Foster Parents Give Thanks

March 4, 2011

Programs and Services

Tammy and John Schneidewind recently hosted an appreciation lunch at Family Resource Center to celebrate the adoption of their foster son, Jay. Jay is almost three years old and has been in the Schneidewind’s care since he was 27 days old.

One week before Jay’s adoption date, the Schneidewinds were astounded to learn that he needed immediate surgery on his spine and brain stem. Asked whether this gave them second thoughts about the adoption, they have a simple but eloquent response: “It was a no-brainer; he’s our son.” Jay now has a patch at the end of his spine to support brain tissue and he is responding well to physical therapy. He developed aseptic meningitis a few weeks after the surgery and was rushed back to the hospital, but his long term prognosis is good: his growth should not be affected, and he should even be able to play sports.

The Schneidewinds began foster parenting four years ago when Tammy, a stay-at-home mother and grandmother, was driving past FRC and realized she wanted to take care of foster kids. She says, laughing, that she returned with John, “kicking and screaming.” They have now fostered over 40 children. They both say they couldn’t have done it without the assistance of Family Resource Center.

John, a St. Louis City Firefighter, says it’s essential that both husband and wife (and their biological children) agree with the decision to be a foster family. “It can’t be one-sided. You need support from all sides.” They recall feeling overwhelmed and unsure of themselves initially, but the staff at FRC provided excellent foster care training and the couple quickly bonded with other foster parents in their classes, learning from their experience and advice.

Ideally, John and Tammy would like to see their foster children reunited with their birth families, so they encourage the parents to do everything the court requires to regain custody of their children. “Bite your lip a lot, eat a lot of crow, and don’t fight the courts,” John advises them. “The longer you fight, the longer it will be before you get your child back.”  And how does he handle the bittersweet moment when a child returns to his or her birth parents? “You never get used to it,” he says. “I cry after each kid leaves.”

The Schneidewinds are proud of  their son Jay’s indomitable spirit. John says Jay’s first wish after the surgery was to see the life-size Spider-Man in the playroom at Children’s Hospital. As soon as they could safely move him, John wheeled him in a wagon, bandages, IV pole and all, through the hospital corridors. As the parents smile at the memory, it’s clear they have found their very own superhero.