The Case For Fostering Older Children

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In this second episode of our miniseries on foster care, we hear from Jeanie Gaskill, a parent who connected with her kids through The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Jeanie gets real with Lemonada host Gloria Riviera about what it’s like to navigate trauma and support an open adoption in her family. Plus, Gloria learns what people should consider before fostering or adopting.

This episode is presented by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a national nonprofit public charity that is committed to dramatically increasing the number of adoptions of children waiting in North America’s foster care systems. For more information visit



Gloria Riviera, Jeanne Gaskell

Gloria Riviera  00:14

Hello and welcome to Good Things. I’m your host Gloria Riviera. This is the second episode in this mini series on foster care. Last week we talked to Rita Soren, President and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for adoption. We learned all about the state of foster care in the United States. According to the Dave Thomas Foundation, every year more than 20,000 youth aged out of care without a family, and while a growing number of Americans believe more should be done to help youth and care 51% mistakenly believe that children are placed in foster care because they are juvenile delinquents. That is not true. Today, we are talking to a mother who refused to buy into that myth. In 2021, Jeanne Gaskell and her husband Jeff received a request from a Dave Thomas Foundation recruiter, asking for an emergency foster placement of two siblings, Jonathan age 13, and Patti AJ, into their home. Six months later, Jeanne  and Jeff started making plans to formally adopt them. Today, they are an official family of three, they are thriving, and I’m joined by Jeanne Gaskell to share with us her experience as a foster parent. And now mom of two adoptive kids. Jeanne, welcome to Good Things.


Jeanne Gaskell  01:40

Thank you. I’m glad to be here. Thanks for having me.


Gloria Riviera  01:43

It’s such an honor to speak to you. And I really want to start with a personal moment of reflection. I want to go back to when you were dating your now husband, Jeff. And you knew early on that you were interested in? Is it correct to say both fostering and adoption? Can you tell me what that first conversation with Jeff was like?


Jeanne Gaskell  02:08

I don’t have a first conversation like moment in my head. Because I feel like it was wrapped into those first get to know each other conversations because it’s something I’ve had in my mind since I was a college student. I imagined I probably just wrapped it in because you know, we would talk we talked about kids, of course, you know, in dating, and I said that this is something that I want to do. At some point in my life, I didn’t have an exact time I have a 21 year old stepdaughter who had just turned 11 at the time we met. It wasn’t like, okay, you know, if this gets serious, we’re, we’re fostering and adopting. It was when the time was right kind of.


Gloria Riviera  02:55

Right, it wasn’t a parameter like if we go on another date, you need to know this. But it was woven in.


Jeanne Gaskell  03:00

Exactly, exactly yes.


Gloria Riviera  03:02

And what do you think it is about Jeff, that made you feel comfortable bringing that up? And what have you seen since then? I mean, it is a interesting and unique thing to put out there.


Jeanne Gaskell  03:14

Yeah, I guess. I guess I didn’t think it was an interesting and unique thing to put out there. I’ve learned since with the reactions from other people in my life, when I actually did it, that they were a little bit like, whoa, you did this, this is kind of big. And if it was a foregone conclusion, in my mind already. So did it feel like a big thing, you know, one of the things Jeff and I bonded over, you know, I am a social worker by training. I was one of those highly sensitive people who when childhood would you know, we went into New York and I would see homeless people and I would cry the rest of the night like I was affected by humanity in that way, for whatever reason, I don’t know. But it was always felt like a vulnerability to me. And like, on our third date, Jeff, like we walked out of the grocery store where we were, and there was a homeless person sitting there and I just kind of like, felt the feeling shoved down. We got in the car just got out of the car and handed the person a $10 bill and got in the car without saying anything. And just drove away and I was just like, ah, you know, it was just a feeling of hockey. He has some feeling of suffering too, from that and it just made me feel safe.


Gloria Riviera  04:36

Yeah, like a feeling. I’m thinking now. It was maybe a feeling of recognition in someone else.


Jeanne Gaskell  04:42

Yeah, I mean, I didn’t haven’t thought about it in that way. But yes, I think that that’s accurate like, like I for whatever reason, I was used to hiding that feeling like that feeling wasn’t like welcome in regular world and I when I saw him, he had had that feeling too, I just, I just made me feel so comfortable.


Gloria Riviera  05:03

And you have said you knew like in college? Can you just describe for me? What was your awareness of how you felt about becoming a parent?


