Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Eileen Turkot
International Manager | Chicago, IL
A year ago, I wrote an essay for Pursue Your Passion. In that essay, I spoke about my passion for my family and my desire to use a volunteer experience as a tool to help instill a spirit of gratitude and servant leadership in my children. My belief was that traveling out of our country was the best way to do this. Now, 12 months later, I have the same passion, but a very new path for how I am pursuing it.
My husband and I are currently in the licensing phase of becoming foster parents in our state. We speak Spanish at home (my husband is from South America), and as it turns out, there is a significant need for Spanish-speaking foster homes where we live. We have completed our medical and background checks, and are now in the process of completing our home inspections and education classes, our last step before we become eligible to receive placements.
Neither my husband nor I were familiar with foster care five years ago. Where my husband grew up, if a child had no one to care of him or her, the child went to an orphanage. I was never exposed to foster care as a child, and knew almost nothing about it until I joined RSM. Four years ago, a director on my team and his wife became foster parents in my state. Earlier this year, they adopted two sisters from Colombia whom they had previously fostered. Throughout the foster and adoption process, my co-worker was very open about his experience, and he shared that with his team. Simultaneously, my neighbors at home also became foster parents, receiving numerous placements over the years. We went from knowing nothing about foster care, to knowing two foster families, each with a wealth of knowledge to share.
The more I observed my neighbor, learned from my director and read from countless other foster parents online, the more I felt called to pursue becoming a foster parent. Not a day goes by that I fail to appreciate how lucky I am to have been born to parents who did not struggle with mental illness, substance abuse or serious financial hardship. Children of parents in crisis need a place they can feel safe and cared for while their families try to recover. We feel that because we have the means and the space to provide that safe place, we should.
I want my children to recognize when they can help others and to act on it. I see fostering as a real, actionable way to give children in desperate need of stability an opportunity to thrive while also teaching my children the importance of helping strangers just because you can. I think this perfectly aligns with RSM’s value of stewardship, and its commitment to helping young people succeed.
Here is where RSM comes in: foster homes have to abide by many highly specific requirements. The most detailed requirements are around bedrooms and sleeping arrangements. Foster children need their own beds, and children of opposite genders cannot share bedrooms. We have a spare bedroom that we are currently using as storage/office space. The room is desperately cluttered and disorganized. I would like to use some of the funds to purchase a bed and bedding for this room, paint it and replace some carpeting that the previous owners left in a bad state. I would also like to use some of the funds to buy a second bed for my oldest son’s room, so that if needed we could foster two children. (DCFS makes every effort to keep siblings together while in foster care, so the ability to take more than one child is something they greatly need.) I would like to decorate the spare bedroom to be more kid-friendly, and build a shelving unit downstairs to house all of the things we are currently storing in the would-be foster bedroom.
My passion for my family has become a passion to help other families. I do not mean for this passion to sound overly philanthropic because I do genuinely believe that through helping others we also help ourselves. Every foster parent we have spoken to says that it is one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. It can be painful and exhausting, but they all agree that if given the chance, they would do it again. We are pursuing this experience for our family, and RSM played a big part in putting us on that path. I would love to be chosen for Pursue Your Passion in 2019 so I can offer the best possible environment for children who truly need it.