Empty Nesters Make a Difference

What comes after parents’ hard work pays off and children are finally prepared to leave the nest? Growing up and achieving independence can be nerve-wracking for young adults, but it also can leave parents with a void. This is a time when many “Empty Nesters” struggle for the first time in years with the question of what to do next.  For Byron and Angela Williams the choice was simple.  They would continue with what has become status quo for them; giving children a loving, nurturing home to grow up in.

Meet Empty Nesters Byron & Angela Williams

Byron and Angela have been fostering children through St. Vincent Catholic Charities for over nine years and have found it truly rewarding.  Angela retired from State Government over five years ago and continued to foster without giving it a second though.  With the prospect of Byron’s retirement from the Postal Service, Byron prayed and asked God what he would do with his free time.  He knew that there was only so long he could tinker on old cars and sit watching the grass grow before he lost interest. The answer to Byron’s prayers came in the form of continuing to do what they’ve enjoyed doing; opening their home to children in need. Reflecting on the past nine years, they never really imagined foster parenting and pouring into the needs of childen would be such a key part of retirement.

Welcoming new kids to their home where they raised their own children made sense. Empty Nesters know from experience how to love, discipline, teach and nurture children. As parents, Angela & Byron knew that raising their own children wouldn’t make fostering easier, but it did prepare them for some of the challenges. Byron explained his prior experience helped him understand the different stages of childhood. “Raising our children helped us be able to look at children and see where they are, what season they’re in.  Once you know where they are, with God’s guidance you can nurture, love and support them.  It’s just a matter of time before they’ll be out of that season and the growth continues into the next season.”

To the Williams, every child regardless of their needs is first a child. The Williams’ found that it’s really nothing more than recognizing all children need love. They just want to grow up in a safe environment and enjoy the simplicity of being a child. But they also want structure, guidelines, discipline, and defined boundaries. And if you can figure out a way to find fun in doing that, you can change their lives.

What Byron and Angela didn’t know is how their lives would change forever because of the children they raise. In 2013, St. Vincent Catholic Charities approached Byron and Angela about providing a home for Karon, a young boy with autism. At first, they questioned how they would care for Karon because they had never known a person with autism. Angela quickly adapted when she realized that all children regardless of special needs, still crave love. “Their needs may be a little more unique than the next person,” she said, “but they just need the same love, patience, teaching, and nurturing that a “normal” child – what we’ll call a normal child – would need.”

In being open to something knew, they have been able to improve the lives of a joyful child and learn more about themselves. “He’s teaching us,” said Byron. “He really taught us through his life that he’s different, but he’s more like you than you really believe at his core.”  Their adoptive-son arrived at their house unable to speak, and in three years can now speak full sentences. Both Byron and Angela agree that you can’t help but fall in love with that result. For the visible benefit, the cost holds no comparison. The joy Karon brought into their life taught them about the countless blessings of opening your home to new forms of love.

Even as their love for Karon grew, Byron and Angela continue to witness this unconventional love by welcoming new children into their home. In fact, on their twenty-third wedding anniversary, Byron received a call from St. Vincent Catholic Charities asking if they could take in a family of five foster children, the youngest of whom also has autism and is non-verbal. After all they learned from Karon, they were prepared to willingly open their home again. Over the years, they realize the importance of accepting every opportunity to love.

Understanding the role of a foster parent requires an open heart. As Byron and Angela attest, it takes being willing to see a child in need and acknowledging that you have the capability to meet that need. All it takes is meeting with the children and dropping your guard for a minute or two. All foster parents then have to make a simple commitment, not necessarily to raise a child for the rest of their life, but to have the courage to experience something new for a period of time.  Such a simple commitment is why Empty Nesters can be great foster parents.

Ultimately, the path for Byron and Angela’s retirement was clear: give love to children in need. They know that by sacrificing a little and impacting one child’s life, that’s one child who now has the opportunity to succeed. And all children need is love.

If you find yourself in the unique position of being Empty Nesters, attend an upcoming Foster Parent Orientation to learn more about how you can share your parenting expertise and availability.  Foster Care and Adoptive Parent Orientations are hosted on the first and third Tuesday of every month at 6:30 p.m.  Call (517) 323-4734 Ext. 1612 to RSVP today.

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