Broadening the Legacy


He’s a little hard to handle.” “He doesn’t listen at all.” That was what we were told in the description we received of the boy I will call “Billy.” We waited in a back room for Billy and his social worker to come into the room. Suddenly, there he was, not looking at us at all, his legs shaking from nerves.

Billy actually reminded me of my brother so I felt an immediate connection with him. We said, “yes” and he moved in with us. He was 19 years old and only needed a place to stay until he could fly across the country to be with his mom. That is, he needed time for all of his medications to kick in so he would feel comfortable flying.

We quickly realized that Billy was used to getting his way by yelling loudly every time he was asked to do something; but that would soon change. He was with us for three months and during that time we were able to teach him respect for himself and others.

Now Billy lives on his own and has a job. For him, that is a big accomplishment. Especially since he was advised by his family to never get a job and to live off of government assistance. We are very proud of him.

My husband and I have been involved in group homes and foster care for more than 25 years. In 2000, we started a foster family agency and began the journey of providing stable, loving, supportive and informed foster parents to children in need. We knew that our experience in foster care had been difficult at times due to the lack of resources and support available to us. We also knew that there was a better way and we were determined to provide it to others.

Even if you are not able to open your home to a child in need, there are many ways to get involved in the life a child:

  1. Donate your time and resources to a foster family agency near you.
  2. Provide support for families who provide foster care.
  3.  Teach a work skill to an older teen.
  4. Volunteer to mentor or tutor a child.
  5. Spread the word that the need for foster care is great.

November is National Adoption Month. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent or a “fost-adopt” parent in your community, you can call your local county family services department or go through a local foster family agency. Either way, I suggest interviewing with every possible agency to see which is the best fit for your family. Ultimately you will be co-parenting these children with the agency you pick, so make sure you know everything there is to know about the agency and how they will help you in everyday matters and in the case of a crisis. 

I hope you choose to open your home to a child like we did, but if you are not able to, please consider volunteering or donating to your local agencies.  Most can use are socks, toys, etc. contact your local agency to inquire about their specific needs.

Together we can broaden the legacy of each child we come in contact with, even if it’s just a short time that we spend with them. 

Please see the foster care and adoption resources page for agencies in your area in this issue of North State Parent or online at:  

Nena Panza
About Nena Panza

Nena Panza was adopted by her dad when she was 4 years old, giving her a "real" last name and fostering her compassion for the "down and out." Nena is CEO and administrator of Ready for Life Foster Family Agency in Redding, where she and her husband have created a safe, supportive and consistent place for foster children and the families who open their hearts and homes to them.

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