Seven years ago, life took an unexpected—and profoundly gratifying—turn for Brian Hill of Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers. That year, he and his partner decided they wanted to grow their family through private adoption. But Hill says their plans changed when a coworker shared her experience as a foster parent. “After several intriguing conversations, we decided to give fostering a try,” he said.
Not long after, Hill and his partner signed up to become foster parents. The process, which he notes has changed a bit over the years, was more fluid than he had anticipated. “There are informational meetings where you can ask questions and get real answers from real foster parents. Once you are ready, there’s a training program to complete—both in classroom and at home,” he explained. “Foster parents need to pass a criminal background check—and every six months thereafter—and a TB test. After all of that is done, your license is issued. To renew your license, foster parents need to complete annual training program(s) of their choice. It’s not a significant time commitment and it’s a good way to share best practices.”
Since receiving his license seven years ago, Hill has welcomed eight children into his home. “We typically take school-aged children, as we both work and we all know how challenging it is to find daycare on the island,” he said. “The youngest child that we’ve cared for was four years old and the oldest child was 16 years old.”
Looking back now, Hill says he and his partner never expected foster parenting to be this rewarding. “We are both so happy we decided to try it,” he said. “We love being foster parents and it’s a really good fit for us.”
According to Adopt US Kids (a project of the U.S. Children’s Bureau that helps connect children in foster care with families), there are currently 2,766 children in foster care in the state of Hawaii; 878 of those children are waiting for adoptive families. All children in foster care are from a diversity of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and many are part of a sibling group.
The first two children placed in Hill’s home were siblings: a 12-year-old boy and his 4-year-old brother. When he first arrived, the older child had significant behavior problems and was performing poorly in school, Hill said. “Fast forward roughly nine months later when they went back to their family and that boy was getting As and Bs, learned ways to control his emotions, improved his social skills and was overall a much happier child,” he said. “That child recently reached out to me to share his college acceptance letter. We are so proud of him and all that he has accomplished.”
Hill says people frequently ask him: “Is it hard when they leave you and are reunified with their family?”
“No,” he said. “You have to go into this understanding that the goal is reunification. It’s a positive outcome when their family can resolve or manage the issues that brought them into the system. That may mean an addict getting sober, a homeless family providing an appropriate home or a mentally ill parent finally getting the help they’ve needed. Those are all positive outcomes for the children and our community.”
With that in mind, Hill said he hopes his story will inspire others to consider signing up to be a foster parent. “If you have the space in your heart and your home, it can be a genuinely rewarding experience,” Hill said. “Please understand that children coming into the foster care system are in the system because of abuse, neglect and/or abandonment. They’ve had a rough start in life and they won’t be perfect—but really, who is?”
Hill says there’s a secret recipe for foster parenting and there are three main ingredients. “Stability, consistency and unconditional love,” he said. “Every child has right to those basic needs.”
To learn more about fostering and adoption in Hawaii or for more information about foster and adoption licensing requirements, visit www.adoptuskids.org/for-families/state-adoption-and-foster-care-information/hawaii.
By Sarah Ruppenthal
The Maui News – March 18, 2017