Jeanne Gaskell  05:13

I mean, you know, it was, it was not connected to like a plan. You know, I didn’t get out of college and try to start a family I didn’t, I wasn’t like that wasn’t first on my mind. But it was just an idea in my head, something it was actually professor, I went to the University of New Hampshire, this part I remember, this was like a moment. I was in a large, it was like one of those first year large classrooms with a prereq that I was taking. And the professor said she had adopted two people and two people, two children. And I didn’t know at that time, about private or foster or anything like that. Anyway, that professor said something like, there are so many children in the world who need love. Like why why don’t we love them? And that just like hit a really struck a chord with me. And that was just kind of nice. Like, yes, that was just like, yes. Okay, done, that’s true. That needs to be done.


Gloria Riviera  06:18

Wow, I love that.


Jeanne Gaskell  06:19

And I want to do it. And I want to do it. Like it was just a desire I had.


Gloria Riviera  06:24

Yeah, well, those two ideas are very different, right? You can recognize, yes, there are children who need love in this world, but then to immediately, and I want to do that, I want to be a part of that. I want to be part of that giving of love and care. Well, I think that, you know, unfortunately, and we’ll get into data and statistics later, but it’s all too rare. So I really take my hat off to you. That’s a that’s a lovely thing to know it at a relatively young age.


Jeanne Gaskell  06:51

Yes, I know. And that’s the part where honestly, I’ve always it’s a little bit uncomfortable as an adoptive parents people, oh, it’s so great. What you’re doing is right. And it’s like, ah, it’s kind of the worst part for me like, because first of all, I wanted to do it. You know, this was something when you have a desire, you have a desire, what helps other people it’s kind of like a byproduct, like, I want to do adoption, foster care, parenting, it’s always an awkward part with because you, I don’t want to be recognized for it, I guess, because it’s a sadness too, you know.


Gloria Riviera  07:25

So I want to move from your beautiful realization that you say, you know, you struggle with being recognized for that, but your knowledge, your knowing that you wanted to be part of the foster adoptive system. And I want to move to what that looks like for you, and Jeff, when you really started pursuing it, I think a lot of people don’t know, what the first step is, right, what was your first step?


Jeanne Gaskell  07:54

So our first I mean, really, our first step was finding the right timing. Because as we said, we had a child at home already. So once she was settled, and the timing was right for her. We signed up. I mean, the first thing I did before me, Jeff agreed, but I was really the proactive one, you know, so I went to an orientation. And it’s different everywhere. So this pertains to Arizona, but basically, the foster parents are licensed by agencies, and then the children have cases through the state. So the agencies that licensed the foster parents offer orientations, where you, it’s like a two hour class and you go and you learn about all that it entails.


Gloria Riviera  08:39

In two hours. Like, here’s everything you need to know and two hours.


Jeanne Gaskell  08:43

It’s just the introduction.


Gloria Riviera  08:44

Okay, okay, go ahead.


Jeanne Gaskell  08:46

No, there’s a lot more training than that. It’s like the first step like, are you interested in becoming a foster parent? Come learn more about it.


Gloria Riviera  08:52

And Jeanne, I just have to ask you, are you are you like googling like foster parents? Like I’m interested?


Jeanne Gaskell  08:57



Gloria Riviera  08:58

And something pops up. Oh, there’s an intro in your community. Okay.


Jeanne Gaskell  09:02

So you go and you learn about how it works. And so I did that I went, learned how it works and that you have to pick if you’re a foster parent, you have to get licensed. You go through this program called foster parent College.


Gloria Riviera  09:16

Okay, so let me ask you this, when you saw when you saw what was required, did you bet nine or were you like nope, okay, I’m in, done.


Jeanne Gaskell  09:25

I think I knew enough because of my social work background, that I knew I had a lot of basic knowledge about that it would entail a lot of training and you know, they come into your house and they all the inspection and you meet with someone, like you go through the whole process to get licensed. And then once you’re licensed, you have monthly meetings with your case manager until you have children placed and then it’s weekly.


Gloria Riviera  09:50

Okay, and I’m assuming licensing entails background checks, security checks, time in your home, lots and lots of questions from a caseworker who are you? Are you a good person with good intentions? All of that, okay.


Jeanne Gaskell  10:04

Yes, and we did two things so, again, every state does it different, but in Arizona, you get licensed to foster and certified to adopt. You can do one or the other, or you can do both.


Gloria Riviera  10:17

You get licensed to foster or certified to adopt this is in the state of Arizona or you can do both.


Jeanne Gaskell  10:23



Gloria Riviera  10:24

So what was your approach? Let’s just do both?


Jeanne Gaskell  10:26

We got yeah, let’s do both.


