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  • Parenting can be a lonely job. What helps is having a community who cheers and listens without judgment. And that's what our "Real Parenting" section is for: a space where parents can share the joys, pain and the mess that is parenthood.
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of Hanna Pacua

    I’m an only child. I remember that as early as 3 years old, I was already begging my mom and dad for a baby sister. My wish finally came true when I was 12 years old.

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    I clearly remember that day. I just got home from school. My mom led me to a crib and introduced me to a sleeping baby girl. “Her name is Mary, she’s 2 years old. She will stay with us for a while,” my mom said softly.

    I stared at little Mary and gently touched her delicate hands and feet. “Wait, mommy,” I asked, “We really don’t get to keep her?” My mom shook her head and confirmed, “Only for a while until she finds a more permanent family.” Sure enough, Mary left our home two months later to join her new family in Chicago.

    Mary was soon replaced with Carlo, and then Ronald, Corazon, MG, Mark, Mikay, Ferdinand, Anthony, Rachelle, Irene...and so on. The children came and went, leaving behind soiled sheets, well-loved toys, and permanent footprints in our hearts.

    Yes, I am an only child, yet I can say that I have brothers and sisters all over the world because my mom and dad opened up their hearts and home to children who needed families by becoming a licensed foster family.

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    Foster family care is more than just providing a child food, clothes, and shelter

    Foster care is temporary care provided by a foster family to kids left abandoned by unwed mothers or due to broken homes, abuse, and extreme poverty, among others. It can either be for a short-term (less than six months) or long-term (six months or more). The goal remains the same: to reunite the child with his biological family or place him in a more permanent adoptive home.

    The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or an accredited non-profit organization (NGO) facilitates placing a child with a licensed foster family. Families wanting to foster kids are thoroughly evaluated. Social workers conduct in-depth background checks and home studies to determine the capability of these families to “provide temporary care for one or more children not related to them.” Then, there are also strict guidelines to be followed before a child is entrusted to them.

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    A foster family has to meet a child's physical, emotional, social, as well as their spiritual needs and committing to treating the child as they would their own child. Foster care goes beyond providing food, shelter, or clothing. It allows the child to feel the love of a family, to recognize the positive roles of a father, a mother, siblings, and other members of the household.

    Fostering kids opens a loving home to more children, touching and changing more lives

    When my parents, Ross and Marlyn Fernando, first heard of foster care, they were immediately interested in the prospect. After they had me, my mom and dad had difficulty conceiving. After a few years, they wanted to share their love with other kids. “Through foster care, in our simplest way, we were able to let kids experience having a real family, even if it was just temporary,” my mom Marlyn said.

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    “Why not just adopt?” some people asked my parents. “Adoption is a long-term commitment,” my mom replied, “We felt we were not ready for that. Through foster care, we can open our home to more kids and affect more lives. The more, the merrier!” she added.

    “Through foster care, in our simplest way, we were able to let kids experience having a real family, even if it was just temporary.”

    They explained foster care to the rest of the household, including our helpers and the extended family. After going through the long process of acquiring a foster family license, we were all set to welcome our little visitors.

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    For more than 12 years, this was my mom and dad’s advocacy, and they hope to see more families step up to the challenge of becoming foster parents. Our family took care of one child at a time, and they stayed with us for as short as three weeks to as long as four years.

    Some of the kids, now teenagers and adults, and their families kept in touch with us through the years. A few years back, I had the privilege to visit one of my foster brothers, MG (who goes by the name Michael now) and his adoptive family in Belgium.

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    Hanna's foster brother MG stayed with them for at least three years. He's now with his adoptive family in Belgium.
    PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNA PACUA
    The author's foster sister, Rachelle, wrote the caption for a photo of the two of them taken in Tagaytay back in 1999.
    PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNA PACUA
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    Hanna's foster sister Rachelle now lives in Canada and has a family of her own.
    PHOTO COURTESY OF HANNA PACUA

    My foster sister, Rachelle, who stayed with us for almost four years, was adopted by a Canadian couple and now has a family of her own there. My foster brother, Danny, who left our home for Chicago when he was a tiny baby, visited us together with his mom, dad, and sister when he turned 18!

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    As I look back fondly to being part of a foster family, inviting children into our home to share the love and attention was one of the best ideas my parents ever had. I admired their commitment to becoming parents to kids who were not their own. After all, providing foster care is not merely dropping loose change in coin banks or making that annual trip to the orphanage. They were in it for the long haul – present when the kids were sick, and even getting called in by teachers when the older kids got in trouble at school!

    Hanna Fernando-Pacua is the only child of Ross and Marlyn Fernando, who were licensed foster parents for 12 years. Now 37 years old with a young family of her own, Hanna hopes she could also share her family when her kids are a bit older.

    For more about foster care and being a foster family, visit The Parenting Foundation of the Philippines or follow them on Facebook/ParentingFoundationPhil.

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