It takes a special family to foster children. It is beautiful and it can also be heartbreaking. Methodist Children’s Home is blessed to have many special families who have opened their homes to children who need a safe, loving place to go as their family deals with difficult situations. Foster care is offered through MCH Family Outreach offices in Abilene, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Tyler.
On Nov. 14 in Houston, couples were honored for their dedication and service to foster children during a conference at Woodsedge Community Church in Spring, Texas. Matthew and Tonya Torkelson received an award from Orphan Care Solutions and the Texas Department of Family and Children Services for their outstanding service to children with Methodist Children’s Home.
The Torkelsons were licensed with MCH in September 2011 and received their first foster child in February 2012. Since then, they have fostered 10 children ranging in age from newborn to 14 months old. They have five children of their own: two grown sons ages 31 and 28, a 22-year old daughter in college and two younger girls, ages 9 and 11, they adopted from China.
Tonya said she had felt led to foster for years but her husband did not feel the same way. After attending a Christian music concert, Matt said he wanted to adopt children from China. They adopted two girls but Tonya still felt the calling to foster. She talked to her husband again, and he agreed to pray about it. A few months later they decided it was time to become foster parents and contacted MCH to start the process.
“It has been a pleasure working with the Torkelson family since they became licensed,” said Ramonia Ross, case manager for MCH Family Outreach in Houston. “They are so real and so genuine and the love they have for the children placed in their home is shown through the nurture and care they give to them. One of the things I admire about the Torkelsons is the respect they give to the birth parents, their nonjudgmental attitude, and their willingness to help children have a smooth transition back home, no matter how hard it is to let them go. And most importantly, I admire how Mr. and Mrs. Torkelson are so supportive of one another.”
The Torkelsons’ children have supported their parents and Tonya said the younger girls love having the babies in their home, “as they are living dolls,” she joked. They are required to attend training annually which Tonya said she enjoys.
“I’m always into learning new things and even being retaught things already learned,” she said. “I love going to the trainings as we get to be with other foster families. It’s so nice to learn and speak with others in the same boat as you. The lessons are taught by the staff so we get all that time with them as well.”
She said Ross is there to support them with whatever they need, whether it is helping them deal with insurance issues, offering them advice or just providing a listening ear.
“MCH likes to listen to you brag about the kids,” Tonya said. “They make sure we have everything we need to be the best foster parent for these babies. They answer our questions when needed. They are a shoulder to cry on when that is needed as well.”
Through foster care at MCH, family reunification is the goal when possible. Foster parents open their homes and work with the family as they work toward goals so the child can return to a safe, secure home. Tonya said the most challenging part of being a foster parent is when it is time to say goodbye.
“You can try to prepare, but it does not work,” she said. “As the seconds tick closer to the time they leave the more your heart aches. The more the world closes in. The tighter you cling. You just want to hold your little baby forever. But you can’t.
“I have adopted so I have no hang up about family needing to be blood,” Tonya added. “These little babies come into your home and you make them a part of you. They are ours for a short time. So when they go home it’s almost like a death. That’s kind of what it feels like. You will most likely never see them again and you don’t have any control over how they are being raised or how they are being loved. You just pray.”
But even knowing they may face this heartache, the Torkelsons know that the time and love they give to these children has a tremendous positive impact on the children, the family and their own family. They are led by their faith and put their trust in God.
“We do it because we are called to do it,” she said. “We do it because we love the children. We do it because these babies need a safe place to go to. We do it because it teaches our kids to love others. We do it because we hope that we are helping even just a little. We do it to try to meet the parents and try to form some sort of bond with them. We do it for God.
“People always say to us ‘I could never foster. I would get too attached,’” she continued. “I tell them if you don’t get attached, if it does not break your heart when they leave, then you’re not doing it right. Fostering is about more than you. It’s about more than how you feel. It’s about giving kids a chance at a better life. It’s about giving parents the tools they need to give it to them. It’s about family and family is messy sometimes but so worth it.
“Fostering is about showing Jesus to kids and their families, maybe for the first time in their lives,” she said. “Fostering is about learning not to judge people, loving them where they are now not where you think they should be. Fostering is beautiful and we are so blessed to be a part of it.”
To learn more about becoming a foster parent, click here and contact the nearest office in Abilene, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio or Tyler.