Get to Know embrella 40 Club Member, Janis Nietzer

How long have you been fostering?

About 23 years.

How many children in foster care have you had in your home?

About 80. The longest, other than my daughter who we adopted, was 3 years. The shortest was 12 hours! I thought I would never forget the exact number but as the years have passed and life has been busy, I forget. But I have photos of every one of the children and someday may find the time to put them all together into an album.

How many of these children (if any) have you adopted?

One, my youngest daughter. Another child we cared for is now my niece, having been adopted by my brother and my sister-in-law.

What made you become a foster parent?

I became a foster parent because I wanted to share what we had with a child in need. However, I learned very quickly that fostering is really about supporting an entire family, working alongside the birth family on the child welfare team in support of reunification. Belief in the value of family and the ability of families to heal and come back together is what has kept me fostering.

What advice would you give to your fellow foster parents?

Always take everything one day at a time. Get involved with your county embrella in order to have the support of other resource parents. Attend training at the county level. In addition to receiving information on the special needs of children in out-of-home placement, these in-person trainings provide you with opportunities to learn from the questions of others, to dialogue about issues with other resource parents, and often offer information on community resources unique to your geographical area.

What is the most important thing you would like the public to know about foster families?

Please understand that the situation may be difficult for the child, and the child may be dealing with some ‘big emotions’. Be understanding if the child acts out or doesn’t seem to know how to ‘behave properly’ in a particular situation. But be aware of confidentiality. Don’t ask questions about the child’s past or why they are with me.

How has embrella helped you as a foster parent?

I have been attending embrella meetings in my county almost monthly since my first year as a foster parent. These meetings have made me a better advocate for my children through the information provided. They have given me friendships with other resource parents who understand what it means to have children come and go. At these meetings I have received information on community resources and made connections with professionals who I have been able to reach out to when there is a need. My children, who often attend with me, have benefited from meeting other children in similar situations. Being involved in my county embrella support group has made me a better resource parent in every way.

If you could leave a message in a bottle for children in foster care, what would it be?

You are important and deserve to be valued and loved for being the unique person you are.