Gloria Riviera  10:28



Jeanne Gaskell  10:28

Let’s do both, and see where the because the process is a little different. If you only wanted to do adoption, you don’t want to be a foster parent. They’re very different mindsets. So if you only want to do adoption, you don’t have foster children in your home. And you have what’s called basically your case manager makes a home study. And it’s a very, it’s like this thick, it’s way more intensive than the licensing, home study, which is more about safety.


Gloria Riviera  11:09

Jeanne’s holding her hands like the size of a dictionary. It’s like a big report on who you are. Okay, got it.


Jeanne Gaskell  11:15

On who you aren’t. So that’s the adoption home study. It’s about your personality, your background, your likes and dislikes your style, because adoption is their thinking, permanent match. So the licensing home study is about safety. And are you a safe fit for this child? Are they going to be safe in your home? Because the foster placement is about reunification with the biological family until their case is ended? Because they’ve been reunified or because parental rights have been terminated.


Gloria Riviera  11:51

Okay, is it correct to say the intent of placing a child in the foster care system is what reunification ultimately?


Jeanne Gaskell  12:00



Gloria Riviera  12:00



Jeanne Gaskell  12:01

Yes, a safe place because as long as they’re a foster child, the ideal situation is a safe return to their biological family.


Gloria Riviera  12:12

We’re going to take a quick break, but we will be right back with more on Good Things.


Gloria Riviera  12:36

Okay, so you get both licenses. After many, many hours. And, at this point, are you connected with the Dave Thomas Foundation for adoption?


Jeanne Gaskell  12:47

No, they are connected to the children, they work for the children.


Gloria Riviera  12:50



Jeanne Gaskell  12:51

So we met them when we were placed with our now children.


Gloria Riviera  12:54

Okay, so take me to that moment when you as I understand from what I read, you received a phone call, you’re licensed, you’re ready to go. And you get a phone call? What is the person on the other end of the phone say?


Jeanne Gaskell  13:08

So I had gotten connected with a DCS lawyer who I had just kind of a chance conversation with her and she said, Oh, send me your home study. I know a lot of case managers in the DCS, you know, who have kids that need to be placed.


Gloria Riviera  13:28

And DCS is?


Jeanne Gaskell  13:30

Oh, Division of Child Safety, so it’s CPS, in some states, it’s DCS. And we were, we had space for two, and we were licensed for seven and older.


Gloria Riviera  13:40



Jeanne Gaskell  13:41

So she said, there’s a ton of people who she said, if you’re, you know, from zero to five, they have tons of places open for children like that, because a lot of foster families have. They want to keep the birth order of their children, which is, you know, it’s pretty important to think very carefully if you already have children in their home in your home, who you’re going to bring in additionally, but we didn’t have any children in the home. So we were like, she said, basically, you’re gonna get placed very quickly with a either a foster child whose near the end of their, their parental rights have already been terminated, or they’re four or five years into the system so that’s the way they’re probably headed, or children who are already looking for an adoptive home because you have no other children in the home. Your age range is older, and you have room for siblings. So she said, let me give your home study to a few caseworkers I know. So that’s how it started. And then we got a call from her because we had given her the case study saying are you willing to talk to, you know, this person, she was the she was the caseworker for the kids. So she called us first and she said hi she gives her name. I’m the caseworker for these two children she had been the caseworker for with them for four years, which is pretty rare. And they had not had more than one caseworker. They maybe in the beginning, they did because they were in the system for probably five years on and off total. So she said, kind of let me tell you about them, would you be willing to learn and then so we definitely were in the car when we got the call. So we talked about it, and we responded said yes. And she referred us to John, the Dave Thomas Foundation, social worker who was assigned to the children. So that’s really what we’ve how we learned about Dave Thomas Foundation, how we learned about the children was we had a zoom call with John.


Gloria Riviera  15:44

So you’ve received this phone call from a caseworker saying, I think I, you know, I may have a match for you, or you should speak to this caseworker, John, you get on the phone with him. He’s been working. Is he the one that was working with the kids for several years or no? The original?


Jeanne Gaskell  16:01

Oh, yes.


Gloria Riviera  16:02



Jeanne Gaskell  16:02

Actually, they both they both were with the kids for several years. So this is this is where it gets like the Dave Thomas Foundation workers are extra. Not all kids in the system have them. And so they are extra advocates, I think they’re called adoption advocates. And they’re assigned to children. So the Dave Thomas Foundation, trains them and gives them the resources, then they work with a local agency. And I don’t know how they they’re chosen to which families to work with. But basically, the children that they work with, have to be eight or older. A sibling group or medically needy.


Gloria Riviera  16:46

Wow. Okay, those are very specific parameters.


Jeanne Gaskell  16:50

Well, the Dave Thomas Foundation’s mission is like they basically their tagline, I don’t know the proper word, but it’s that no child is unadoptable.


