Foster Parents Show Love; Model Family Support
With more than 18,000 children in Illinois in foster care, foster parents Mandi and Roberto Garcia of Rockford saw the need.
"When I saw the number of children who need stability and love, I thought, 'This is what we're called to do,'" said Mandi.
The Garcias have been foster parents for over four years, adopting two children and supporting biological parents in being reunified with their children. "We are the bridge between the foster care system, the children, and the biological parents," Mandi said.
LSSI is the largest provider of foster care in the state, caring for 12% of children under the guardianship of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. There are currently 653 LSSI-supervised Licensed Foster Homes. The goal of foster care is always reunification with biological parents. Children can become available for adoption if they cannot be safely reunified or if parental rights are surrendered.
"Whatever child comes into our home, they stay in our home until they become adoptable or are reunited with their families," Mandi said. "It's all about making them a part of your family for however long you have them."
Foster families like the Garcias are supported in their calling by LSSI's child welfare staff. When the Garcias adopted their second child through foster care on National Adoption Day in 2019, Child Welfare Specialist Amanda Paul was there with them. Paul herself was celebrating the 100th adoption she had helped see to fruition. "Amanda was so reassuring and encouraging," Mandi Garcia said.
National Adoption Day, November 21, 2020, is a collective effort to raise awareness of the more than 120,000 children waiting to be adopted from foster care in the United States.
"The kids want to belong to someone," Mandi said. "We love them unconditionally."