‘The Most Faithful Thing I’ve Done’
February 2019 · Foster Family Features
Shanna Eggers considers it her calling to open her home to children in need. As far as she’s concerned, kids need a safe place to stay and she has plenty of room in her Emporia house. There’s more to it than that, though. She believes children are most apt to flourish when surrounded by the familiar, when – if it’s safe for the child – they can remain within their own school and community and near friends and family. That conviction has led her to accept several placements at a moment’s notice, simply because she saw it as the best possible arrangement for the birth parents as well as the child.
“My first placement with Saint Francis was an 8-year-old girl from Emporia,” said Shanna. “She’d originally been placed out of town, but because I took her, she was able to return to her community. I put her back into the school she’d attended before, and because her birth family lived here, she didn’t have to spend as much time in a car when she traveled for visitations.
“Since I dropped her off and picked her up, I could communicate with her birth parents about her medical needs and about appointments and activities that were coming up. We could work together through and switch stuff around if our schedules conflicted. As for the child, she was able to go the same school she always had and see the same doctor and other care providers. So, by the time she reintegrated, it was an easy transition.”
Supporting the birth family is one of the most important things she does as a foster parent, Shanna said, because it helps the child feel more secure throughout the placement and reintegration process.
“When the child sees her foster parent and her birth parents getting along and communicating, she knows we’re all working together in her interest. She knows that everyone has the same expectations of her and that we’re all trying to get her back home. So, even though she might not like all the decisions we make for her, she knows we all love her.”
Her commitment has often required Shanna to adapt quickly to changing situations. Over the years, she’s fostered boys and girls, toddlers and teens – often simultaneously and at a moment’s notice. One time, she was expecting to receive a little boy, a toddler, when her worker asked if she’d also take his 14-year-old half-brother as an emergency overnight placement. As it turned out, toddler soon left to live with a relative and the teen stayed with Shanna for four and a half months. She even took in his pet chameleon and live crickets on which it fed.
Saint Francis eventually found a kinship placement for the boy, and Shanna told her worker that after he left, she planned to take a few months to rest and recharge.
“She called me two hours before he was set to leave and said, ‘So, we have this 3-year-old girl. Can you take her?’ Well, I couldn’t say no, so I quickly flipped a teenaged boy’s bedroom into a little girl’s bedroom. She’s five now and still with me.”
Recently, Shanna also received a 6-year-old girl, so she’s trying to keep up with two active and energetic little girls.
“That energy is part of the reward,” she said. “Kids bring lots of energy and love. Fortunately, I have my own home and a great church family that supports me and wraps their arms around every child I bring into my home.
“I’m not saying this is easy, but the challenges aren’t much different than what birth families deal with. People often think these are damaged or problem children, and that’s why they’re in foster care. But they’re not damaged, they’re traumatized. For the most part, they just need love. They’re normal kids who simply need a little extra support and stability, and that’s why I consider it my calling to provide that. It’s the most faithful thing I’ve ever done.”