A Glimpse into Foster Parenting: A Mother’s Story

Motherhood

June 10, 2021

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EM

Meet Cathleen. 

Cathleen Bearse is a wife, mother, and founder of Fearless Fostering, an online support network where foster moms can find coaching, community, and encouragement as they open their homes and their hearts to children in the foster care system. 

Here at Everyday Mamas, we are dedicated to helping moms embrace the sacredness of being able to create home for their families because we believe that is where love begins: at home. Carving out the physical spaces for life and love to flourish is essential to our wellbeing. We all have knit within us a need for a home, a desire for that place where we are known, loved, and comforted.

In opening up her heart to feel the pain and chaos that ensues when the need for a good home goes unmet, Cathleen was moved to open up her home to two foster children in addition to her biological children. In journeying down this path of foster care, Cathleen felt called in a unique way to support and encourage current and prospective foster moms on their own foster care journeys.

It was an honor to interview Cathleen and learn about her business, Fearless Fostering, and I hope you enjoy her perspective and learning about her work as much as I have.

EM: So how did you get started. Were there any values instilled in you from your youth that lead you on the path to fostering? Did your parents foster?

Cathleen: Both my husband and I grew up in wonderful, close knit families, so we were blessed to have the value of family instilled in us from a young age, although neither of our families fostered.

EM: What did you study in college? Did your experience in school or your professional studies open the door to fostering in any way?

Cathleen:  I studied psychology and family studies in undergrad and got my Master’s degree in social work.  That definitely made me more aware of the needs of foster children, but my husband and I didn’t make the decision to foster until many years later.

EM: When you got married, was fostering always on the table or something you both became open to as time went on?

Cathleen: We got married when we were 22, just out of college, 15 years ago now!  Fostering was something we talked about more after we had had our biological children and not as much so in our early years of marriage and family life.

EM: What ages were your biological children when you decided to foster?

Cathleen: We have two biological sons, who are 11 and 8.  When we decided to foster, they were in third grade and kindergarten…we wanted to make sure they were old enough to somewhat understand the changes that would be taking place in our family.

EM: What opened your eyes to the need for good foster parents? Was there a singular event that opened your heart or was it a slow development of a call to foster over time?

Cathleen: My husband and I attended a youth ministry summit in New York City, which had nothing to do with foster care, but included a woman speaker who was 19 years old and had two children of her own.  She said she had been in foster care growing up and was abused in 2 of the 3 foster homes she had lived in.  My husband and I both had tears in our eyes as she spoke and knew immediately after that we would definitely pursue foster care.

EM: What is your history with the foster care system? How many children have you fostered? Have any lead to adoption?

Cathleen: We have fostered two children so far, our son from the time he was 6 months old, and we adopted him last June.  We are currently fostering his baby sister, who just turned 1.  We hope to adopt her too, but we aren’t yet sure what will happen with that.

EM: What is the emotional toll of fostering, both positive and negative? 

Cathleen: There is definitely an emotional toll of fostering, but I always like to tell people there is always an emotional toll when we love other people, especially children, regardless of how they come into our families.  It has been an amazing blessing to see our big kids lovingly welcome their younger siblings into our home and share our joy on adoption day.  I’ve never been prouder to be their mom than when they shouted “YES!” to fostering baby sis so soon after we had been talking about taking a little breather from foster care once we adopted our son.  God’s plans are different than ours, but they are always SO good!

EM: What role does your faith play in fostering?

Cathleen: Our faith has been instrumental to fostering – I know people do foster care without God, but it always amazes me how!  We have grown closer to God individually, as a married couple, and as a family because of our decision to foster.  I’m so excited that my kids will see us being the hands and feet of God for children that need us to be a safe place to land.

EM: When did you begin Fearless Fostering? What made you decide to support foster parents in this way?

Cathleen: I began Fearless Fostering in January of 2021, so not long ago!  Prior to that, I was supporting women online and in my private practice with mental health issues like self-care and anxiety.  I really felt called to focus my attention on foster mamas at the beginning of this year because more and more women were reaching out to me with foster-care related questions and anxiety and stress related specifically to fostering.  My hope is that by providing a deeply connected support to them, they will avoid burnout and continue to be able to make a difference in the lives of children.

EM: What is the most significant effect you’ve seen come from Fearless Fostering?

Cathleen: The outpouring of women who are willing to share their struggles with me as foster moms has been amazing and so encouraging.  I definitely feel I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing right now!  Foster care can sometimes feel isolating, so I’ve been excited to create a safe space for foster mamas to be inspired and encouraged.

EM: What words of encouragement do you have for current foster moms? For moms who may feel a call to foster? For moms who have never thought of fostering as a possibility or option?

Cathleen: For current foster mamas, I would say take it one day at a time, or one minute at a time if necessary.  Not everything that is difficult today is going to stay this difficult. Things change all the time, so stay present and try to enjoy what’s in front of you today. For moms who might feel a call to foster, I would encourage you to take the first step! Call your local DCF office or private agency and ask them what that is. Typically, it’s attending an open house and having a chance to get your questions answered before you even sign up for the trainings. 

For moms who have never thought of fostering, I would encourage you to at least pray about how you can be a support to foster families or biological moms whose kids have been removed.  A meal, a note of encouragement, or just a coffee goes a long way!  We can all do something to care for the least of these, and it’s such a joy to do so, even if fostering a child in your home isn’t right for your family.

EM: Tell us more about Fearless Fostering. What is your business all about and what services do you offer?

Cathleen: In a nutshell, I’m just here to be here for foster mamas.  Foster care is full of ups and downs, that’s for sure.  I want them to know (and feel!) that they’re not alone – in any of it.  I utilize my skills as a therapist to help them process their emotions and take the next right step, as well as my experience as a foster mama to hold space for them and encourage them from someone who knows what it’s like.

I currently offer two main services to foster mamas: a group coaching program called Fearless Fostering, and an online course + community, called Fear Less.  

Fearless Fostering is a brand new program for foster mamas that includes a luxury retreat, a curated community of foster mom friends, and ongoing coaching with me.  Applications are opening June 21 and I’m so excited to be offering the exact level of support I wish had existed when I first started fostering!

My Fear Less course + community are a game changer for those who struggle with stress and anxiety (whether or not they are foster mamas!). When anxiety and stress are present for too long, everyone around us starts to feel the effects, which can lead us directly to mom guilt (without passing Go or collecting $200). But once you learn the evidence based skills that WORK to overcome anxiety, the game is permanently changed!  You win, and so does everyone around you!

To learn more about Cathleen’s work, find her on Instagram @fearless_fostering or on her website.

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