Interview with Lisa Lester, former Ryther therapeutic foster parent

family editedHow did you learn about Ryther?

I actually started working in the Cottages in 2001.  I worked in Cottage D until 2004. I enjoyed my work there even though it was probably the hardest job I’ve ever done.  But it was also my favorite job – honestly.  The kids were great.  They had baggage and they had tough times and they acted out.  But they didn’t always act out.  They were just normal kids that you could do fun stuff with and hang out, so the majority of the time it was really enjoyable.

 Why did you decide to open your home to a Ryther child?

Just working there I saw the need for that, and I thought we could fill it.  I thought it would be doing respite care when we began.  And so we got licensed through Ryther.  I knew the TFC person who ran the program at the time, and she would always say, ‘Hey, we have this kid, we have this kid.’  And then finally Dasia came along and she’s like, ‘We have this kid, really.  You’ve got to come see her.  You know, I really think she’d be a great fit for your family.’  So we said, ‘OK, well . . . we’ll go.’  And it ended up she was! So she was right.

 How did you get to meet Dasia?

It was more observing than an introduction.  We went to the Cottage and we watched her play. We didn’t get to meet her at that point.  We could tell just what a cool kid she was. It wasn’t too long after that we decided that that we could do this, and so we did!

What is she like?

She is incredibly artistic.  She’s very resilient and very resourceful.  She’s really smart.  She’s incredibly athletic.  She has so many strengths.

How did Ryther help?

Ryther was incredibly helpful.  Our caseworker was great.  Our case aide was great.  Anytime I had a question I could call and they would help me.  They were there at least once a week, and then we’d have case aide time.  If you’re going to do foster care you should do it through an agency like Ryther.  That’s what I tell friends who are interested because there’s so much support there and it was so valuable.  They were so valuable.

 What were some of the biggest issues early on?

Dasia was an eight-year-old coming into our home, having had nine prior placements. That was probably the most difficult part for us – the attachment issues that we had to deal with.  You’ve got to give them time to build trust. Being able to have her go through therapy was pivotal for her being successful in our home.  And for us to have the support we had from Ryther was instrumental, because there were days when it was stressful.  They were always there to listen and to help.

 What was Dasia like when she first came to your home?

I would say she was pretty socially awkward. She had never lived anywhere for more than a year. She didn’t have an opportunity to make friends or learn how to be a friend so we decided to get her into sports. She met some kids and that worked out really well. Now she’s got tons of friends on her softball team.

What do you think Dasia would say about what she’s gained?

She’s gained a sister and she’s gained a home that can give her stability and can nurture her. We are excited it worked out so well.  You don’t know what’s going to happen really, but certainly with the help of Ryther, and Dasia being as resilient as she is and as strong as she is, it’s worked out really well.

Why should someone consider taking a Ryther child into their home? Here is what Dasia had to say:

“If you put forth an effort to help them, I feel like they can do really well in life. But the longer you wait, the harder it gets because they’re older and they try to make their own decisions but they haven’t been taught how to make those decisions.

I came to this home when I was eight and I learned a lot and I’m really successful in school, and in sports, and I’m able to make a lot of friends. And so I feel like if other kids got that opportunity then they could do as well as I am doing.”

 

 

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What the Research Really Says

The other day I happened across a broadcast of a presentation by Dee Wilson, one of the field’s best minds. During the Q&A, an audience member asked the question as to why would the system continue to place children in foster care when the research shows that kids coming out of foster care fare so much worse later on than those kids who stayed at home. Mr. Wilson answered very carefully and diplomatically by pointing out that almost by definition, the kids who do get sent to foster care typically have more serious problems than those who stay in their homes. Consequently, these children would likely have more problems and maybe worse problems if they were kept in an unsafe home. The audience member asking the question was guilty of the common mistake  of drawing a conclusion about apples and oranges possibly to justify a conviction held previously.

It has become popular to criticize out-of-home placement as unhelpful or destructive despite the overwhelming evidence that Foster Parents provide a necessary, important and valuable service to the children and community. Foster Parents are inadequately compensated, supported and unappreciated by the system as a whole. From what I have seen, this is especially true in the State of Washington.

It would be helpful if State elected and appointed officials would listen more carefully to Mr. Wilson than to their own prejudices.

Lee Grogg, MSW, MBA

Executive Director / CEO

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