On this week’s Facebook Live, Dennis Berry joined Ann Book, the CALL’s NWA County Coordinator, to discuss his family’s experience opening their home to foster children. Dennis is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the CALL’s statewide office in Little Rock and has over a decade of experience fostering more than 120 children with his wife.
Dennis and his wife opened their home in 2008 after a difficult extended family situation brought social work and foster care to their attention. The couple lived in Cabot at the time, and they welcomed nearly 30 children into their home before moving to Louisiana and taking a sabbatical from foster care in 2010. In 2016, the Berry’s moved back to Arkansas, and they quickly opened their new home in Hot Springs to foster children.
Providing New Experiences for Children
One of Dennis’s favorite things about fostering children has been guiding them through new life experiences. When his family lived in Cabot, they had a hobby farm with chickens, ducks, horses, donkeys, and several other animals. This provided plenty of opportunities for the kids to learn about and play with animals that they would otherwise have limited exposure to. Similarly, he’d take them to play in the creek and walk across beaver dams, watching as their understanding of the world grew.
More recently, Dennis had the opportunity to experience this on Christmas morning when one of his placements had never opened a Christmas gift before. Dennis said he cherished the opportunity to provide the boy with a new experience and explain why the Berry’s rejoice on Christmas morning.
While fostering allows us to provide new experiences for foster children, it also gives many of our biological children the opportunity to learn and grow their worldview. They get to learn about the nuance of relationships and how some people grow up with different opportunities than they are accustomed to.
What People Need to Know about Foster Care
Foster care often comes with stereotypes—many of them being negative, and Dennis wishes more people could understand the truth. Yes, some challenges accompany opening your home for fostering, but the good regularly outweighs the bad.
We open our homes because we want to provide a safe, loving, and caring home for them while they are in foster care. Opening our homes and our hearts means we are destined to feel pain along the way, but we always root for our foster children to be reunited with their biological families. While it is sad to say goodbye to a child, it is ultimately a wonderful experience seeing them reunite with their birth family or move on to a forever family.
Along these lines, we don’t merely hope for the child to succeed—we also root for their biological families. We want them to get better so that they can reunite with their child—we are constantly cheering for them!