‘Step up to the plate’
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–foster father encourages other ‘dads’

WHETHER with a single-parent or couple, and regardless of age, a foster-care home affords a child the opportunity to develop healthy emotional intimacy, trust, and to learn valuable life skills. Foster parents, or foster carers, have the chance to provide children with a consistent living environment that gives them the chance to work through difficulties, and overcome obstacles. When 40-year-old biological father of one, Steve Neils became a foster carer six years ago, the responsibility of caring for a child that was not his, biologically, was not one he had planned for, but was definitely one that he was prepared to accept. “At first, we received the information from someone at the agency; it was a friend who spoke to one of the officers there, and told them, well, she knows of this couple that can help out and so on… And so, we had a discussion about it,” he explained. He would later relate that becoming a foster parent was one of the best decisions of his life. “Me and my wife, at the time sat down and discussed it, because someone told her about the little girl and her struggles, and we discussed that, you know, we’re not rich, we don’t do that well and all of that, but we could definitely do something to help her,” Neils shared during an interview with the Guyana Chronicle via telephone.
While most children who are put into foster or alternative care are victims of trauma, abuse and/or neglect, this child appeared to have had similar experiences.

Steve recalls that she had had a “rough patch” with family members, and was only six or seven years old at the time. “She had been going through a lot of problems; she had a rough patch with family members. The first day we met her, she actually kind of clung to my wife; the two of them hit it off right away. And then it took a little while for her to come over to my end,” he said. He also recalls that his foster daughter clicked well with his now 17-year-old son, who was around eleven at the time. Asked what the experience of fostering a child is like, Steve remarked: “It’s not without its challenges; you know, it’s kids you’re dealing with. And it’s not a child that we would have brought up from the baby ages, that you can train them to grow up in the way you want them to. So you have to be trying to instil stuff in them now.” All in all, though, he described the experience as a great one, noting that fostering a child is a monumental step that everyone playing a role in the process should be ready for; from the parents and their children, to the foster child or children.

“Fostering a child, you’re giving them the support that they actually need to become somebody; to do something with their life. They have to go through whatever trauma they endured to have them end up in the foster care system. And it’s a good feeling; it’s a lot of responsibility, too, but it feels good,” Steve said, adding: “You have to show them all the love that you could; and you’re trying to show them all the different values they should grow with, so they could be a productive person and so when they get older.” He expressed that fostering a child has opened his eyes to the traumatic experiences that some children have, and the things that others take for granted, such as having parents, receiving guidance, and being taught values and morals. He would like to encourage persons to become foster parents themselves, as children need guidance, love and care in order to become functional members of society, who can make a substantial contribution. “It’s something good you would be doing; it’s a great initiative. You’re actually moulding a young person who’s been through so much to be somebody,” Steve said.
His family is currently in discussion with regard to adopting the now 13-year-old girl.

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