Roxanne and Stanley never considered being foster parents but were inspired when Roxanne’s brother and wife needed help caring for two foster boys in their home. Roxanne and Stanley took the necessary classes to become certified foster parents and were able to provide that care. After a positive experience, Roxanne and Stanley started doing respite foster care for families who needed a break on the weekends.
When Nexus-Woodbourne’s Foster Treatment Program reached out to Roxanne and Stanley to be full-time foster parents in 2016, they agreed. Their first youth, an 11-year-old boy, was placed in their care. He had been in and out of foster care homes and was constantly acting out as a means of self-preservation. “He was so withdrawn, wouldn’t play, wouldn’t talk to anybody,” said Roxanne, “So my husband said, ‘Let’s pick him’.” It was a slow process to get this distrustful 11-year-old in their house full time. He was resistant to Roxanne and Stanley because of his previous traumas with adults and gave as much “trouble” as he could to protect himself from further rejection.
“He’d say, ‘I want to go back’ and I’d say “You’re not going back. I am not giving up on you, this is your last stop.” Thanks to Roxanne and Stanley’s patience and persistence, the now 17-year-old is in his Navy ROTC program with his high school and is preparing to graduate.
In November 2020, Nexus-Woodbourne Clinical Supervisor Monique Fulton reached out to Roxanne and Stanley to see if they could take another youth who needed a new foster home immediately. They said yes and welcomed Josh the very next day.
At thirteen, Josh was withdrawn and shy, traumatized from his past. He struggled to say simple greetings like “good night” or “good morning” to the family. Roxanne and her husband were very patient with him, and to break that barrier, Roxanne finally sat Josh down and directly asked him why he couldn’t say goodnight to everyone. He simply responded, “I don’t know.”
“I told him, ‘This is a family unit, we don’t live like that,’ and I let him come around. Every night we’d say goodnight to him…I told him to just give saying goodnight a try, you might feel good.”
Josh gave it a try. Then Roxanne did a bit more, giving him a hug, saying “good night, I love you,” urging him to try saying that as well.
“I said, ‘Just give it a try,’ and then he hugged me back. I asked him, ‘now don’t you feel good?’ and he started smiling and said yes it did,” said Roxanne. Roxanne reflects on her and Stanley’s approach to foster care, “Just have conversations with the kids, they are looking for someone to love them, to make them feel like they belong, to be a part of a family. I’d tell them, ‘I’m Aunt Roxy – I’m not your ‘foster parent’, I’m your family and we love you. When this is over, I’m still going to be there for you.’”
Josh has changed tremendously in his three years with Roxanne and Stanley. “He was so timid and shy at first,” Monique shares, “He was so scared…it makes me cry to think about it. Now he’s like a whole new kid.”
Besides honest conversations, Roxanne and Stanley take Josh to see his birth mother themselves, which is normally a job social workers do. This helps him feel safe and secure, knowing he truly is part of the family and he can depend on them.
In August 2022, Roxanne and Stanley became legal guardians of Josh. Today, Josh is a 16-year-old honor roll student, excelling in extracurricular activities, thriving socially and emotionally with peers and family, and maintaining a healthy relationship with his birth mom. And best of all, Josh found his forever home. “He came in smiling ear-to-ear when it was finalized,” said Roxanne, “he kept going ‘okay mom, bye dad’, and now he won’t stop talking!”
An Honest Approach to Foster Care
Roxanne and Stanley take a direct approach in all aspects of being a foster parent. They openly communicate with the boys, asking them tough questions, unafraid of the raw and honest answers. Because of this unflinching honesty, Roxanne and Stanley can help Josh navigate his relationship with his biological mother, and the tough and mixed feelings that come with accepting that he will never live with her again.
“Children understand better than adults” she said, “They just need things explained to them. Josh understands that he can’t go back home. When children have that false hope of going back home, they’re still holding onto that idea, and that’s why they can’t succeed. But when you tell them the truth, it helps them so they can let go of that pain and move on with their lives.”
“My advice for any foster parent who is helping youth maintain a relationship with their biological parents: you’ve got to have that communication. The biological parent is already feeling like they’re missing out on their child…and you have their child in your home who you are raising – why not get to know the biological parent?”
It Takes a Village
Roxanne and Stanley work closely with Nexus-Woodbourne's Treatment Foster Care program to ensure they provide trauma-informed care for youth in their home. Monique and her staff work with families to make sure each youth receives the therapy they need to heal and provides in-home support with weekly visits and check-ins in the family environment to help facilitate relationship building.
Roxanne always felt comfortable communicating with Monique when she needed help, and Monique trusted Roxanne’s process and gave her the space she needed. On working with Roxanne, Monique said, “She truly understands meeting kids where they are. She’s so patient and she talks it through, good, bad, or indifferent, and creates a safe space them to talk and process their feelings.”
“Whatever we needed, they were willing to help,” said Roxanne on her partnership with Nexus-Woodbourne. “If the boys needed to go to appointments, they were able to pick them up and take them…they are awesome”.
“It’s rewarding” Roxanne said. “When we look back at the outcome, at what my husband and I have been able to do, we helped them to overcome with a lot of challenges, and it’s rewarding.”