Courtney Chavez is a young social worker who has answered the call to care for vulnerable children both professionally and personally. “Because of my career, I saw the need and was already inclined to become a foster parent,” she says. “But at the same time, early on, when I was working as a child welfare case manager, I wasn’t allowed to become a foster parent.”
Courtney works in an educational setting now, has been a licensed foster parent for a few years and currently has one placement. “I don’t feel like a ‘foster mom,’” she says. “I’m just a mom.”
Alante, not her real name, is a three-year-old spitfire, with a big smile and personality to match. “She’s a character and a half,” says Courtney. “She’s very smart and cute and she knows it.” Alante enjoys the same things as most girls her age. Her auntie paints her finger and toe nails in a rainbow of colors and she gets to play with her cousins who adore her. She visits her “grandpa and grandma” frequently. “We count her as one of the grandkids,” says Courtney’s dad, Louis.
From single woman to instant mom
Becoming a foster parent was an adjustment, at first, admits Courtney. “Up until my first placement, I was your typical single woman with no kids. And now, here I am, caring for a three year old.”
Courtney attributes much of her ability to be a great foster parent to her support network of friends, SaintA case managers, and of course, her family. On one particular weeknight at grandpa and grandma’s house, Alante makes sad eyes at her grandmother, Kathy, upon learning she wouldn’t be spending the night because everyone had to work the next day. “You’re staying for dinner, though,” Kathy reminds her and gets a grin in response.
It’s clear that Courtney and the rest of her family love Alante as their own. At this point, there’s no way to know whether they can become her forever family. “I’m cautiously optimistic but I know the system and I know it can take a while for parental rights to sort themselves out,” Courtney explains.
This isn’t Courtney’s first placement. A few years ago, she fostered two young children, siblings, one boy and one girl; ages 5 and 6.
These were children Courtney knew well because she was a social worker at their school. When it became necessary for the kids to go into out-of-home care, Courtney literally said, “I’ll take them home.” By applying for an emergency license, and with guidance from SaintA, she was able to do just that.
Because of the strong relationship Courtney already had with those siblings, she was allowed to foster them under “kinship” standards. Although the brother and sister eventually went to a treatment foster care placement, Courtney thinks of them often and knows she was in the right place, at the right time, for them.
Her initial foster parent experience also provided Courtney with the skills, confidence and desire to welcome Alante into her life when she came along. The rest of their story is yet to be written but for now, it’s pretty easy to see a little girl who belongs right where she is at the moment.
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