When I was 2 years old, my parents started taking in foster children. For me, this just became a way of life. We would have foster children coming to stay at all times of the day and night, at times waking up in the morning to three or four new kids in the house.
As I aged, I understood more about the sacrifices my parents made to be foster parents. My mom didn’t work – if she did, they wouldn’t be able to pay for childcare for the foster kids. My dad was a carpenter, and he worked extra. Yes, as foster parents, they were paid, but not nearly as much as they gave.
The foster kids were treated like their own children. They always had an equal number of Christmas presents under the tree, went to Boy Scout and Girl Scout meetings with us, etc.
At the time, I didn’t realize in full what it meant – just that my parents were doing this great thing. Now, I realize how much it actually cost them. My parents didn’t receive paid vacations, company insurance, a 401(k) or any other benefit. All the money they received went for the kids. It was more important for them to make sure all the kids received the best they could afford. This is what I learned.
A year and a half ago, I decided to adopt one of the children my parents were currently fostering. For me, the fit was right and it was a way I could give back. I have two older children – ages 24 and 28 – and I decided to start all over again.
My new daughter is now 3 years old. She is a medically complex child. She has a chromosome deletion (a genetic condition), and has been diagnosed with failure to thrive, which means she had difficulty gaining weight. (She finally weighs 26 pounds!) She is also non-mobile, is non-verbal, has a lazy eye that will require surgery and has cortical visual impairment (CVI).
CVI means that she is legally blind. I have been working with Perkins School for the Blind through their Infant-Toddler program, along with Early Intervention services, as well as with speech, physical and occupational therapists through local agencies.
Perkins has had a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) visit with us at our home, and they help us develop ways to utilize the vision my daughter has and strengthen it. They made an accessible chair and table for her, at no cost to the family. They brought equipment to our home to see if it would benefit my daughter – right now we are trying to get the insurance company to cover the LightAide device after seeing how well she responded to it.
Recently, the company I work for – Sybase in Burlington, Massachusetts – had a volunteer opportunity I wanted to wholeheartedly participate in. There are many volunteer options for employees to choose from, but this one hit close to my heart. It was to help out at the Taste of Perkins, a fundraising event where guests sample food and wine while blindfolded. I had done this before, but this year meant so much more to me. This year, I was able to give back to Perkins – a place that has given me so much!
My daughter and I will have long roads to travel, and, like my parents, I will provide for her the best that I can afford.
And like my parents, I hope I impart to my little girl a loving and giving attitude. I want her to learn that giving doesn’t mean opening your wallet all the time. When you can do that, it’s wonderful. But it also means giving of yourself. That can mean so much more. It means you care enough to sacrifice your valuable time for someone else.
I also hope my daughter learns inclusion through this. My children have opened their arms to their new sister and don’t see all that she is not able to do – they see all the progress she has made and what she can do. She is unique, but she still fits in.
Lucinda Hickey is a senior operations specialist at Sybase (a subsidiary of SAP), which produces software to manage and analyze information in relational databases.