Gloria Riviera  16:59

I love that tagline. No child is an adaptable.


Jeanne Gaskell  17:02

So those are statistically those are groups that have children who don’t get a permanent home and who aged out of the foster care system, which is, you know, not all I mean, some some kids, once they’re teenagers, they choose to age out of the foster care system, but a lot of them want a home adoptive home.


Gloria Riviera  17:20

So what were you told about these two siblings?


Jeanne Gaskell  17:25

So just their background, I mean, this is the awesome thing of I think having this extra adoption advocate is because when you’re the state systems, the CPS DCS systems, they’re so regulated, you get so like, it’s like, here, you can have this information now. And then you can have this information. And then you have 24 hours to get this information. And it’s just so the caseworker like the caseworker, I met from DCS for the kids, she was awesome. And so is our licensing worker, but they’re so regulated, they can’t like really give you any answers. Whereas when we met with John, we could just talk freely, it was like talking to a friend of the family, about the kids and their family and their background and their personalities and what happened to them that they were added up in the system and the the twists and turns of it, and the all the different people in their lives.


Gloria Riviera  18:16

What you’re explaining sounds extraordinary. And you would feel like, I really would hope you get placed with someone who had that extra advocate who had that Dave Thomas Foundation for adoption, advocate in their lives, because it’s so helpful for you. I mean, this is like, you know, in a very tough situation, it’s a little bit like winning the lottery to have a Dave Thomas Foundation for adoption advocate is.


Jeanne Gaskell  18:43

It is all of this stuff, you know, I just, you know, you just do it, you just go into it, and you do it. But then looking back, I’m like, oh, gosh, I’m glad that went that way. Because it would have been really hard. Without that, because it’s so confusing. You know, the all the information and the kids don’t remember everything. And they’re in different group homes, and they want to keep connected with different people from their group homes. And then, you know, after adoption before adoption of when they’re with you as a foster child, everything, you know, you’re not the decider of many things the state is if their parental rights are terminated, and if they’re still in foster care with the plan for unit reunification their bio parents are so you know, in the beginning, when they were placed with us as foster children, I didn’t have have to make decisions about who they’re allowed to see who they aren’t allowed to see in their family visits to the visits needs to be supervised. Is this person, someone they should have a visit with or not? Is it safe for them to have a visit with or not? I didn’t you know, I didn’t have to decide those things. I had to go by the state’s plan after adoption. That’s all up to me and Jeff, and, you know, you just you just don’t have any information really. So John, he had all the information. And he said facilitated all the meetings, he introduced me because after adoption there, they could get reunified with their biological mom, because her biological mom wasn’t allowed to see them before adoption from the state rules.


Gloria Riviera  20:13

But the parental rights had they been terminated or paused or?


Jeanne Gaskell  20:16

They had been terminated. So okay, they came to us into 2021. They had been terminated both like two separate times, kind of in 2015 2017. And then 2019. So there’s a lot of back and forth and trying and failing. And, you know, just a lot of things that went into it not working out.


Gloria Riviera  20:38

Yeah, but you have this person in John, who has all the knowledge and is able to, liaised between that sensitive, potentially traumatic information for the children. And you right to be that bridge?


Jeanne Gaskell  20:53

And yes.


Gloria Riviera  20:54

And really helped navigate it okay. So this is your first time fostering. You got the phone call? Can you take me back to that first day before you meet these two young kids? I mean, were there any hesitations? Were their nerves were or were you? You know, exhale, two feet on the ground.


Jeanne Gaskell  21:14

Yeah, no, that wasn’t no.


Gloria Riviera  21:17

You’re looking at me like, yeah, no, that not no, not, not the latter.


Jeanne Gaskell  21:20

Like to me. I would like to meet that person. So first of all, we were expecting to get a call, because we had just gotten licensed to foster like for emergency placement, short term placement, you know, like here, which is more typical, they come to your house, you have little notice, they stay for a month, they stay for six months. So but because we were also had the adoption certification. They wanted us for end stage cases. Because when a child is at the end of their case, they want them in a possible adoptive home. So there’s less moves for that child. So we have gotten the call and the call was for to approach them as adoptive parents. So when you approach them as adoptive parents, it’s not an emergency placement, you can plan it. So we made a plan. They were they were in another adoptive home placement that was not working out. It’s called a disruption, so they’re their team was anticipating a disruption at their current placement at the placement where they were, they were in a home at that time, they had left the group home, they thought they were going to be adopted by this other family.


