adopted (because even adoption begins with a tragic loss). The kids give us much more than we give. They give us proud moments of seeing them succeed at things; they give us love when they are so stingy and selective with that emotion (rightly so), and they give us a purpose. We have a purpose and impact on another soul on this planet. That's pretty huge.
My future goals include upcoming projects within our advocate team and association to help bring more focus to those that make and pass laws pertaining to our children. Florida has come a long way over these past ten years, or so, but we can certainly keep improving things for children and families in care.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent, adoptive parent or mentor, you can start with these resources:
Community Based Care of Central Florida to sign up for the classes to become foster parents or adoptive parents & get more information. The phone and website are: 1-866-90-CHILD http://www.cbccfl.org/services/foster-care/
Orange Seminole Foster Children Association: We have a clothing closet for our families, events for our kids, Christmas toy drive & more! People can donate financially, host a clothing drive or find another way to volunteer. http://www.osfca.com
Volunteer to become a mentor: The Foundation for Foster Children https://foundationforfosterchildren.org
Kelli is a Personal Hero that exemplifies compassion, unconditional love, kindness and the passion to make a difference in a child's life. She is wrapping her arms around innocent children and telling them they are beautiful, worthy and so very important. This is exactly what makes such a huge impact in our society. These are our next generation of children that deserve a chance. Deserve to be loved which is exactly what Kelli is giving them. Thank you Kelli. You are a Personal Hero!
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