I can’t speak highly enough of our ZOE Children’s Homes parents. This dedicated team faces challenges that many of us would back away from or simply deem as being “too hard,” but not them.
When a situation occurs that requires an effort above and beyond the ordinary, these parents rise and show their unconditional love in a way that would bring tears to your eyes. Without any biological ties to the children they are raising, these parents certainly do it in a selfless manner.
There is not a lot of training that can really prepare you for helping to rehabilitate a vulnerable child who has suffered atrocities too terrible to even speak about, the orphan who just lost both her parents or the small child neglected and left to fend for himself.
And yet these parents do it every day. Their skills are mostly learned through the daily sharing of knowledge and the on-the-job experiences of raising children like this since 2002.
Having been a parent myself for over 6 years (and a foster parent for a few years prior to that), I have realized that parenting is by far both the most difficult and the most rewarding job I will ever have (and I haven’t even reached the teenage stage yet!).
Being a parent means that you are one of, if not the, most important influence in your child’s world and your actions can have a major impact on their health, well-being and development.
For young children, who are completely dependent on someone else to look after them, having warm and nurturing care provides a firm foundation for their future years.
When my husband and I were first married, we became foster parents, which saw our “family” temporarily increase and decrease frequently. We continued foster care when we had two small children of our own and many times we’d increase to 5 children for the weekend or for a two-week stint. It wasn’t “normal” as far as what our friends were doing, but it worked.
At the ZOE Children’s Homes, we have a fairly unique situation where 23 parents care for over 60 children divided into smaller family groupings. Assisting the parents we also have a support team consisting of many administration staff, guards, teachers, cooks, ministry school students and foreign volunteers.
Our ZOE parents are a mix of ages and backgrounds. Some are married, some single, some have their own biological children, some do not, some have a tertiary education, some never finished high school but all of them possess some key similarities. They are all committed. They are all accepting, sensitive, loving, concerned and involved in the children’s lives.
And they are all making a difference.
There is no one recipe or set of ingredients that make for “good parenting.” Many combinations, flavors and approaches can be used. At ZOE, effective parenting means continually updating skills, learning new practices and adapting to the changing dynamics of the family. ZOE provides weekly meetings and training to all parents with opportunities to develop parenting knowledge, skills and confidence, and provides access to professional advice and support.
While the children at ZOE are placed in a family, which is chosen to best suit their individual needs, the home really thrives on the “community” approach to raising a child. It’s a community that shares, celebrates and supports one another wholeheartedly. And, it only takes a small crisis to see how everyone rallies around to alleviate the impact and work through the temporary challenge together.
What a privilege it is to be around this amazing group of people. To see young lives restored and transformed to become happy, healthy and thriving children through the ongoing love and care by this committed team.
To the ZOE parents, you are so capable, strong, engaged and resilient… In a word, you are simply outstanding!