United States

Making our house a home for children in need

ARTICLE  | 

his story is by Eileen Turkot with RSM US LLP’s (RSM’s) international services office. Eileen is based out of the firm’s Chicago office, and is one of RSM’s Pursue Your Passion (PYP) winners. You can read her PYP submission here. Read her story below:

There’s a very wise saying that goes, “You cannot go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” Despite numerous intensive internet searches, I can’t find a trustworthy origin of this quote, but I feel like it beautifully encompasses the journey of finding our family’s new passion in foster care.  

When I applied for RSM’s Pursue Your Passion program last November, my husband and I were still in the process of getting our foster care license. We knew our license would eventually come, and we wanted to use the funds and time off to fix up a sad, disorganized office space in our house, and transform it into a bedroom for future foster placements. We thought we would take our time, get the bedroom mostly completed in the spring, and then customize it for whatever boy or girl joined our home.  The reality turned out a little differently...

Since April, we have fostered five amazing children ranging in ages from 11 months to eight years. At one point, the bedroom held three sisters who would fall asleep chatting and giggling together, and now it holds two sweet babies – a boy and a girl. The room has transformed three separate times in five short months, holding bunk beds, separate beds, and now a crib and a toddler bed.

When it came to renovating the space, our first course of action was replacing the carpeting.  This was a gratifying change because from one day to the next the room became so much brighter and cleaner. Next, we patched holes and painted the walls. Finally, we started filling the room with furniture, bedding and storage. The neutral room was empty for only three days before we got our first call, and that’s when we stopped focusing on the room, and started our own personal transformations into fully-fledged foster parents.

The initial weeks of a new placement are chaos. So much adjustment happens for our foster children, our biological children and us as their caretakers. Appointments, phone calls and meetings come in big waves. All of us are all getting used to new routines and people, but we expected many of these changes. One of the things we did not expect was that the kids arriving to our home would come with absolutely no possessions. We knew they might not have a lot, but our first placement came to us in early April with only the clothes on their backs, and even those were inadequate for that unusually cold Chicago spring. It wasn’t part of our initial plan, but we ended up using some of the $10,000 from the Pursue Your Passion program to buy many personal items for our foster children that the state doesn’t provide: backpacks, lunch boxes, school supplies, shoes, and many, many other things.

Receiving a Pursue Your Passion gift helped us in our journey as foster parents in a vital way.  Without having that additional separate bedroom, we wouldn’t have been able to accept any of our four foster daughters because licensing standards would have prohibited them sharing a room with our biological children (all of whom are boys). Additionally, in the initial 30 days, the amount of things the children needed was overwhelming, and the money enabled us to buy them everything without having to sacrifice from somewhere else. We also took an unconventional approach to the time off. Instead of nine consecutive days off (which are awarded through the program), I’ve used the time sporadically: a day here to attend a court hearing or an afternoon there to make a caseworker appointment.

This passion is an ongoing one, and we never know how long a child will stay with us. It could be a matter of months, years or forever. Our current foster babies, now 15 and 24 months old, have been with us nearly four months. However long they stay, caring for them, loving them and watching them grow has been the most profound experience for our family. Every day they make progress toward developmental milestones that, under better circumstances, we would be taking for granted. We wholeheartedly believe that providing a stable, loving and safe environment – even if only for a short time – can have a lasting impact on the lives of children in our community, and it is a privilege to be in the position to provide that environment for others. I am grateful to RSM for supporting us in pursuing our passion, and for living the firm’s value of stewardship in our communities.