Becoming Forever Parents: The Phan Family
Chiara and Tim Phan considered foster care adoption even before they were married. They saw it as a way to grow their own family while helping other families along the way. Their friend adopted from Arms Wide, and after hearing about their positive experience, Chiara and Tim decided to attend an Arms Wide information meeting. Through their journey of becoming forever parents, they gained firsthand experience of meeting the needs of children in foster care.
Beginning the journey
From the beginning, they appreciated Arms Wide’s approach of being very supportive yet realistic.
“This is hard, but it is meaningful.”
“This is hard, but it is meaningful,” Chiara remembers learning from their coordinator. Chiara and Tim knew in their hearts then that foster care adoption was the right path for them. They began their journey committed to sharing their hearts and home with children in foster care and quickly discovered the beauty and impact in extending that love and support to the children’s families. They understood that this love can exist regardless of whether they adopted the child or helped them reunite with their biological family.
Parenting as a Team
Chiara and Tim got their foster care license in 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. They agreed to open their home to children who needed them most by signing up for emergency placement. They knew the urgent need for children to have a safe, nurturing family right away when they enter the foster care system.
Soon, they had the opportunity to parent two young children. One stayed only a few months, while another stayed for a year and a half before reuniting with their biological family. “We learned about parenting in a team structure,” Chiara recalled. They wanted to support the children’s connection to their biological families.
“We were all working in collaboration for the child.”
Even though saying goodbye is difficult, they knew they provided love to the children when they needed it most. By accepting the child’s entire family, they gave the child the utmost love.
In February of 2022, the Phans’ world changed. They learned about a child named Legend who needed a forever home. It was a whirlwind from the time they were chosen to parent Legend until he joined their family in May. “We didn’t sleep the week up to meeting him,” Chiara said. She remembers that Legend was quiet and reserved when they first met for lunch at a local restaurant. “Legend’s foster parents told us that his favorite toys were balls and cars so we brought him a ball or car each visit. Over the long drives from The Woodlands to Missouri City, he started to warm up and point out the trucks and cars on the highway.”
Becoming Forever Parents
Chiara and Tim officially adopted Legend in November of 2022. The biggest adjustment was switching from the foster parent mindset and into the “forever parent” mindset. “We have done a lot of ‘binge parenting,’” Chiara said. “We always did a lot of activities, trips to the zoo, museums and other outings when children moved in.” Then, they wanted to seize the moment and make sure children in foster care had access to these normal childhood experiences.
After finalizing with Legend, they knew they had time to give him these memorable experiences at their own pace. “Life is slower and quieter now,” Chiara said. “We are able to take it easy and explore things together.” Their favorite activities these days are going to the library, playing golf and tennis, and visiting family.
Words of Wisdom
Chiara encourages families to think of foster care as a way to love a child in a parent role regardless of the child’s path to permanency. Even though uncertainty is uncomfortable for foster parents, the children just deserve love.
“The difference you’re making is meaningful. When you see children start to trust themselves after all the love you pour into them, it helps you cope with the uncertainty.”
The Phans also encourage foster and adoptive parents to find community with other families in the system. “The emotions with foster parenting can be consuming,” Chiara said. “Other families can be a safe space when dealing with uncertainty.”
What is the biggest benefit of foster parenting? Aside from meeting the needs of children, Chiara reflects on how foster parenting impacts the adults. “Foster parenting truly makes you be present,” Chiara said. And that’s one of the best things to be as a forever parent.