Gilbert family opens their home to foster care children
PHOENIX — Reading a newspaper ad about becoming foster parents changed the lives of one Gilbert family.
The ad by Catholic Charities stressed working parents and even single parents could foster children.
“I thought, ‘We can definitely do that,’” Mimi Condon said.
She and her husband already had two daughters, aged 10 and 11. They had tried to have additional children. But after having two miscarriages and learning there were thousands of children in the foster care system, she and her husband applied to become foster parents in 2006 with the help from Catholic Charities.
Currently, there are nearly 15,000 children in foster care, according to the latest number from the Arizona Department of Child Safety. May is National Foster Care Month.
Condon said by sharing her family’s story, she hopes to inspire others to become foster parents.
Her family’s first foster experience was life-changing — but far from easy. Condon and her husband fostered two boys, ages 1 and 2, who were brothers for nearly two years. During that time, the couple communicated with the boys’ biological parents, who would eventually regain custody.
Several months after the boys returned home to their parents, they were back in the foster care system after the parents were accused of abusing their 3-year-old daughter.
“That made our whole experience horrific,” Condon said. “But because of all of that, we learned how to advocate even more strongly for these children.”
She said they realized, “these children needed our voices.”
“It wasn’t enough just to love them while they were in our home and care for them as if they were own,” she said. “We really had to get involved. We had to understand what their trauma had been, where they had come from and where they were going to go to next.”
She and her husband went on to foster 15 children in total, and adopted four of them – all boys, ages 2, 3, 6 and 10.
Their last adoption came in 2015. At the time, she and her husband had agreed they would only foster and no longer adopt. But when she got a note notifying them the baby in their care would be placed back in the system, they decided to adopt him.
“We wanted to love them, care for them and do whatever we could while they were in our care until they could go back to their parents,” Condon said, explaining why they adopted each of the four boys. “But if they couldn’t go back to their parents, we didn’t want to have to disrupt their lives again.”
The couple’s biological daughters are now 23 and 24 years old, and Condon said they too have been positively impacted by the foster experience.
She said both of their daughters “learned so much from seeing everything that went on in the foster care system.” She added one of their daughters wants to one day open her own crisis center for children.
“We never planned how this would affect our biological children the way that it did,” Condon said. “Now they want to fight – they want to advocate for children.”
She said her advice to those thinking about becoming foster parents: “Don’t hold back. Don’t be afraid.”
“All we’re doing is loving children, because all these children are ours,” she said. “They’re our future, and it’s not their fault that they’re in the position that they are, and we need to minimize their trauma.”