Gloria Riviera  22:34

Wow, this language is so striking. They call it a disruption that they’re they’re on their way. The kids are on their way, and then something happens and that that is no longer the path forward for them, okay.


Jeanne Gaskell  22:48

Yes, and disruptions are part of the data that’s collected, but from agencies to show if, because disruptions are really harmful for a child. It’s one of the controllable factors or somewhat controllable factors you can do to try to prevent less additional trauma to an already traumatized child so you want that was one of the tips I got look for agencies that have low disruption rates in their placements, because it means they put more thought into their placements.


Gloria Riviera  23:21

That’s a really good piece of advice. Like, I wouldn’t have no idea but look for low disruption rates, because we’re talking about children who at that time were how old?


Jeanne Gaskell  23:30

At that time, Patty had just turned eight. She was just like turning when we got the phone calls for like on her eighth birthday. And Jonathan was 13.


Gloria Riviera  23:40

Wow, okay. Young kids who have already been through so much, okay.


Jeanne Gaskell  23:44

Yes, so their team had done a good job. They were like, we don’t think this is working out. And even if the family doesn’t disrupt, we might disrupt the agency might disrupt because they didn’t think it just wasn’t turning out to be a good placement. So they approached us and they said, so we had a plan. This was February 2021. They were going to come stay with us for a weekend and they were going to tell the kids this is a respite placement, you’re going to have a respite visit respite is when you get all foster parents have respite days. So if you are going out of town and the child’s not allowed to come or you know, for whatever reason, you need a respite day there are respite providers, licensed respite providers, so they were going to tell the kids, you’re going to stay with the gas skills for the weekend. Now the plan was, they were about two hours away from us on Sunday, when their caseworker drove them back to their current placement. At that time, they would say hey, what did you think about the gas skills? What did you like them? So what happened so that was probably Tuesday, we made that plan for the weekend. On Wednesday, I got a call. Something happened We are taking them out of the house now.


Gloria Riviera  25:02



Jeanne Gaskell  25:04

Can they come tonight? And just stay and just stay.


Gloria Riviera  25:08

I mean, already when you said they’re coming for a respite weekend, I was thinking, gosh, these young kids have to make this decision well, not a decision, but they need to share their opinion of you after two days together three days tops. That’s pretty intense. The story just got even more intense.


Jeanne Gaskell  25:25

100% Intense it’s it’s impossible asks all of these things of the kids of the adoptive parents or the foster parents. It’s all impossible asks. But they get asked anyway, so basically, you know, I talked to Jeff, we said, yes. You know, they the caseworker was on their way to pick them up, they had to leave immediately. So she took them out to dinner, she took them to her office for a little bit, just to give us some time to get everything set up because I was just starting to get things set up for the weekend. So they came that night with all their stuff. And that was it, they never left.


Gloria Riviera  26:02



Jeanne Gaskell  26:03

So yeah, so they came they ended up coming as a foster placement.


Gloria Riviera  26:10

Okay, sit tight, everyone, we’re going to take one more quick break. And we’ll be right back with more Good Days.


Gloria Riviera  26:33

Tell me about how you felt about them arriving as a foster placement.


Jeanne Gaskell  26:38

I ended up feeling like, oh, it’s better this way. Because I mean, not the not the deer in headlights, everyone thrown in together, but it was less pressure. I feel like if they had arrived as being like that, I mean, the way you do it, if it their adoption placement is the way you’re supposed to do it is have a gradual transition, you know, but they’re automatically are getting to know you as their future parents guaranteed.


Gloria Riviera  27:02



Jeanne Gaskell  27:02

Whereas I feel like we knew we were going to be their future parents, but they could see us as foster parents, and they could see us as did they like us or not, you know, they could that was less stakes.


Gloria Riviera  27:14

Right, so let me take you from there to when you decided, okay, now we want to talk to them about making this permanent, what were their reactions?


Jeanne Gaskell  27:23

So we had John there, Dave Thomas Foundation caseworker asked them because we wanted them to feel comfortable saying no if they wanted to, or you know, just to be honest. But Patti, who was young at the time, she just she didn’t even know what it meant, honestly. But she just from day two, I want to be adopted, I want to be adopted, I want to be adopted now I want to be adopted. You know, she she she didn’t really know what it meant, but I think she knew it meant she wouldn’t have to move again.


Gloria Riviera  27:51

Yeah, and what did she like? What is Patti like? What are your recollections of those early days?


Jeanne Gaskell  27:56

Patty is a ball of energy. She’s like, everything. Switch turned on, you know, super affectionate, you know, very creative, very into her creations. I’ve had to learn. You know, there are things I was like, I don’t even know how you could have made that could have ever thought to tell you not to do that. But like she loves to make potions, you know, with all of the lotions in the house and the shampoo and very sensory oriented, very, very affectionate. She’s a sweet, sweet girl.


