Foster Care Awareness Month: Milwaukee woman shares rewarding journey as a foster mom

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A Milwaukee woman who has been fostering kids for the past 10 years shares her journey as a foster mom and explains why others should consider being foster parents.

May is considered National Foster Care Awareness Month. Southeast Wisconsin is in need of foster parents, as there are currently over 7,000 children in foster care in the state, including 2,000 children in Milwaukee County.

"I cannot imagine what our life would be if we weren't doing this. It's hard, but it's definitely rewarding," said Jessica St. Martin-Trejo.

St. Martin-Trejo has opened her heart and home to nine kids throughout her journey as a foster mom.

Foster parents provide a temporary home for children. The goal of foster care is reunification with the children's family, but when that is not possible, it opens the opportunity for foster parents to consider adopting the children under their care.

Several of the kids St. Martin-Trejo fostered were reunified with their parents, who she has built positive relationships with, and three of the kids she adopted.

"I wouldn't change it for the world. They are the funniest kids around. So quick-witted, so sassy, but also just so smart and so resilient. All the things that they can do when they couldn't do it before...I'm thankful to be their mom," said St. Martin-Trejo.

St. Martin-Trejo says she feels the main reason people don't foster is because they're afraid of the process and the unknown of what the outcome may be.

"They're afraid of the behaviors. They're afraid of what may have happened to the kids, afraid of birth families being angry and taking it out on them," said St. Martin-Trejo.

She goes over this in classes she offers at Children's Wisconsin on trauma-informed parenting.

"We focus so much on connection and making sure that kids have connection before correction. They need to know that they're loved, they need to know that they're saved. They need to feel safe before they're going to make any behavior changes," said St. Martin-Trejo.

She encourages those interested in being foster parents to learn more through informational meetings, reaching out to others who are foster parents and asking questions.

"You are opening up your home and your heart for kids that may leave in a day, in a week, in a month, in a year, but also these kids may stay forever. But truly, you are making lasting impacts with families and kids," said St. Martin-Trejo.

The requirements to become a foster parent are simpler than you might expect.

Some of them include:

  • Being at least 21 years old (there is no upper age limit)
  • May be single, married, partnered, dating, or any healthy relationship status
  • May be a renter or homeowner
  • Minimum 2-bedroom home
  • Must be able to financially support oneself
  • Generally good health

St. Martin-Trejo shared what the best part is about being a foster mom.

"The best part about being a foster mom is that I get to share the love of these kids with so many people. We have so much extended family and people that we considered family, friends, that are now family because of this, and so truly just the community that wraps around you as a foster parent," said St. Martin-Trejo.

Children’s Wisconsin is the largest nonprofit foster care agency in Wisconsin, providing education and support to foster parents and children in care.

To learn more, visit childrenswi.org/fostercare or contact 414-543-4376.

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