Sandpipers Is More Than an Early Learning Center. It’s A Lifeline
“When you foster, you learn about love in an entirely new way. You discover worlds and situations that you could not possibly have imagined” says Kristine Hendrickson Foster and an Adoptive mother of two children.
For Kristine, the decision to become both a foster parent and adoptive parent had been made years before she opened her home and heart to her first foster child. Her early exposure to foster parenting through her grandmother coupled with her relationship with three childhood friends, each adopted, shaped her vision of what her future family would look like. A family that included foster and adoptive children.
Today, Kristine, a single mother, credits Child & Family, and its Sandpipers Early Learning Center not only for helping her seamlessly ease into her role as a new foster mother but also for the endless support she received during each phase of the complicated process.
One fateful day the phone rang, and Kristine, Associate Vice President, University Relations, and Chief Communications Officer for Salve Regina University learned that she was about to become a first-time foster mother. A self-professed planner, Kristine recalls that she had reached out to Sandpipers long before she had been notified of placement. As a single, working mother, she needed to know what resources would be available to her when the call came, particularly when it came to childcare and Early Childhood Learning options.
She recalls, being immediately reassured that when the time came, there would be a place for her foster child as well as herself, as a new foster parent, who occasionally needed support and reassurance. “Child & Family and Sandpipers were there to help me with the process, from things like how the new baby would behave to what to expect with reunification and how it would feel when it happened. There were so many supports there.”
Kristine had her first foster child for five months. “When reunification happened, it was very traumatic. It was the first time and if you don’t go through it once you don’t know what to expect.” Kristine continues, explaining what she thinks is very important that others who are considering foster parenting and adoption should know.
“I feel it is always important to point out the difference between fostering and adoption and the goals associated with both. It is important for those considering becoming foster parents to know what their personal end goal is and if that end goal is not possible, what alternatives they could accept. In the end, it is about making a difference in someone’s life and being there for someone who needs you to be there. It sounds cliché, but it really is the toughest and most rewarding experience you may ever have,” she says.
About six weeks after her first foster child was reunified with his family, Kristine received a call from the Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF) stating that it needed to place multiple children in foster care, immediately, and asked if she would be available to help. “I hadn’t been in touch with anyone at Sandpipers since the reunification. The timing was odd. I had a lot of professional commitments and needed help with childcare. I contacted Sandpipers immediately and without hesitation was told, “we’ll make space. Don’t hesitate to take these children they need placement.” At 4 pm that same day, she got a call about “one little guy” (18 months old) who needed placement. Ninety minutes later he was delivered to Kristine’s house on Aquidneck Island. Today he is the first of her two adopted children. Her second is a little girl. They are now 11 and 6 years old, respectively.
“I’m educated, organized, and know how to do research, but I even struggled, needed help, needed resources, needed to understand the system and how it worked. If I’m having trouble navigating a system, I can only imagine how difficult and can be for others. This is why Sandpipers and Child & Family are so important. They provide the resources that are needed.” Rhode Island is such a small state, Kristine notes, there’s no reason for anyone (choosing to foster or adopt) should be left without resources like those offered by Sandpipers and Child & Family.
“I don’t think that people realize and appreciate how much the staff at Child & Family goes above and beyond the parameters of what the organization manages to help people in need.” This is one of the primary reasons that Kristine joined the Child & Family Board of Directors in 2019. To lend her voice and be an advocate for the organization.