By Patte Smith; photos courtesy of Mia Harlow
If it is only one tiny moment of security or a single happy memory that may sustain a child, that is considered a success for Teena and Josh Gonzales. Talking with this Surrey Ridge couple is relaxing, uplifting, and an eye-opening experience of getting to know foster care and adoptive parents up close.
The Gonzales’ are an ordinary, extraordinary, and an unflinching pair when it comes to adding to their family of five. Sometimes a baby will arrive during the middle of the night, or a teenager will show up on their doorstep that will stay for a year or two.
“We love children and believe they are the greatest gift to the world” state the Gonzales’, who smile continually as they describe the experience of being foster parents. Josh describes fostering kids as being like a rock in shifting sand. “The world is always changing, moving and sometimes frightening – we want to be a strong foundation so the kids we foster can feel safe, even if it is for one day or a year.”
The Gonzales’ have been married for 14 years and have three amazing children. Casidee is the oldest at 12 and is their biological daughter. She attends Rocky Heights Middle School. Seven-year-old Liam came to the Gonzales family at six weeks old as a foster child. He was adopted by the Gonzales family in 2007. Nathan came to stay as a foster child at two-and-a-half months old and was only supposed to stay for three days – it turned into forever. At four-years-old now, Nathan’s adoption was celebrated on February 28, 2014.
As an elementary school teacher, Josh has always been involved with children. “From early on in my life I enjoyed being around kids and helping them. Teena and I try to maintain the innocence of youth in a nurturing home. We want all kids to feel safe and know that we want to help them.”
Teena says she is blessed to work at home as a dental billing specialist after working in the corporate IT environment. “Having our kids and other foster children is an unbelievably wonderful experience. I cannot emphasize enough how great it is – and the many teenagers we have fostered are terrific and great to our kids.” Teena encourages, “Don’t be afraid to foster a teenager – I cannot say that enough! The baggage that some of the kids have is far outweighed by the love we feel and for the love we get in return.”
“Some of our foster kids who have returned to their homes or are grown up still keep in contact with us and we are available for them if they need us.”
One such young lady that kept in contact with the Gonzales’ is Mia Harlow (see ad this page). Mia is now 22-years-old and is a very talented photographer. She photographed the Gonzales family for this article. “Josh walked me down the aisle at my wedding,” smiles Mia.
There may be a few challenges the family admits, but the good outweighs it a million times over. “We get support from the county, other foster parents, and we get continual training that is so helpful in everyday life – it is enlightening,” said Teena.
During the past eight years, Teena and Josh have fostered 20 children; 13 have been teenagers. Some stay one night, others several years. Josh is trying to establish a ministry through his church that will work with the Collaborative Foster Care Program (CFCP). Partnering with Arapahoe and Jefferson County, the CFCP recruits, trains, certifies and supports foster and adoptive families that care for children who cannot safely remain in their own homes.
“Unbelievable is what I keep saying over and over,” emphasizes Teena about fostering children. “It is the greatest experience to foster a child and, of course, an overwhelming and happy day when you adopt a child that wants and needs a family and we want them too.”
To that end, the Gonzales’ invite anyone even remotely thinking of fostering a child or adopting one to attend the free information night presented by the CFCP at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock on September 29 from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. or at the Parker Library on November 11 from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
For more information about the program, visit www.collaborativefostercare.com or call 303-636-1KID. “The love you receive back from children is ten-fold, remember that,” the Gonzales’ concluded.
Josh and Teena Gonzales settle in their backyard with their three children — Nathan on lap, Liam peeking over shoulders and soon-to-be 13, Casidee. After fostering 20 children, the Gonzales family is ready for more. They are amazed at the happiness fostering has brought their family and continue to reassure those thinking of fostering kids that teenagers are great. “It is an unbelievable experience,” they say. “Nothing but positives come out of fostering children.”