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What the world needs now ...

May 27, 2008 - Betsy Bethel
Yesterday, we published an article on the Arts & Living Family page about the state of foster care in West Virginia and the need for more foster families.

What struck me about the foster care story was the great need for them and that people simply aren't stepping up to the plate, for whatever reason. It does take a special couple to do the job. One foster mom said patience and a laid-back attitude are musts, but on the other hand you have to be tenacious and resourceful to ensure the children get all the services they need. You have to have a tough skin to deal with the crap that mmany biological parents pull, and you must be willing to deal with all the issues specific to children who have been abused and/or neglected. And of course, you have to have enough beds for everyone!

But when asked how she could do such a tough and thankless job as foster parenting, one local foster mom said "If we don't do it, who will?"

As I said, the article ran yesterday, so, like we say in the biz, it had been "put to bed." And with it, for the time being anyway, went my thoughts about fostering.

This morning, however, I received a return phone call from a Wellsburg foster mom whom I called Friday for some input. She apologized for not getting back to me sooner; she was at the zoo with her children that day, she explained.

I told her the story ran yesterday and had the inclination to cut the call with a "thanks anyway!" But my earlier fascination with foster parenting stirred within me. I needed to hear her story. Here's a summary:

Kristie Gasvoda, a stay-at-home mom, and her husband, Joseph, a service technician, have their hands full with three biological sons, ages 6, 7 and 8. Whoa, I thought. That would be enough for me!

But for the past three years, they also have served as foster parents for the state Department of Health and Human Resources, taking in babies and youngsters whose parents abused or neglected them -- often in tandem with abusing drugs and/or alcohol.

Currently, they have two foster children, a 2-year-old and a 5-month-old, the latter of whom they have had since he was 30 hours old.

When I asked Kristie why she decided to become a foster parent, she didn't hesitate: "It's a ministry for us. It's a calling."

As such, and unlike most foster parents, the Gasvodas aren't interested in adopting their foster children -- at least not until their own children are older.

Kristie said she gets asked the "adoption" question a lot. But if they adopted a child, Kristie explained, one less bed would be available for a foster child. (The state allows only six children total per foster family; National Youth Advocate Program limits families to a total of five). So adopting would actually hinder their ministry, she said.

In addition, she said, when foster children become available for adoption, they can help someone else start a whole new family.

This winter, they experienced the mixed emotions of handing over two foster children to an infertile couple. The two children were siblings, and the younger one was addicted to cocaine when he was born (his mother used cocaine while pregnant, even using it as a painkiller through her labor, Kristie told me). The Gasvodas took care of that newborn and his older brother for over a year until March, when the adoption was finalized.

The Gasvodas grieved the loss of those boys as if they were their own, but at the same time they rejoice with the boys' new mom and dad. She even sent the new mom a card for her first Mother's Day this year.

"For us to keep these babies, it's unfair because somebody else desperately needed a family," Kristie said.

I'm glad I asked Kristie her story. What the world needs now ... is more people like Kristie and Joseph Gasvoda.


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