Gloria Riviera  28:30

Do you remember the first time you know she embraced you? Or that first moment of tenderness or one of those first moments? Can you tell us about that?


Jeanne Gaskell  28:39

I mean, with Petey, it was like point five seconds into her arrival.


Gloria Riviera  28:43

No, really?


Jeanne Gaskell  28:45

Yeah, yes.


Gloria Riviera  28:46

And what was it? Did she hold your hand or give you a hug? Or what did it look like?


Jeanne Gaskell  28:51

Well, I mean, I don’t want to bomb everybody out. But there is a trauma response when you’re overly affectionate. It’s the opposite of what people know more of as reactive attachment disorder, and there’s an opposite. Same disorder because you have insecure attachment. So you want to really claim.


Gloria Riviera  29:12

Oh, I get it, okay.


Jeanne Gaskell  29:13

She, she had a lot of, I mean, she’s much more stable now. But she had a lot of that kind of attachment. She just needed to be 24/7 you know, like arms wrapped around my waist. So just that was her she needed that instant, like constant feedback of affection and love to feel safe. And they we knew they were we are big, like animal lovers. We had we had two dogs at the time. And we knew they love dogs. So that was a big we came were like, are they where are they? Where are heavy hitters for the first couple of months there. You know, we use the dogs as our kind of meeting place.


Gloria Riviera  30:02

I was just going to ask they you’re referring to the dogs as they were the [….] ?


Jeanne Gaskell  30:05

Yes, yeah they were the they were the therapist.


Gloria Riviera  30:08

Yeah, yeah well, dogs do that, right. So and what about Jonathan? What was his evolution from, you know, walking in the door to, you know, your conversation about making it permanent?


Jeanne Gaskell  30:21

So he was he’s a totally different case, I think in you know, he was with his sister the whole time through all of this. He he had to become very present defied over her, and also very quiet, because she talked all the time. So he’s very, very internal. And quiet and does not show his cards yeah, so.


Gloria Riviera  30:46

I liked that phrase, you use parental, which your meaning is that he had to be her parent?


Jeanne Gaskell  30:52

Yes, yeah. He took responsibility for really, everybody he could, but specifically his younger sister. So for him, it was much slower and more, you know, I really had to make conscious decisions. We’re gonna have a conversation, you know, in the car rides walking around. And we, and we did have a formal conversation with him, Jeff and I, because he was of the age where he couldn’t say no, Patti, really, at that age didn’t have a choice. DCs had the final say, but I think 12 and older a child can deny they have the right to deny an adoptive placement. So we wanted to make sure he knew he had that right. And he could say yes or no, and what would happen after each choice? And he said, yeah, I you know, I think it’s cool.


Gloria Riviera  31:53

I love that. I think it’s cool, and I want to move in a moment into sort of the bigger picture about the urgent need for foster parents. But I also want to hear from you. To what extent were you cognizant of creating a safe space for them? And when was that part of your licensing? Did you have a sense of structure of a schedule? Or what does it look like when you prepare to bring children into your home? Who have experienced so much trauma? What do you need that home to look like? And as parents? How do you have to be informed? What is your own? Jeff has mentioned being? What is the phrase trauma informed?


Jeanne Gaskell  32:41

Yes, yes, you have. So we took a course called trauma informed parenting, and that was offered through a licensing agency. It was not required, but absolutely should be. I also had done a bunch of reading, to prepare and one of the couple of the books that were really just really good at explaining what happens in kids brains, as you know, especially with neglect, the great majority of cases that end up in foster care from neglect. And what that does to a child’s brain, and it’s a lot less obvious than abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, the damage there is obviously just as great, but it’s more obvious than neglect. So one of the books it’s called, what happened to me it’s by a neuro psychologist, Dr. Bruce Perry, and Oprah wrote it together. And that one was super helpful. So I had educated myself but yeah, foster parents, aspiring foster parents, aspiring adoption parent, whether private adoption, or foster to adopt, really need to know about trauma informed parenting, because even that trauma happens in though it’s separation from birth. It happens any time. I mean, some of the most, the most hardest, the hardest to address trauma is trauma that happens from age zero to two weeks.


Gloria Riviera  34:08

Wow, age zero to two weeks. That is that is striking.


Jeanne Gaskell  34:13

That is what neuroscience discovery now.


Gloria Riviera  34:16

Wow, wow.


