Editor’s Note: This was an entry in the “Who Inspires You” contest.
As a social worker and trainer of foster and adoptive parents, I am exposed almost daily to women, and men, who provide endless inspiration to me, as well as to the children they so selflessly care for. When I began working for Children’s Home Society four years ago, I felt truly fortunate to work at a job that allowed me to provide for my family but also gave me the satisfaction of making a positive difference in the lives of others. What I did not realize at the time was how much the individuals I worked with would change my own perspective and help me redefine what truly constitutes making a difference.
I have worked with children of all ages and levels of need, the elderly, and currently with adult learners, using the PRIDE model for educating prospective foster and adoptive parents. While all of my career experiences have been rewarding, it is in my current work that I have found “the person I want to be when I grow up!” Roxann DuBois served as my PRIDE co-trainer last year, until she and her husband relocated to the Black Hills of South Dakota to manage a Christian camp for children. Prior to their move, Roxann had a houseful of children – some in foster care, some of whom are blessed to have been adopted into the DuBois family.
Roxann exemplifies the open-minded and nurturing personality that children from traumatized backgrounds need to thrive, while healing from their many losses. There is no child she would not consider helping. Special needs and skin color do not represent barriers to Roxann. She pays no attention to the pettiness of social status or what others may judge as unacceptable, in terms of who she is willing to help or how far she will go to accomplish that goal.
All children in Roxann’s home experience acceptance and belonging, and quickly become part of the DuBois family. From helping to update the DuBois “Family Coat of Arms” each January, to participating in summer rock-climbing excursions and family mission trips, each child knows they are a part of something bigger.
Roxann welcomes all children into her home and her heart and is willing to go without many things the rest of the world considers necessary, in order to provide the love and security they need. There were times when Roxann would juggle part-time jobs to help provide for her ever-growing family and many home improvement projects that took back burner to the needs of the children in her care. She is known to have limitless energy, burning the candle at both ends to balance the many roles in her busy life. Still, when asked to step into the role of PRIDE co-trainer, Roxann willingly took to that task as well, glad to share her knowledge and experience with prospective foster and adoptive families.
During the time I was fortunate enough to work with her, Roxann graciously shared her wisdom and insights, not only as a foster and adoptive parent, but also as a former foster child herself. One of the most moving stories she shared portrayed an all-too-common experience of prejudice in an-all-too common setting – her first grade classroom. When Roxann entered foster care at the age of six, Strawberry Shortcake dolls were all the rage with little girls. One of her classmates has gotten the coveted doll as a gift and brought it to school for Friday Show and Tell. After showing off her prized Strawberry Shortcake, the girl let everyone in class play with the doll – everyone except Roxann. Of course, Roxann was crushed to be excluded and later told her foster mother what had happened. That evening, Roxann and her foster mother went shopping. Roxann was allowed to purchase not only a Strawberry Shortcake doll, but jewelry, school supplies – anything they could find that had the Strawberry Shortcake theme. But it’s what happened the next day that really shows you what kind of person Roxann is. Encouraged by her foster mother, Roxann took her purchases to school. And she let her classmates, all of them, play with everything she had bought. As inspiring as that message is to me and to the PRIDE participants who heard it, just think of what all those kids, and maybe a few of their parents, learned that day.
Although Roxann is no longer co-training with me, her spirit continues to inspire me, along with the many PRIDE families who are lucky enough to hear her story.
PRIDE is an acronym for Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education. It is a 30-hour training developed by the Child Welfare League of America to train foster and adoptive parents throughout the nation.
Paula has a passion for sharing her faith through writing and service to others.