When UCAN honored Gerald and Carmella Childers as Foster Parents of the Year at our Appreciation & Appetizers reception on February 25, that recognition bought to life the lasting impression Carmella’s grandparents left on them by way of their selflessness in fostering youth back in the day.
“The fact that my grandparents were foster parents was always on the forefront of my mind. They wanted to help kids in need. I guess they liked the chaos in their house,” Carmella laughs. “Gerald and I also like kids’ noise and laughter so we discussed it and decided that’s what we wanted to do too.”
Now with nearly five years as foster parents under their belt – and with the ongoing support of their family – the Childers’ selfless track record since 2015 includes fostering girls: three under age five and a 7-year-old. “It’s nice to have a little girl running around. I can be a stay-at-home parent and not have to send her to daycare,” Carmella proudly adds.
Their last “little munchkin” was reunited with her family last December after spending 17 months with the Childers who provided the needed care and facilitated the therapy the girl needed. (“That was a real tough pill to swallow,” says Carmella, “but she’s growing up now with her sisters.”)
Gerald recalls: “Once the therapies were in place, she started to thrive. We watched her take her first steps and that was so rewarding. I’ve learned a lot from seeing the kids who are less fortunate than I. You treat them like they’re your own. Watching them thrive is such a rewarding experience.”
When it comes to making sure their girls in their care are well provided for, Carmella notes that “working with UCAN has been phenomenal. Any issues that we might have had were addressed and everyone we’ve worked with has been great. It’s a great agency.”
For those considering becoming a foster parent, Carmella stresses an obvious but always pertinent point: “Just because children aren’t biologically your own, don’t treat them any differently than your own because they will feel that. We think fostering young people is the most rewarding experience in the world but it can also be the most heartbreaking.”
For more information about becoming a licensed foster parent, contact MichaelAnn.Wiley@ucanchicago.org.