Jeanne Gaskell  34:18

And it makes sense when you learn about because that’s basically the foundation of your brain. If you have a foundation problem with your house, you’re always gonna have problems in that house. So it’s the same like that sets, it’s it just makes a different set in your brainstem. So you need to learn about it and they do teach you like, you know, you I think the most important thing is that the parents themselves have to be be able to regulate their emotions, everything else is flexible. If parents can regulate their own emotions, because you are going to get tested to the limit. I was a meditation teacher for 10 years before I did this. I had a lot of reserves.


Gloria Riviera  34:59

Yeah, you. You’re, you are far more ready than most if you’re a meditation teacher for 10 years.


Jeanne Gaskell  35:06

I was I had a lot of reserves, but they got depleted, they got tested, they got did such dry. So they, you know, I, you know, I’m, again, I’m in a better place that I can know how to refill it and things like that. That is the most important thing is you gotta be able to regulate yourself.


Gloria Riviera  35:24

I mean, just saying that to any adult, like, just be sure you know how to regulate your emotions.


Jeanne Gaskell  35:31

Under stress, not just when things are going well.


Gloria Riviera  35:34

So it leads me to how many people do you think are out there? And do we need to meet situations like yours to take children who are past the age of five, you know, into their home, whether to foster and then move on to another home or to foster and adopt, what is the need out there? And what do we need in this country?


Jeanne Gaskell  36:02

We need a lot, obviously, tons and tons as many people who can. And this is the part that I don’t always feel so optimistic about because you really need to be very able to put your own agenda aside 1000 times over a day. You know, I feel like a lot of people, people go into foster care and adoption. Now with infertility struggles, and then that you have to one you know, you have to totally heal and you’re not going to totally heal, but you have to know how to heal that separate because it’s not the same. It’s not like you can, it’s a different experience being a parent of an adopted or foster child. Or sometimes I see a lot of people doing it, because they’re inspired by their religion, which sometimes the thought is okay, but it comes with a lot of expectations, from what I’ve seen expectations of how the children will act, because of that expectation. So there’ll be grateful that there’ll be sweet, there’ll be kind and a zero, it’s the opposite. So that that should be your personal thing. It should have nothing to do with the children.


Gloria Riviera  37:14

Yeah, as you’re saying that they should be grateful, they should be appreciative, I’m shaking my head, because the research that I have done, which is not exhaustive by any means, but I do know that there is this idea out there, that children who are in foster homes who are eventually adopted, that they should be grateful, but that’s not the reality, you’re gonna see that every day or you


Jeanne Gaskell  37:39

No, and also, I mean, if I feel like people don’t they, they other, it’s so human nature for us to other right, the other child who’s in foster care, like, and then think, of course, they’re gonna be grateful now you’re within this nice family. But if anybody thinks about their own biological family, you know, and then thinks about being severed from them, like that children just because they don’t just because they had a chaotic environment, or even an abusive environment. The biological imperative to bond with your biological connections is so strong, any single one of us can imagine with some thought it would feel horrible to be severed from it. So what the children who want to be adopted want. The other thing that feels horrible, is not having a permanent place, and kind loving adults to protect you in the world and guide you in the world. So that’s what they want. Are they lucky? They get it, I guess, compared to the kids who are still in the group home? And I think probably they, they, if they ended up in an adoptive placement, that’s good. They’ve a lot of relief, and they probably do feel grateful and lucky but I mean, that’s like saying, aren’t you so grateful that I saved you from drowning? You’re should be so grateful, you’re like, yeah, but I would prefer not to drown in the first place.


Gloria Riviera  39:03

These are these are young humans dealing with so much they don’t walk in the door. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Even though you describe Patti thing adopt me adopt me adopt me. You also say she didn’t really know what that meant, right?


Jeanne Gaskell  39:15

No, she didn’t know what that meant. Yeah.


Gloria Riviera  39:17

I’m thinking like calling off super healthy humans into the foster care adoptive system. Right, I mean, you have to be ideally, you have to be a very healthy healing.


Jeanne Gaskell  39:29

Willing to work on it willing to work on.


Gloria Riviera  39:30

Yeah, willing to work. Maybe that’s the better way, yeah. Like calling all those who are open to working on themselves. As they as they work on welcoming these children into their homes as they work on creating their own family. I mean, it’s a beautiful thing to listen to your story because you seem to be navigating it just about as well as anyone could with all the frustrations and all the tenderness.


Jeanne Gaskell  39:55

Trying I fit right I fail. I mean, I go to bed at night, sometimes cataloging my failures, I think is probably all parents do. And but not necessarily in a bad way, I try to do it in a way that like, oh, right, okay, I have encouraged myself way like, I have to give more in this way, you know, I can’t, you can’t slack off much, emotionally, when your own foster parent, or adoptive parent.


