Foster parent Rose Maldonado was moved to tears at Catholic Charities’ “Soup, Salad and Sermon” luncheon, where she spoke of a simple yet life-changing gesture she made for a five-year-old girl who was once in her care.
Recalling the moment the little girl had asked her to brush her hair and adorn it with ribbons, Maldonado wiped away tears as she spoke of the transformative moment that made the girl in her care realize she was indeed beautiful.
“That is what we’re here for, to be a contribution to the healing in their life,” Maldonado said of foster care parents, “so that when they go back home, they have an identity.”
Maldonado was one of two foster parents to speak at Catholic Charities’ “Soup, Salad and Sermon” program, held March 31 at the Diocesan Center in Harrisburg. Proceeds from this year’s luncheon benefitted Catholic Charities’ Specialized Foster Care Program, which provides safe and temporary homes for children who are removed from their birth families due to abuse or neglect. While most children in foster care are eventually reunited with their birth families, some require permanent families, which their foster parents will often provide via adoption.
Maldonado and her husband decided to open their hearts and homes to children in Catholic Charities’ foster care program, and have welcomed several into their lives.
“It’s so rewarding. It’s loving, it’s breaking as well, but it’s rewarding,” she said before a room of benefactors, board members and employees of Catholic Charities.
Maldonado spoke highly of the support she and her husband received from Catholic Charities, from their extensive training prior to the placement of children, to the unwavering support any time of day of night after the children arrived.
“Catholic Charities is the foundation that helps us build the homes needed for the children that come into the agency,” she said.
The annual luncheon is open to the public and returned this year after a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19. It included a simple lunch of soup and salad, prayer and remarks from Bishop Ronald Gainer, and remarks from Kelly Gollick, Executive Director of Catholic Charities; and Gwen Pfeifer, Program Director of the Adoption and Specialized Foster Care Program.
“Foster parents play a critical role in helping children heal from trauma. They provide stability and support for children who typically come from unstable and unsafe environments. Our program works hand-in-hand with our foster families to help the children who are placed in our care,” said Pfeifer.
Via a pre-recorded message, foster parent Cayla Poborsky also shared her experience of the training and support she received in welcoming pre-teen siblings into her home last fall.
“I could see these kids wanted so badly to be taken care of,” she said. “I didn’t realize how much love they needed until they were in my home.”
Poborsky said the brother and sister thrived on structure, including a routine bedtime on school nights, bedtime stories and saying prayers.
“They needed to be loved every day and to know that they were going to be taken care of, that there is consistency, and that I’m always going to give them boundaries and care for them,” she said.
“What really helped me was being able to have resources to reach out to, including Catholic Charities,” Poborsky said. “They have been amazing from training at the beginning to walking me through every possible placement I would take, and walking me through obstacles, pros and cons. I couldn’t have asked for more clarity from them.”
Learn more about Catholic Charities’ Specialized Foster Care and how you can support the program at www.cchbg.org/get-help/adoption-services/. To watch a video of the luncheon and hear more of Maldonado’s and Poborsky’s experiences, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvuyUYzLrms.
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness