As a way to recognize their efforts and compassion, Southwest Youth Services has started giving a “Foster Family of the Month” award. The recognition started in January with recipients being foster families in Southwest Oklahoma that devote time, efforts and compassion to foster care children.
January’s Foster Care Family was Matthew and Kaitlin Wait of Altus. They serve as an emergency host family. In July 2015, they received their first placement of three siblings, two boys and a girl. “My husband was TDY in San Antonio at the time,” said Kaitlin, “and it was a little overwhelming. Emergency host homes provide short term emergency care for children up to 17 years of age.
The Waits attended a SWYS foster care meeting and learned about the SWYS foster care program. “When Matt and I learned there were no local emergency host homes, Matt immediately said ‘we have to apply and attempt to help these kids.’ The process started and requiring lots of paperwork, fingerprinting, background checks, workshops and training,” said Kaitlin.
The SWYS foster care program works very closely with the Department of Human Services, so the Waits completed weekend and nightly training from both groups. There were several home studies performed where the home is visited to assure safety and requirements. One requirement is that each child must have their own bed.
For the Waits, one of the hardest obstacles in hosting has been learning the sleeping and eating habits of the children. Some of the kids are use to eating junk food, and go to bed late. Making the change is difficult because they are in an unfamiliar place. An icebreaker and meet-and-greet tactic helps the Waits. They do this by providing a smile and toys immediately upon their arrival. “You quickly observe the child’s actions and start to wonder what they have experienced and not learned. It is heartbreaking to hear some of the children’s stories,” said Kaitlin.
Matt is one of 16 men in the Altus Air Force Base Airmen Leadership School, a special training for non-commissioned officers. They also have additional study groups and must complete a project that impacts the community. Matt learned of an area foster family that needed a wheelchair ramp for their special needs foster care child. The AAFB group chose to make a wheelchair ramp for the home as their project. They drew up the plans, purchased supplies, and constructed the ramp.
“Matt and I are very excited and enjoy being an emergency host family,” said Kaitlin. “Our hopes are that more people become aware of the need for foster families and that they open up their homes and hearts to helping children.”
She continued by saying, “Kids need to be kids and not worry about basic food, clothing and shelter. They do not need to be afraid of spilling a cup of milk or juice, to be able to take a bath and eat regularly. I say to a family considering being a host home or foster parent, be patient in the process, it can be tedious and overwhelming. In the end the results are rewarding and you are giving a small amount of trust and hope back to a child.”
To learn more on the SWYS foster care program, please call 580-482-2809.
Reach Mary O. Esparza at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077