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Mount Saint Vincent

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A tale of two children

at Mount Saint Vincent

The goal of foster care is to provide safety and security for children until they can be reunited with their families. Sometimes, reunification is not possible and adoption becomes the best choice. This is a story of two families whose foster children had different but equally beautiful outcomes.

On a warm fall evening, Brady and Natalei Shafer hosted a get-together with their friend Sarah and her 14-month-old daughter, Zoey. They laughed as they chatted about the challenges of child-rearing as they ate together. This scene would be unremarkable but for one thing: Brady and Natalei provided foster care for the toddler for 13 months. During that time, they established an extraordinary bond of trust and friendship with Sarah while Zoey was in their home. That relationship of mutual respect turned out to be a blessing for all of them.

Brady and Natalei met in 2015 through a mutual friend. They married in 2017 with plans to have a child of their own and to foster and possibly adopt another. “I worked with children in foster care throughout college and Brady’s grandfather spent some of his youth in an orphanage, so we always had a heart for children in need,” Natalei explained.

Having a child of their own didn’t go as planned, so they began exploring foster care options. The couple researched several county and private child placement agencies before choosing Mount Saint Vincent. Support while navigating through the foster care and court systems was a priority and for them, Mount Saint Vincent fit that bill.

Mount Saint Vincent’s foster care program provides a dedicated staff member to each specific case, monthly support group meetings where participants can share information and resources, a foster parent Facebook page that facilitates the free exchange of questions and answers, and ongoing support for all caregivers. Brady and Natalei signed on and became certified foster parents through their program in June of 2020. Four-week-old Zoey was placed in their care the following month. From the outset, the Shafers maintained very open channels of communication with the young mom. “Our job was to care for her child and support her in parenting Zoey, so we made sure she had a voice in decisions and received regular updates,” said Brady. Natalei would even call Sarah during pediatric doctor visits so Sarah could listen in on what the doctor was saying. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, Zoom was used in lieu of in-person visits. Sarah would sometimes ask if she could “visit” outside of the mandated amount of time required and again, Brady and Natalei would always accommodate her requests. It was during one of those visits that Sarah witnessed Zoey rolling over for the first time. “It was a beautiful moment,” Natalei said.

Ten months in, the couple realized that they were moving toward reunification. Zoey gradually began spending nights at Sarah’s home. In September of 2021, Sarah took Zoey home for good. Brady and Natalei’s friends would often say they could never foster a child because they would get too attached. “But that’s the point,” Brady said. “Our job is to love and care for these kids as if they were our own. That’s what sets these children up to have happy and healthy lives.” “For us, it has been the best of both worlds, because we were a part of this beautiful reunification where a family was made whole again,” Natalei said. “I would take the heartache a million times over to see that happen.”

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