Foster Care Spotlight: The Arbetellos
Walking through the mall with Kathryn Elizabeth Arbetello is like walking down the red carpet with a movie star. Whatever star power is – she’s got it! People love to stop and talk to her, comment on her pretty curly hair and cute little glasses. She loves all the attention, and hams it up for her fans.
Life is good for this silly, adorable three year old, but it wasn’t always so good.
Michael and Laura Arbetello decided to become foster parents after their son was born. Kathryn came to them when she was 15 months old and stayed for ten months before being returned to her biological mother. Laura says it was very difficult to say goodbye because she “knew caring for Kathryn would be a huge challenge for her young biological mother.”
This is a common sentiment among many foster parents – that saying goodbye to a foster child can be very hard. Throughout the fostering process, the Arbetellos chose to be a support to the biological mother. When it was determined 2 months later that Kathryn wouldn’t be staying with the biological family, they were there to accept Kathryn back into their home. Nine months after that, she was an official part of the Arbetello family.
Now, at three years old, Kathryn spends her days playing dress-up and doing her hair, dancing and doing gymnastics. She is a happy, imaginative child who is only now beginning to reveal some signs of her difficult past.
“As Kathryn is getting older, she is starting to display behaviors consistent with early trauma, and we are having a hard time figuring out how to deal with these,” Laura says.When Laura starts to feel stressed about parenting issues, she turns to other YFS foster parents for support.
“Only a foster parent knows what it’s like, so it’s invaluable to have a network with them.”
Another bonus of having such a close network of foster families is that the Arbetellos still get to participate in the lives of their first foster children. Their first placement was two brothers who lived with the Arbetellos for 10 months before being fostered and then adopted by a family who had gotten to know and love the boys as their “alternative caregivers.” As an added support, YFS recruits families to provide respite care for their foster families. These respite providers often end up becoming full foster parents – and sometimes adoptive parents.
“The emotional aspect to our family was nothing compared to the difficulty we had managing all the visits and appointment,” Laura explains. “All of our kids were frequently ill, so juggling doctor’s visits, family visits, working full-time, running a home, worker visits, court dates, etc. was our biggest challenge. Everything was so time consuming that we had a hard time carving out time as a couple.”
Despite the challenges, Laura says it is all worth it because she knows they have been a big part of “changing the path of three special little kids.”