Joys Outweigh Challenges for Brevard Foster Parents

Devereux Florida Success Story: The Ericksons

When Vicki Erickson joined Devereux Florida’s foster parent program seven years ago, it was simply to provide respite care for her sister’s foster children. At the time, she never imagined becoming a full-time foster parent herself. But when she and her husband Terry spent time with the children and young adults under their care, they found themselves unexpectedly hooked on the experience.

“We realized how much we enjoyed helping kids and providing them with a safe, nurturing home,” Vicki says. “Though they all had unique situations and challenges, we were able to help each of them grow in ability and independence. It felt so good to see the positive difference we were making.”

Vicki and Terry began fostering on their own, accepting the rewards and challenges of caring for young adults as part of the Devereux Family Care Program, a program that provides children and young adults who are intellectually/developmentally disabled an opportunity to reside in a family environment, as opposed to residential treatment and group homes.

With the joys of progress came the frustrations of obstacles, such as learning to balance their young adult clients’ capabilities with their right to privacy and individual needs. But when things got hard, Vicki and Terry took time out to relish the lighter side of foster parent life.

One of her fondest memories was made when the couple attempted to teach two young adults under their care how to cook. In their quest to make dinner for the first time, the novice chefs chose a casserole recipe and flatly refused any help from their caregivers. As the pair began to follow the recipe’s directions, Vicki and Terry found a hiding place where they could observe.

“They were so determined to cook dinner by themselves, they didn’t think through the details,” Vicki recalls, laughing. “When the recipe instructed them to ‘put the noodles into the pan,’ they did it … without cooking them!”

After mixing the uncooked pasta with other ingredients and baking the whole dish in the oven, the guys sat down to a particularly crunchy casserole dinner. As they munched on their crispy cuisine, Vicki and Terry appeared and asked how it tasted. The pair assured them it was “wonderful,” until Vicki asked if they’d mind having it again as leftovers the next night. At that idea, the guys gulped and conceded, “Well, maybe it isn’t that good … guess we should have asked for help!”

For Vicki, moments like these offset the tough times and stress of foster parenting. Having made it through the licensing procedures, which she feels is the most challenging aspect of the program, Vicki encourages future foster parents to be optimistic as they navigate the sometimes arduous process. For her, it’s all worth it.

“It isn’t easy to get started, but you just have to hang in there,” Vicki explains. “The licensing process seemed intrusive to me, until I realized the Devereux folks were just doing their job to ensure the safety and well-being of our clients.”

“The result is well worth the struggle. And at the end of the day, I know Devereux offers a fantastic support system for foster parents,” she adds. “If I need help anytime – day or night – it’s there for me. I know I’m not going this road alone … and that makes all the difference.”