May is foster care awareness month, County foster parents share their stories

Aroostook County, Me (WAGM) "Your whole life turns around in a matter of hours."

It was almost six years ago that April Belyea and her husband Chris brought their first foster child into their home.

"It's terrifying, because you're taking in this child that has already experienced trauma because of leaving their family...regardless of the condition of that family, this is still all that they've ever known. I mean that first phone call, we thought we were ready, but we really weren't," she said.

Before becoming foster parents, the couple, who have children of their own, desired to adopt from another country...but somewhere in that process, it became less about adopting a child, and more about impacting a family. For foster parents Blake and Sarah Hatt who both do social work, it was about seeing a need and filling that need. The Hatts don't have children of their own yet.

"We didn't really know what was happening with them or where they were coming from, we just wanted to help them the best way that we could," said Sarah Hatt.

The call for their first placement came at midnight, and by 3am they had two new family members: a toddler, and a teenager. They were siblings.

"It was a frantic rush around trying to make sure that we had things in place," said Blake Hatt.

Each of these first experiences were the beginning of a journey for these families. Belyea and her husband have taken in seven children in the last six years - each time hoping to make both the child and the biological parents comfortable with the situation.

"There's fear of who these unknown people are and will they love my child and will they take care of my child and there's some hostility in 'you've got my kid and I don't'," said Belyea.

Asking these foster parents to describe what their work is like is a bit of a loaded question, because they say every kid and every situation is different. Some are harder than others - but what doesn't change from case to case is the love and consistency these kids get from their foster families. And what makes it extra special - is the love and consistency these kids get from a larger village outside of their foster home.

"To see all of the people in our life pour into these kids and to see the blessing of that, is really, it's amazing," said Belyea.

Both of these families have been part of successfully reuniting children with their birth families-- and they've also both ended up adopting children they first fostered. They each also have foster children in their care. They're certainly a long way from where they started and they don't plan on stopping their work for a long time.

"I'm glad I didn't have the big picture, because I don't know that I would have signed up for it at first," said Belyea.