Foster home becomes real family
Joann and Joey Webb had been married for five years, hoping to have their first baby, when a doctor told them it was unlikely they would ever be able to conceive a child.
As devastating as the news was, the Webbs decided to look into other options, including becoming foster parents and possibly adopting a child. At first, they didn’t think they’d go through with the process, but a series of events made them reconsider.
One night, after a conversation about the possibility of fostering, Joann went to bed to read before going to sleep. She was reading a devotional book, and the section she read that night happened to be on fostering children — an interesting coincidence, she thought.
But the next day confirmed that fostering was in their future.
“A friend of the family called and she said, ‘You know, I just got to thinking about it, and you guys would make great foster parents,’” Joey recalled, adding that he hadn’t mentioned his conversations with his wife on the subject to this friend. “It seemed like we received a clear sign to do something.”
Becoming foster parents
The Webbs soon began the training necessary to become licensed foster parents, and as many people going through the foster care program do, they worried.
They worried that their home wasn’t big enough, that they wouldn’t be able to handle the children and the biggest worry of all, that they would get too attached to a child only to have that child returned to his or her biological family or moved into a different home.
It turned out their worries were far outweighed by the rewarding realities of fostering.
One incident in particular stuck with the Webbs since beginning their fostering journey, and it helped them understand the value of what they were doing.
It was near Mother’s Day several years ago when the Webbs were driving home from school with one of their foster children. The young boy began crying, and assuming the child was upset about not seeing his mother on Mother’s Day, Joey asked him what was wrong. The boy’s answer changed Joey’s outlook on his role as a foster parent forever.
“He said, ‘I realize now my mother didn’t treat me the way she should have, and I didn’t realize that until I came to your house to live with you guys,’” Joey recalled, still amazed that a child could understand that concept at such a young age.
“And I quit worrying right then,” he said. “We started realizing even just a day (in our home) makes a difference.”
Becoming a family
Among the first children to come into the Webb’s home were two brothers, ages 1 and 8, and it wasn’t long before Joann and Joey decided to adopt the boys. However, soon after the adoption was final, Joann came down with what seemed like the flu. A trip to the doctor confirmed that Joann wasn’t sick. She was pregnant.
Their first biological child, Jordan, was born several months later, and the Webb family went from zero to three children within one year.
“It was like the Quaker instant family,” Joey joked.
Still, the Webbs kept taking in foster children whenever they could, about a dozen over the years, including their two adopted sons, but the surprises would keep on coming.
Joann became pregnant with their second child, Josh, and then a third, Jace, who is now 8 weeks old, bringing the total number of children in their home up to five.
Joann said they didn’t intend for everyone in the family to have J names but that was how it worked out when they named their first biological child. Jonathan’s first name was changed at his request during the adoption because he told his new parents he didn’t want to be the only one in the family without a J name. The theme simply continued when the other two children came along.
Because the maximum number of children allowed in a foster home in North Carolina is five, the Webbs aren’t able to take in any more foster children for now, but they both say they are glad they’ve had the opportunity to help the children who have been in their care, whether for one night or one year.
“I wouldn’t take it back because regardless of whatever happened before or after they stayed with us, for that period of time, they lived in a home where somebody cared about them and took care of them,” Joey said.
The positives and negatives
Although fostering turned out to be a rewarding experience for the Webbs, it isn’t for everyone. There are some tough times involved in caring for foster children.
Joann said the hardest thing for her was watching the disappointment of their foster children when a parent failed to show up on a visitation day.
“They are crushed. They don’t understand why their mommy or daddy doesn’t come. That’s really hard to watch,” she said.
For Joey, the legal system when it comes to child welfare could be difficult to handle at times. Because the ultimate goal for most separated families is reunification when possible, there are times when children will return to their family even if they might be better off in the foster home.
“Sometimes that’s hard to watch when it’s clearly not in the best interest of the child,” Joey said, adding he would like to see the system updated.
Nevertheless, both foster parents said they’d do it all over again, and for anyone who is truly interested and able to offer their home to children in need, fostering is something worth thinking about.
Foster parents don’t need a lot of money (the system provides a small amount of money to cover a child’s room and board), and if there are any problems, including a child who does not get along well in a particular home, the foster agencies and DSS are always there to help.
“They will do anything they can to help families that are willing to participate,” Joey said. “There’s so many services they offer to try to assist you. They want (the children) to be happy, and they want them to thrive as much as you do.”
For anyone interested in becoming a foster parent, the Webbs recommend starting out by contacting the Department of Social Services at 452-6620.