Fostering Newborns Gives Williamson County Couple a greater joy (Ned Andrew Solomon, Tennessee Register ~ Photo by Theresa Laurence, Tennessee Register)
Calvin and Cathy Bishop decided to move to the Nashville area from Texas in 2012 when their four adult children coaxed them with local real estate information. All four had landed here with professional careers after college.
Although uprooted for a very good reason, the Bishops had to start from scratch building a life in Middle Tennessee. "We didn't know anybody but our children, and we knew that we couldn't monopolize their time," said Cathy. "My husband had been retired, and he was beginning to find another niche, and I wasn't."
That all changed when their middle daughter, who was working at Catholic Charities of Tennessee as a pregnancy and adoption counselor, called her mom. "She asked, ‘Would you and Dad consider doing this, because we're looking for a foster family,'" recalled Cathy. "I didn't have to stop and think about it. I didn't ask my husband about it. I didn't even stop to pray about it. I just said yes."
Thankfully Calvin was on board too. What followed was a three-month process of training, home studies, references and a batch of paperwork in order to qualify for foster parenting. The couple had barely completed that paperwork when they got the phone call to care for their first baby.
"It's not a coincidence; I think everything is divinely planned," Cathy said. "But that first baby came to us on Mother's Day. It was bittersweet."
That initial placement was in 2012, six months after the Bishops settled in Franklin. Since then they've been foster parents to 16 babies for Catholic Charities's Adoption Services program. Because of that devotion to fostering children and, by extension, their service to the community, the Bishops were honored in July 26 by Franklin Tomorrow as part of its 11th Annual Exemplary Community Volunteer Awards program, recognizing volunteer efforts that support area nonprofits and organizations.
The Bishops' award nomination letter was submitted by Catholic Charities staff Hallie Leegon, MSSW, who oversees international adoptions, and Mark Barry, Director of Mission Advancement.
As foster parents, they get a small per diem, primarily meant to cover diapers and formula. "It's extremely minimal and doesn't even cover the costs," explained Cathy. "We provide everything else - from car seats to strollers to cribs. Clothing included. The per diem is the same, whether you have a child for five days or five months."
The Bishops' first foster baby was in their care for two weeks. Some have stayed as long as six months. In many cases when a child is being given up for adoption, the birth mother has already chosen her baby's adoptive family, and within a couple of days of being born, the babies go directly to their "forever homes."
"The reason we get called to foster is to be the ‘interim' when there's a transition period that's going on between having given birth and where that baby's going to be placed," Cathy said. "That decision has not been made yet."
Cathy and Calvin were almost 60 when they began their foster parent journey. They had been "empty nesters" for several years - their own children range in age from 28 to 33 - and it had been several lifetimes since they had their sleep interrupted by a newborn. For some, that would truly be a rude awakening. "It was really natural to me," said Cathy. "It was just like going back in time, parenting my own children."
Except, with one's own children, you get to hang on to them for a number of years and witness their development, after you made the decision to pour your heart and soul into their existence. So in this case, how does one say goodbye over and over again?
"When you sign up you have to make sure that you have clarity on your purpose in fostering," Cathy said. "Yes, you get very attached and you love these babies, but you go into fostering knowing you're just caring for these babies for a period of time. What lies ahead of them is really what's meant for them.
"I feel so much joy for the adoptive parents," continued Cathy. "I have greater joy for them then my sadness to see them go."
For the Bishops, a deep belief in the process, as well as the benevolent ability to bring newborns into their life and then let them go, is an extension of their very strong faith. Calvin and Cathy are parishioners at Harpeth Christian Church in Franklin. "For me, it's recognizing the calling that God puts on your heart, and answering that call," said Cathy. "When you do, you know that you're doing unto Him. And there's such joy in that."
There are so many gifts for so many people in the interim fostering that the Bishops provide. The birth mother knows that her baby is being cared for until they reach their forever home. The baby is being nurtured by a loving family and having all of their needs met. The foster parents get to offer their love to a newborn and know that they're giving a life a wonderful beginning. And the adoptive parents can rest assured that their new son or daughter received lots of TLC before they were able to take over.
Cathy bestows one more special gift before she leaves the scene. She takes a photograph of the baby every single day while in her care, and then either prints the photos or creates a CD to give to the new parents. "I just thought about myself," said Cathy. "What if it were me, and I didn't meet my baby until they were 4 or 5 months old, and I had missed those first months when they change and grow so much? I like to gift them with a daily picture until they go home."
For more information about the Adoption and Pregnancy Counseling services provided by Catholic Charities, call 615-352-3087 ext. 2181, e-mail email@example.com, or visit www.cctenn.org. Catholic Charities' services are available to all in the community, regardless of religious affiliation.