Fostering From A Dad's Perspective
SAFY Voices Podcast | E1: Foster Care Month Jeff Crawford
00:00:00 Speaker 1: Kelly Hackworth, SAFY’s Director of Communications
May is National Foster Care month and while at SAFY, we celebrate our amazing foster parents, all year long. We are excited to take advantage of this special month to highlight the life-changing work, foster parents do and spread the word about the continued need for foster families throughout the U.S. In our seven operating states, we work with more than 3,000 foster families. These families are the lifeblood of what we do at SAFY. As they open their hearts and homes to children, experiencing foster care, helping them heal overcome trauma and reach their full potential. I’m Kelly Hackworth SAFY’s Director of Communications, and I’m joined today by Jeff Crawford, one of SAFY’s national board members and a foster dad himself. Jeff, I’m so excited to talk to you today about your experience as a foster parent and why foster families play such an important role in communities everywhere. Let’s get right to it.
00:01:13 Speaker 1: Kelly Hackworth
Tell us about your journey to becoming a foster parent. What inspired you and your family to become a foster family?
00:01:22 Speaker 2: Jeff Crawford
Well, thank you Kelly for having me. I think my journey as a foster parent started way back when my wife and I decided to have children. I knew I always wanted to take care of kids. I always wanted to make sure they had food on the table, clothing, that they were taken care of. I think some people are cut out to be a lot of different things. I think I’m cut out to be a dad, my wife, and I between the both of us, we have eight kids. And when they were all grown up, I I said, you know, I’ve always wanted to be a foster dad and my wife said me too, I want to be a foster mom. We talked about it and looked into a couple things. I am a funeral director, and I was taking care of a family that happened to be at that time, a board member on SAFY, and his kids went to school with my kids, and we got talking and he told me about SAFY. I came home and I said, I think this is an omen. I think this is telling me and you that we need to be foster parents. There’re so many kids out there that help and make a little better life, even if it’s, you know, to give them a step up. And I think that’s what really brought us into the into the foster care because we care about kids.
00:02:49 Speaker 1: Kelly Hackworth
How many children have you fostered, over the years?
"They steal your heart."
00:02:53 Speaker 2: Jeff Crawford
We’ve had seventeen foster children in the last just a little over seven years. We never went into being a foster parent thinking we would adopt kids. But guess what– This past year we adopted three foster daughters. We had a daughter we’ve had since she was ten, she’s fifteen now that was up for adoption, and we said, we’re not going to put her back into the system. She’s part of our family. We had a little girl that came into our care when she was four. When she was eight, she came up for adoption. And again, we decided not to put her back into the system. Although I do believe that Savannah thought she already was adopted after that length of time, Savannah had a sister who was fourteen and came into our home. When she came to us, she had been in seventeen different schools. She’s now seventeen soon to be eighteen and we adopted her. So, in the last year, we became parents of three daughters; right now, they are seventeen, fifteen and nine. I never would have thought we would ever do that, but it’s just, you know, they steal your heart. I can’t tell you any other difference, it’s just that it’s a joy to have them.
00:04:25 Speaker 1: Kelly Hackworth
What are some of the most rewarding parts about being a foster parent?
00:04:30 Speaker 2: Jeff Crawford
Well, I’ve got a couple, I remember one time, my little girl that we adopted when she was about five, crawled up on my lap and I said, you know, I really love you. And she goes, I love you, too, Dad. She paused for a minute and she said, but you know, I really love Mom. And I said, that’s okay, you know, it’s amazing. The bonding you do with these kids is just so rewarding. The other thing that has been rewarding for me, my oldest son and I have another daughter who is a Victims Assistance Advocate for the police department and they both gave us advice when we decided to be foster parents. First bit of advice they gave us was, after your foster kids leave your home, try to keep in touch with them because even if they leave your home, it’s nice for them to know that you’re still there. The second bit of advice, was my oldest daughter said, just remember, Dad, you can’t change the world, but she said, I can tell you, you’ll change their world for a while. She said whether it’s two years after they leave, six days after they leave, or eight years after they leave they’re one day going to wake up and go, what a great time at the Crawford’s. And believe this or not, I never believed her. And one day I was at work and I get a text, and it was at one of our former foster daughters and she said, you might not remember me, but thank you. I get home and I tell my wife that. At 10 o’clock at night we’re getting ready to go to bed, my phone beeps, it’s another foster daughter– same day and they were never together at our home, she called and said the same thing. So, you just know you’ve touched their lives and that’s a joy.
