RICHMOND, Va. -- April marks National Foster Care Month and this year's theme is "Keeping Families Strong".
One Central Virginia family provides an example of the way the members of different families can work together to raise a child.
Eight years ago, Chrystal and Alton Sturdifen first opened their home to foster children after hearing about it from a family friend. The family already had six children of their own.
"This is caregiving on the most intimate level. In your home, it's like your whole heart is involved," Chrystal said. "She was a full-time foster parent and she's actually adopted two girls as well. And she was encouraging us to do respite — weekends, holidays since I was in school at the time. And we started doing that and I mean, I just loved it."
It wasn't long before the couple was paired up with two children who needed longer-term care.
"And my son was going to have to give up his room and so I was like, 'Ace, how do you feel about that?' And he's amazing. He was like, 'what kind of person would I be if I didn't give up my room if they need my room?' So he gave up his room and they were with us for 18 months," Chrystal said. "We knew that from the beginning, no matter what, whether they were returned to their biological family or if they were adopted that we wanted to remain in their life."
The couple has had three placements over the years and Chrystal still shares a special relationship with her first foster daughter who she calls 'my honey'.
"We've had situations where I've been able to support her and something that came up and I'm grateful for that, to be able to do that. Because again, it's all about circular community. It's about supporting to make sure that the whole family is doing well. If she's well, the children are well," Chrystal said.
The two families remain connected and are still supporting each other long after the children have left her home.
"I can't think of anything else that I could possibly do. Nothing that would make me feel as complete as being an auntie to the children," Chrystal said.
If you have thought about being a foster parent but want to learn more about the training and what type of care these children need, you can consider respite foster care.
Respite foster care is when one foster family cares for another family's foster children in order to provide a break for the original family. This is especially important when there are special medical or behavioral needs for these children, so foster training is needed.
To find more information about fostering, click here.