Gloria Riviera  40:23

Well tell me about the biological mother, I want to know how this happened.


Jeanne Gaskell  40:28

Well, that’s the thing is like every kid, and just like every kid out there, every kid’s gonna have a different family. So every situation is going to be 100% difference. So I always say, because I don’t think it’s realistic to say, to future foster parents or current foster parents, like you must have a relationship with their biological family, it’s not the best for every kid. There are genuinely harmful biological and adoptive families out there, you know, people are people. But if you can, in some way, whatever you can, that is safe for the child so that they don’t have it as a big like, they should just get to develop their brain as a child. So whatever way that works best so our situation is way better than most I would say. Because they’re, they have a lot of biological family around who, for whatever reason, we were able to connect with, really safely and warmly like they, they for whatever reason, they were supportive of the adoption, you know, did the things in their own life they needed to do to be a safe connection and a safe presence. And also, because my kids are older, and especially the older my son, you know, he lived with he he lived with him until he was eight or nine. So he has you know, those are his family. I mean, he raises Jeff and Jeanne, he doesn’t call us mom and dad.


Gloria Riviera  41:53

Right, so you’re talking about Jonathan, who was with his biological family, eight or nine, which is the same age that Patti was when she came to you. So there’s just a different experience there. He has memories.


Jeanne Gaskell  42:04

Yeah, yeah so yeah, every every every child is so different. But really, John from the Dave Thomas Foundation was so helpful with that, because after adoption, you don’t really have any support from their case, they don’t have a case manager anymore. So it’s, it was a little bit hard to navigate. But he set up a meeting, I met with their mom and their aunt, I’d already known their aunt, either identical twin sisters, which is super cool. We met for lunch, and we talked and, you know, kind of decided how it would go. And then it’s it’s just gone like that. And it’s just gone easily. And well, so I I feel like it’s probably more rare that everybody in the picture is willing and cooperative player. But that’s just what happened to our situation. And I do feel like it’s rare. So I don’t think it’s you can’t say like, this is what you should do. But that’s what we do.


Gloria Riviera  43:02

Do you think it’s been good for? I mean, so what do you see in Jonathan and Patti, now that they are back in regular touch with their biological mother? What have you seen in them that’s made you perhaps think, okay, this was absolutely the right decision?


Jeanne Gaskell  43:18

Well, I think they just the whole thing is, you know, in all adoption communities, the healthy thing is like child centered what’s best for the child? In this case? Like, they I feel like they can put it out of their mind. It’s not like, you know, of course, I think you can imagine if somebody’s wondering how their mom is, do they have? Do they have a connection with her? Can they talk to her, it’s always going to be there, it’s always going to be bothering them. When they’re playing when they’re going to school, when they’re with their friends. It’s always going to be taking up brain space. So the most you can relieve them at the brain space. So they can just be kids, I think is the best. It’s not what’s best for the biological mom, it’s not what’s best for the adoptive mom, it’s what’s best for the kids. Child Development, so that’s what I saw happen is that it they just don’t, they don’t have to think about it. You know, they have a connection. They know there’s a monthly meeting, they both have access to the phone numbers, they can call each other whenever they need to. And again, this is because of the cooperation of all the people involved. It’s not I really do think it’s rare, but that’s the result is that they don’t have to have all of that nagging on their brain all the time, and they can get get to doing all the other things they need to do with their brain.


Gloria Riviera  44:38

Yeah, it feels like the word that’s coming to mind is it’s no longer the void it once was.


Jeanne Gaskell  44:43

Exactly, that’s a nice way to say it very poetic, I like it.


Gloria Riviera  44:48

Jeanne, I have to say a huge thank you. You know, for sharing your story for being so comfortable sharing your story. I feel like I mean, I feel like you love these children that you inject I absolutely love being parents to Jonathan and Patti. And that’s amazing, yeah, and your dogs, your dogs love them too.


Jeanne Gaskell  45:11

Of course.


Gloria Riviera  45:12

So thank you for sharing your story.


Jeanne Gaskell  45:15

Oh, I’m glad. I’m glad and I enjoyed it.


CREDITS  45:24

Thank you for listening to GOOD THINGS. This episode is presented by the Marguerite Casey Foundation. This series is produced by associate producer Dani Matias. Our supervising producer is Jamela Zarha Williams, mixing and Sound Design by Noah Smith. Steve Nelson is our SVP of weekly content. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova-Kramer. Help others find our show by leaving us a rating and writing a review. Thanks so much for listening. See you next week. Follow GOOD THINGS wherever you get your podcasts and listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.

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