When John and Susan Jones (not their real name) exchanged marriage vows 19 years ago, they had already decided to become foster parents.
“I had previously been a foster parent and John had friends whose families were foster parents,” said Susan, 54. Her husband is 52. “Prior to getting married, we both agreed that this was something we both wanted to do together. We both have great compassion for children and want to provide a safe, healthy environment for as long as they need.”
In total, they’ve had 26 children placed in their home. They have adopted five children and have legal custody of another child in their home.
They recently were named Family of the Year by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO).
“They do not shy away from working with some of the most challenging youth, advocating for their best interests every step of the way,” states their nomination. “They truly care, encourage, support and love every child who enters their home. These children become part of their family and that bond and support never seems to end. Encouragement and support is always offered to foster placements and well into their adulthood.”
Many foster children, now adults, continue to keep in contact.
“I have maintained the same cell phone number for the last 17 years so that adult foster children know how to get in touch with us,” Susan said. “Two who are expecting children stay in regular contact with us and others contact us at least yearly to check in. We have other previous foster children who transitioned to adoptive homes – and we have been able to build friendships with their parents and have the privilege to watch them continue to grow.”
For two years, Susan has provided pre-service training to new foster and adoptive families. She has become a valuable mentor, sharing her wealth of knowledge with other foster and adoptive families.
What advice would she offer to someone considering becoming a foster parent?
“To understand that being a foster parent is both challenging and rewarding,” she said. “Get to know other foster parents so that you have additional supports. To be a great foster parent, you have to be a great team member. As foster parents we know our children the best and never stop advocating for their needs and what is in their best interest. It is also important to remember to separate our children from their behaviors. Their behaviors are their way of trying to meet a need.”
The nomination notes that the family has an 18-year-old in their home who is preparing to emancipate from agency custody. They reluctantly took the youth into their home in 2017. He had been in a residential facility and no other foster families had been found to take placement. Due to developmental delays and mental health issues, he had been aggressive. His adoptive family could no longer safely keep him at home, so he ended up in the custody of Children’s Services and was placed in residential care.
The Joneses “took him in and made him feel at home right away,” the nomination says. “In the beginning, things were a little difficult as they tried different strategies with the youth, trying to find out what worked best.”
The foster family strongly advocated for any services that might help. They worked well with all service providers. The youth was found to be on the Autism Spectrum and the family helped him work through this diagnosis.
The Joneses were welcoming to the youth’s adoptive family, who had been unable to manage him. They became close friends with the child’s uncle and adopted father. The connection worked out so well that the uncle filed to become the youth’s legal guardian and the foster family is managing the youth in the home past the age of 18. The Jones voluntarily agreed to become certified Developmental Disabilities (DD) providers to care for the youth in the home he loves.
The 18-year-old had been nicknamed Chicken Whisperer by his team. The Joneses have many animals at their home – and this youth loves the chickens and enjoys hanging out with them in the yard. Several times, the youth had run into the home carrying his chickens – and had to be redirected to take them back out. The Joneses are very patient with all the youth and take things in stride.
When he was younger, it was unclear whether he would graduate from high school. After living with the Joneses for the past three and a-half years, he went through the graduation ceremony in May. Due to Covid, the youth could only have two at the ceremony. Despite all the work the Joneses put into helping the youth graduate, they graciously let him attend with his adoptive uncle and grandfather. The family held a barbeque at their home for everyone to celebrate.
“This youth is just one of many that reside in the home,” the nomination states. “The Joneses are constantly running their mostly adopted high needs children to therapy, med/som appointments, school activities and IEP meetings. They are not ones to seek attention or accolades for what they do, but quietly and consistently go about changing the lives of so many youth.”
Susan says the support of Children’s Services helps them go about their chosen path.
“Our experience with Children’s Services has been great and the type of support offered depends on our needs and the child’s needs,” Susan said. “Our Children’s Services workers have always went above and beyond to help us during challenging times. We would like to thank Clermont Children’s Services and Child Focus for all the support that they have provided us through the years. We have been blessed with outstanding team members.”
The nomination sums it up this way: “Foster parents like the Joneses are the everyday heroes who give children the gift of safety, security, stability, nurturing and normalcy during a traumatic time in their life.”
Interested in learning more about foster care and adoption in Clermont County? Visit clermontforkids.org