00:06:37 Speaker 1: Kelly Hackworth
Absolutely. What would you say are some of the challenges and how does SAFY equip foster parents with the tools to provide the best care for the children experiencing foster care in your home?
00:06:52 Speaker 2: Jeff Crawford
Well, I think this is why I really admire SAFY, and why I probably talk about SAFY just about everywhere I go is because they have such a support system. You know, we can call them, really anytime the day or night, it seems like if we have a question, and we don’t have to do it very often but we do know that they are there for us. I think when you first start into being a foster parent you know you have some hesitancy about, well what happens if this, you know, if there’s a problem arises or anything. I think that it is just a real confidence builder when you know, they’re right there behind you and they’re on your side. I just I can’t say enough about SAFY, you know, we’ve had to call them to come out, because again, there’s a lot of trauma these kids have went through. They just have such a great support system, even with COVID, they would just be at our front door and talk to the kids. They brought projects and things for the kids to do when everybody was at home and couldn’t go out. They really respect the whole family dynamic, and I think that’s important. And I would never pick another foster agency to work with now that I know what SAFY offers.
00:08:27 Speaker 1: Kelly Hackworth
That’s great to hear. What are some of the misconceptions people might have about foster care or the children experiencing foster care?
"I have never, ever had a child in my care because of anything they did wrong."
00:08:37 Speaker 2: Jeff Crawford
Well, I think and if there’s other foster parents probably be listening to this too and they’ll probably agree with me, when people find out that I’m a foster dad, the conversation goes something like this: “I don’t know if I could do that because, you know, I had a friends, neighbors, uncles, brothers, cousins who did it and they had nothing but problems.” And I say to them, I’ve been a foster parent now going on eight years, and I have never, ever had a child in my care because of anything they did wrong that caused them to come into our care. It was always something that they were having to live with and trying to take care of themselves because the parents were out doing something else.
So, I think the misconception is every foster kid is going to come in and cause you a problem. Like I said earlier, we originally opted to just take care of teenagers. Are there problems with teenagers? You betcha. We’ve raised eight teenagers that were our biological children. Do teenagers have problems, emotional problems, and things? I don’t care if their biological or if their foster– yeah, they’re going through a lot when they’re 13 to 18. That’s a misconception I think most people have. The other misconception I think people have about being a foster parent is that you have to jump right in with both feet. You’ve got to become a foster parent, 24/7, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s obviously something that is rewarding, but if you want to just get your feet wet and say, what’s it like to be a foster parent, we can use respite foster parents to give a break to the foster parents that do have children, 24/7. Give them just a couple hours to go out by themselves or maybe a weekend to get away. So, there’s a lot of other options for being foster parents other than saying, I’m going to be obligated now. If I don’t like it, then I’m going to be stuck because that’s not the case at all. So, I think those are a couple misconceptions.
00:11:12 Speaker 1: Kelly Hackworth
And what would you say to someone who might be considering becoming a licensed foster parent?
00:11:19 Speaker 2: Jeff Crawford
I would say whatever time, investment, whatever you do the training will come back and it’s going to be a rewarding experience, a hundred times more than what you had to do to become a foster parent. When we sit down and we have foster kids the DCS worker will say, they’ve never bonded with anybody or they never had a commitment. Within two or three weeks and we never tell our foster kids to call us mom and dad, when we introduce ourselves, we’re Jeff and Pam. We’re not trying to replace them and be a parent but nine times out of ten within a couple weeks out of the clear blue all of the sudden I’m being called Dad and Pam’s being called Mom. I remember one child in particular, a little girl who had never bonded with anybody. She was with us about two weeks and I heard her screaming upstairs, “Dad, dad, dad, dad!” I’m honestly thinking she’s having a flashback and I walk up to see what’s wrong. She’s calling for me because her big sisters were picking on her. It’s just those kinds of things, you’re touching their lives. Right now, I’m teaching my foster daughter that we adopted, she’s 17, I’ve been teaching her to drive. I’ve had other foster daughters get their permits and I go out and try to teach him to drive. Try to make them just like everybody else out there. So yeah, there’s so many rewards that I can’t even begin to tell you how my life has been changed by being a foster parent.
00:13:17 Speaker 1: Kelly Hackworth
Thank you so much for sharing with us today, Jeff. If you would like to learn more about becoming a foster parent, visit https://safy.org/become-a-foster-parent/