Being a military family means material, spiritual support for foster family

September 2019 · Foster Family Features

Military families posted far from home often must rely on each other for support. This is especially true for those who serve children in need, along with serving their country. Nicole Berry knows this firsthand. She considers her Army friends and neighbors as much of a family as any connected genetically. The same goes for her spiritual family at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.

“There’s no way I would ever be able to do this without them,” she says, “especially when he’s gone.”

Her husband, Dwight, is an Army surgical nurse who has been posted to Fort Hood, Texas, since July 2018. Meanwhile, his wife, three sons, and two foster children remain in Junction City, Kansas, near Fort Riley. He travels home as frequently as possible, but until he retires in about a year, Nicole’s mission is to hold down the fort. Fortunately, she has plenty of experience. As a military spouse, she’s used to managing the household mostly alone. That’s why she also understands and appreciates just how vital the support is that she and her military and church families provide to each other.

“That’s one of the best things about military life,” said Nicole. “Whether you have foster kids or not, we’re all in the same situation, living far from family and dependent upon each other. If Dwight is training or on deployment and I get a placement at midnight, I don’t have to worry. I just call for help from my military family. I’m also blessed to be part of a Catholic women’s group on post. Those ladies will drop everything and do anything to help. They bring food, help babysit, and provide rides. I’m the cafeteria manager at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, and they’re supportive, too. We’re friends with everyone, from the priest to the principal to the teachers.”

Licensed since 2013, Nicole and Dwight started foster care with the aim of fostering to adopt. They’d always wanted more kids and adopting local children in need of a family just made sense. Forty placements later, they have two adopted sons, and they’re still fostering.

“When we started, we took sibling groups because it’s often hard to keep brothers and sisters together when they’re in the system,” said Dwight. “Agencies can have a hard time finding placements for groups of kids.”

“Our adopted sons Landon, 12, and Joshua, 8, are (biological) siblings,” added Nicole. “When they came here, Dwight was deployed, and we initially thought they were going to be reintegrated. Then that fell through, but we already knew. We loved them immediately.”

By the time the adoptions rolled around, Dwight was back in Korea on another deployment. So, he wasn’t home when the boys arrived, nor when their adoptions were finalized. In between, though, he had plenty of time to get to know them. And soon they’ll be the only Berry children left at home. This year, their son Jacob will graduate and leave home – as did their eldest child, Megan, two years before. She’s now a student at Missouri State University.

Dwight and Nicole aren’t sure if they’ll adopt again, but they wouldn’t mind another daughter. Right now, they’re fostering an 8-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy. Whether they adopt or not, they’ll continue to foster.

“I have to foster because I love kids and hate to see them hurting,” said Nicole. “When they come here – whether it’s overnight, a week, or a long-term stay – they’re part of the family. We need more foster parents to take in these kids and to not be afraid to provide love and support. We need people who are willing to let themselves become attached, because that’s what these kids need most – someone to love them. You can never have too much of that.”

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