Each calendar month calls for public awareness of an issue affecting the lives of a particular demographic: October for Breast Cancer Awareness; January for Mental Wellness; March for Nutrition. During the month of May, we recognize the families, caregivers and volunteers who dedicate their time to improving the lives of – and ensuring a brighter future for – the more than 400,000 children in foster care across the country.
In Arizona alone, the demand for foster placement significantly exceeds the number of licensed families, with only 3500 certified homes available in 2016 for 19,000 children. This alarming fact, and a desire to provide a stable, loving home for children in need, prompted Jamie and Robert Villa of Phoenix to become foster parents.
“Throughout all of my adult life I have committed myself to helping children,” shared Robert, a Principal at a local junior high / high school. “I spent the first 12 years of my career in education working with at-risk students.”
Already parents to Gabriel , 12, and Alyssa, 10, the Villas had planned to have more children. But a breast cancer diagnosis (now in remission) put Jamie at high-risk for reoccurrence if she were to get pregnant. Still, the Villas were determined to grow their family.
“We both come from large families and wanted our children to have the experience of having another sibling,” said Jamie. “We felt that fostering/adopting was our destiny, our silver lining in the cancer story of our life.”
Since November of 2015, the Villas have fostered 4 children at separate times, keeping a child for two days or two weeks – whatever the need may be. Their current foster daughter has been with their family for 16 months, and although they do not know what the future holds, they have faith that things will work out the way they are supposed to.
The process to become foster certified in Arizona is a lengthy one. The Villas selected Arizona Children’s Association, a licensing agency, to assist with the requisite background checks, gathering of references and completion of a 10-week certification course.
“We were impressed with the services, support, and staff that Arizona Children’s Association offered,” said Jamie. “It took a great deal of time, organization, and communication. Knowing this part of the process is completely necessary, and serves a very big purpose, kept us motivated to get everything completed.”
Jamie admits the hardest part of fostering a child is having to say goodbye. So what makes it worthwhile to open their home again? “Being told thank you from the bio parents and extended family for the home we are providing to our baby/their baby,” she explains. “They are kind and receptive to us, despite the complexity of the situation.”
“It is difficult to process the heartache that foster parents feel when a child leaves their home,” said Robert. “But a loving home, even for a short time, can make a substantial difference in that child’s life.”
To learn more about becoming a foster parent in Arizona, visit Arizona Department of Child Safety website.
Written by: Jodi Hale
Jodi Hale is an editorial/advertising assistant for North Phoenix Family Magazine as well as a freelance writer. The mother of three amazing boys ages 7, 13 and 15, she has served on the PTA board of their school for more than 7 years, collaborating with teachers, staff and community members to enrich the learning environment for all students through positive and engaging educational experiences. Jodi also volunteers as a public relations specialist for Musical Theatre of Anthem, promoting the theater’s year-round training opportunities and award-winning productions. She loves reading, free-hand drawing, creating props, and raising her boys to embrace life with purpose.