Most parents would do just about anything for their children. For foster parents Angela and Umesh Candeaparcar, this sentiment is especially true.
Since 2005, through Access Services, the couple has opened their Trevose home to 61 kids, including multiple sets of siblings. The Candeaparcars understand that being in a strange, new place can be scary. So, they do all that they can to create a loving, welcoming environment.
“We always let them know we are there for them anytime they need to talk. And we set their rooms up to make it look really nice. We’ll ask them what sort of toys they would like and we’ll go out and buy it for them. For example, a group of boys are into Paw Patrol, so they have all the stickers on their walls,” said Angela. “We’ve even taken them to Disneyland in California so they can see what it is just to be typical, normal kids. We pretty much treat them like they’re our kids when they’re here.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year and schools abruptly switched to remote learning, the Cadeaparcars were forced to get creative just like every other parent and guardian.
They wanted the children in their care to have a dedicated learning space, not just a table, and decided to convert their outdoor shed into a one-room schoolhouse. The shed was completely torn down and replaced with a brand new structure that features heat, air conditioning and electricity.
“We put real, actual desks inside there, a blackboard. We used different colors that resembled the classroom. It was just wonderful to have it established for them and for them to get up every day and feel like they were going to school,” Angela said. “That really made us feel good.”
Since most of the foster kids have IEPs, they were able to return to school sooner than most. But the schoolhouse hasn’t been abandoned just yet. There are plans to utilize the space for summer camp, movies and other activities.
According to Angela, transitioning to remote instruction was far from easy. Still, she and Umesh did their best.
“They have specialized learning, so I was constantly in touch with their teachers trying to make sure we have the right program for them and the consistency of learning, trying to stay on track with what they were learning in school,” she said. “When they did go back to the classroom, I didn’t want them to fall behind.”
In addition to maintaining a strong education, the Candeaparcars didn’t mess around when it came to the kids’ safety during a global pandemic.
“Even before people started to wear the face masks, we were wearing them. My kids were wearing the face masks, the shield and gloves,” Angela said. “They didn’t know enough about this pandemic and as a foster parent, I wanted to feel like I was doing all the right things for the children.”
Typically, the Candeaparcars house children ages 10 and under for up to two years until they find their forever home. They usually foster six kids at a time and specialize in sibling groups.
“A lot of times, it’s hard for families to take in more than one kid,” Angela said. “It’s important to keep them together for that sense of security, connectedness and bonding.”
According to Angela, there’s a desperate need for more foster parents, especially as the pandemic continues.
“It really makes a big difference in kids’ lives. It really does when you open a home to a child. You’re giving them a fighting chance,” she said. “When you see a child come into your home in the condition that they do, and a year later you look at pictures of them happy and healthy, that really fills me up. That really makes it all worth it just to see that. Even just six months or three months can make a difference. We try to get up every day and do it to the best of our ability.”
Visit accessservices.org/ for more information.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com