It was a chance meeting with a little girl in foster care at her family church that started Tona McCallister’s journey into foster care 28 years ago. “I always wanted to work with kids at a daycare but didn’t want to leave my own kids” she explained. Foster parenting seemed to be the perfect match right from the start.
It wasn’t long before Tona was a veteran foster parent. Since meeting that first little girl, Tona has been a foster mom to nearly 200 children.
At one point, she needed a break from fostering, and she decided to take a few years off. But it wasn’t long before she chose to open up her home again and joined Adelphoi’s foster, adoptive and kinship program as a foster parent. “A friend of mine, who worked at Adelphoi, told me how it has been a struggle to find loving homes that would accept take teenagers,” she said. Remembering how much she loved fostering, she decided she could continue to make a difference in children’s lives by fostering an older teen.
Tona says she understands the importance of listening when it comes to being a parent, and reveals that it’s her key to success when it comes to caring for teenagers. “They just want someone to listen, so that’s what I did, I listened.”
In addition to the children she fostered over the years, Tona has four biological children and one adopted child that are now adults. She also has custody of three children that are still a part of their life, keep in touch with her, and participate in their family holidays. She even built relationships with some her foster children’s parents in order to help guide them through parenting.
“Foster care gave my children a large extended family,” Tona stated.
As a foster parent, Tona believes it’s her responsibility to love, guide, and discipline the youth as they progress in their overall development. Tona describes fostering teenagers as especially rewarding. “Young kids adjust easily but teenagers are more challenging and therefore more rewarding,” she explains.
To Tona, the best part of being a foster parent is when they come back to visit later and are grateful, appreciative, and know how much we cared for them. She says, “It honors my heart to hear that.”
Tona offered some advice to those considering fostering and to current foster parents as well, saying “Try it! It’s not as scary as it may seem. If you have the means and a loving home, open that up to a child in need.”
To current foster parents, Tona says “Be patient. “Not everything always goes as expected, but that’s alright in the end.”