All aboard! Join me in celebrating National Foster Care Month this May 2022, as we raise awareness in our community through a raw story and experience. To be completely honest, this is the first time I have ever heard of this celebration. But boy it couldn’t have been a better time! I took this opportunity to interview my dearest friend, Alejandra Fernandez. We met last summer, as we embarked on a new speech-language pathologist journey, to serve as part of the inauguration team for a state-of-the-art acute care rehabilitation hospital here in Miami. I will say, never underestimate what your colleague can teach you outside of work and who they can represent in your life. Alejandra has been an inspiration in mine. Not to mention, our roots are Colombian. Meant to be much?!
I had the honor to interview Alejandra for National Foster Care Month. I say I had the honor because it has been incredibly eye-opening for me to learn about her journey and become educated in the world of foster care. I hope you enjoy the Q&A as much as I did!
My name is Alejandra Fernandez, and I am a 29 (soon-to-be 30) year-old mother, through foster care and adoption, to two toddler boys (who are just seven months apart!). I have been married for seven years to my college sweetheart. I am a medical speech-language pathologist at a local rehabilitation hospital, specializing in brain injury and medically complex cases. I also recently started a speech therapy private practice.
What does foster care mean to you? Foster care is allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and to get “too attached.” People always tell me, “I could never do what you do. I would get too attached!” However, this is exactly what foster care should be all about. To love these children who come from “hard places,” and to love them hard. In their short lives, they have experienced trauma and wounds that no one should ever have to experience. As foster parents, we can love them as our own for however long they are with us! Also, foster care means collaborating with a whole team of professionals, as well as with the biological family of the child, whenever possible. Ultimately, to go above and beyond so that our foster children heal, grow, and thrive.
When did you first hear about foster care? Was it something you always longed for? I first heard about foster care at a continuing education course for work in Tampa in 2017. I met a fellow SLP who got married at age 19 and had been fostering ever since. Back then, I thought to myself that this young woman was so special for doing this, but this was not something I envisioned myself doing. In her case, her foster daughter of 3 years had been reunified with her biological family.
Fast forward to November 2019, when a friend and fellow adoptive mom who had worked in child welfare invited my husband and me to an informational event about fostering at Chikitown (an indoor playground), where we got to learn about the foster care system in Miami and the licensing process. Most importantly, we met a few foster/adoptive families. Seeing their love for each other, and their shirts which said “Love is stronger than DNA” was the catalyst that led us to embark on this journey. In January 2020, we started the 7-week licensing courses, and by March 2020 our foster son came into our lives.
What led you to get involved with foster care? My husband and I struggle with infertility. During the first five years of our marriage, I underwent countless doctors’ appointments, surgery, and took medications to try to conceive. It came to the point that we realized we were being called to a different path to parenthood – that of adoption. I did not want to pursue further medical treatment, and we knew that there are plenty of children in our own city in need of a loving home. We felt in our hearts that we would love a child, regardless of whether I birthed them or not.
Are there any misconceptions/myths you personally had about foster care? I was not mentally prepared for the EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER and the frustrations that come with dealing with the court system. Also, I underestimated how challenging (albeit, potentially rewarding) co-parenting with biological parents can be. Also, prior to starting the foster parenting licensing course, I was under the impression that adopting from the foster care system was more common than it is. I did not know that “foster to adopt” is not the goal. The goal of foster care is almost always reunification. Adoption or permanent guardianship are only explored when reunification is not a possibility.
How has being a foster mom shaped your experience as a woman? How has it shaped your marriage? Being a foster mom has shown me how strong I can be. It has also reminded me of God’s providence and His perfect plans for my life. It has shown me what a beautiful and supportive village we have, for which I am SO grateful. Our marriage has been strengthened by the trials we have undergone together in this process. It has not been easy, but we have a common goal.
What would you say are 3 highs and 3 lows (if any) of being a foster mom? Highs: Hearing my children call me “Mama,” knowing I am their fierce advocate, seeing my kids’ progress and growth. Lows: The frustration of being at the mercy of the court system, and all the delays that entails; not feeling appreciated by biological family members.
What do you wish people knew about foster care/foster parenting? All of the uncertainties and struggles are worth it, because you can impact the life of a precious soul, not just in the present, but potentially for generations to come! Also, I wish people knew the huge need for foster parents, especially those willing to welcome sibling groups and/or teens into their home. Finally, I would like people to know that here in Miami, there is a solid network of support for foster parents. Miami is doing things better than most other cities in our country when it comes to child welfare.
What is the absolute best thing about being a foster mom? Knowing that my love and dedication are shaping a little life is priceless! I know am I living God’s calling for my life, and living out the Gospel.
How can someone get involved in foster care? Are there any helpful resources or websites? People you’ve met along the way? Is there a foster care community you’re a part of? Anyone interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent in Miami can visit this website. I have been a part of a ministry through the Catholic church called “Hope, Heart and Home,” which recruits and supports foster parents in various ways. I have also found support in learning from fellow foster/adoptive parents that I have met along the way. There is even a WhatsApp group for general support and a clothing closet for donations.
To connect with Alejandra and witness her mom adventures, follow her Instagram @alefernslp.