If you’ve kept up with the news, listened to the radio or even had a child close to you attend school, you’ve likely heard a story, or several, that have impacted you deeply regarding the crisis and need for foster parents not just locally but nationwide. As each day passes we are effortlessly reminded that we cannot do this alone and we need foster parents, like each of you, that will help us jump in the trenches and work hard to make a difference. Your commitment to providing that and so much more has paved the way for lifelong impacts for youth and families and we will be forever indebted to you all for your hard work and sacrifice.
If you’re looking for foster parents who just seem to get it, it’s them. In their over 15 years of fostering and seemingly hundreds of placements, the word “foster” never really seemed to stick. Through the highs and lows, the good and bad, the shaky and stable, the crisis and celebrations – they’re there…and always ready and willing to be front and center for it all. This years foster parent of the year award goes to Mandy and Alan Whiteside.
Mandy and Alan began fostering in 2005 with the heart to open up their home and family to provide a place for kiddos in need. Now with handfuls of kiddos and foster grandkiddos, they’ve continued to demonstrate the same perspective. The Whitesides love a good challenge and are eager to make accommodations to meet a need whenever possible. Mandy and Alan have been supports to not only their youth, but their fellow foster parents whether its a quick phone call, assistance with a crisis, a quick drop off or even an extended respite, they have always showed up with a steady and nonchalant “that’s fine – we will make it work”.
If you’ve been to any of the CHOICES events, it’s no doubt you’ve seen their family roll up in their big huge van filled with smiling kiddos and lots of energy. The Whiteside’s are faithful to attend all CHOICES activities, to jump in and lend a hand to other parents, especially those in need, to show up for sporting events with their kids, to encourage youth to participate in new activities, and to go the extra mile. When asked about some of their best qualities, it was a unanimous – “they’re just awesome and they get it”. Workers, both past and present, share that the Whitesides work hard to make sure each youth’s needs are met in a way that is helpful and impactful to specifically them and truly give youth a family from the very first day. They have been known to have a Welcome Party for their new placements where they will invite family to get to know their new youths but also ensure that kiddos are given positive birthday experiences, some for the very first time, complete with parties and their favorite things. Mandy and Alan continue to provide a safe place for any and every child they can while also maintaining connections with the ones who have left. The Whitesides are quick to offer an invite to a family gathering and even show up for the births of those children’s children. Most recently they were able to attend the birth of TWO of their previous foster youth ON THE SAME DAY. The Whitesides have adopted, officially and unofficially, several children and work hard to remain committed, wholeheartedly, to ensure that they’ll never have to face another hard day alone. Mandy and Alan offer unwavering support, love, stability, grace, forgiveness, and compassion.
Mandy and Alan, thank you. Thank you for being a champion for CHOICES and for your youth. The sacrifices and sleepless nights to make sure needs are met have not gone unnoticed. We see you, we appreciate you, and we are so thankful for you!