by Elizabeth Wehman, editor
TERESA ESCH believes that making a difference in a child’s life is like a fingerprint. She prays that her love for the foster children who came through her home will leave that fingerprint which will last forever and they will always know they were loved. Esch is shown here with her daughter, Maddie. (Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
May is Foster Care Month. Approximately 13,000 Michigan children need loving foster homes while the state works to reunite them safely with their parents or find adoptive homes. Michigan has close to 6,000 licensed foster homes plus 2,800 children living in unlicensed relative homes. Not every mother physically gives their children life, yet they choose to love a child as if they did. They are given the title of ‘foster mother.’ Some foster mothers remain in that role for years and have the amazing ability to love many children as they shuffle from birth homes, through the maze of agencies, even into the realm of adoption.
Teresa Esch is one such mother. After raising four children, she found her home too quiet and knew the only way to find the immense joy of waking up with little ones around her again was to seek out adoption. “My natural born children were a true blessing to love and raise. Period. I was blessed with exceptional children and it was immense joy to wake up every morning to be a part of their everyday lives,” she recalls, “I wanted more children.”
This began Esch’s journey to find more children to love. She sought out adopting children from Guatemala through an International Adoption Agency. Four years later, Esch found the search for an adopted child had stalled. Because of that, she took another path. In 2007, Esch was blessed with her first foster child, and the child came with a sibling. Esch says, “Enthusiasm to nurture is in my heart and soul. My home came alive again with little hands and voices.” Seventeen months later, the family legally adopted the two girls. Esch acknowledges that a child’s tears hit her face and then her heart, with open arms she decided to accept what God had placed in her life. What they needed was love and care and Esch was confident she could give that to them.
Esch claimed the children allowed her heart to grow. She realized, “For me, I have given something to a child. I’ve left a fingerprint. That fingerprint will forever be just that, but it is my prayer and hope that I make a difference in a child’s life.” Over an eight-year period, Esch fostered 10 children.
Fostering a child doesn’t come without struggles, Esch soon saw the effects and heard about severe neglect cases. One of the hardest parts is when a child is sent back into a birth home. Esch says a prayer as a piece of her heart goes with the child, but then she returns to focus on the children still in her home to get her through those times. She also knows her home and heart could only accept and nurture so many children, “It’s like a story my daughter recalled about a tale of the starfish on the beach. No one can save all the starfish, but if you save one you have made a difference to one.”
Other children came through Esch’s home. Some of them were born drug positive or alcohol positive at birth. All have been affected by their need for attention, emotional, and decision making abilities. Esch soon decided to legally adopt three more. Her youngest was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury due to asphyxiation. She suffers from cerebral palsy, cortical blindness, seizure disorder, and a failure to thrive. Yet Esch continues to see blessings instead of heartaches as she nurtures her new family.
Esch believes that fostering isn’t for everyone. “You have to let go of your worldly goods, time, and be selfless. You have to expose your time, home, and heart to beyond the normal family. Days are often filled with endless specialist appointments, rocking and soothing a broken heart, endless fingerprints, clothes, and belongings galore. You realize ‘perfect’ is no longer in your vocabulary, but ‘love and life’ are!”
Esch encourages those wanting to be foster parents to attend an orientation. Talk to other foster families and be open minded. But also she adds, “Listen to your heart. Many families think they cannot, but you can. God never gives you more than you can handle.” She quotes one of her favorite Bible verses, ‘It is our joy and privilege to partner with God in loving, serving, and protecting the orphans and the widows among us,’ from Psalm 82:3. Esch’s home is no longer quiet, but full of love.
Persons interested in foster parenting may call the Foster Care Navigator at 855-MICHKIDS. Navigators are experienced foster care parents who can answer questions and guide prospective foster parents on their journey. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/hopeforahome. Interested persons may also call Shiawassee County Department of Health and Human Services at (989) 721-0782 or (989) 721-5145.