Diever – As part of ‘foster care week’, councilor Jacob Boonstra visited Nynke and Martijn, the parents of three daughters (9, 5 and 3 years old). The two youngest are foster daughters, yet Martijn and Nynke do not feel any difference.
Martijn: “Of course we know that we are not the biological parents, you can see it, but emotionally there is no difference. The unconditional love we feel for our eldest daughter, we also feel for our foster daughters.”
Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, stable place. If parents are unable to care for their child, (temporarily) living in a foster family is a good alternative. A family where children can feel safe, where they receive love and attention and where they can just be children. Yet there is a major shortage of foster parents. National attention will be paid to this during foster care week (1 to 8 November). Councilor Jacob Boonstra is happy to contribute to this: “I think it is good to pay attention to the stories of foster families. There are so many different options to be meaningful to children who cannot grow up with their biological parents. By sharing these experiences, we hope to broaden the picture and perhaps even encourage people to investigate whether foster care is also an option for them.”
Space in the house and heart
The story of Martijn and Nynke’s foster family begins after the arrival of their eldest daughter. Nynke: “It was clear to us that one pregnancy was more than enough for me. Yet we both felt that there was still room for a second child, both in our home and in our hearts.” After investigating the options, they registered with Pleegzorg Drenthe. An extensive screening followed, both of themselves and immediate family members. Then, after six months, the phone rang. Martijn: “We were on holiday in France when we received the call: ‘There is a baby on the way who cannot grow up at home because the parents have an intellectual disability. Do you want to give it a safe and warm home?’ And so we became a family of four.”
Support from Foster Care Drenthe
It certainly takes some getting used to for Martijn and Nynke in the beginning. After all, there’s a lot involved. In addition to the arrival of the baby, as foster parents you also have to deal with the biological parents. And there are many agencies involved. In this way, the interests of all involved are well represented. For example, a guardian is assigned who represents the interests of the child, there is guidance for the biological parents and Pleegzorg Drenthe supports the foster parents. Nynke: “We are very happy with the guidance and support we receive from Pleegzorg Drenthe. They offer a backup that you can always fall back on and we can go there with all our questions or to vent.”
The first year and a half after the arrival of their foster daughter, the family goes through an uncertain time. Despite their limitations, the biological parents want the girl back and raise them themselves, while Martijn and Nynke have indicated that they would prefer to always take care of her. Ultimately, the judge decides in the best interests of the child and she stays with Martijn and Nynke. The biological parents also ultimately realize that this is best for her. Nynke: “This was a very difficult time for me. Out of protection, I did not dare to fully bond with my foster daughter. While that bonding process is so important in a child’s first years. Martijn was able to open up completely from the start and you can still see that she is attracted to him the most. I found that difficult, but fortunately I have also built up a real bond of trust with her.”
Bond with biological parents
The decision that the girl stays with Martijn and Nynke does not mean that there is no contact with the biological parents. Nynke: “Every 4 weeks the biological parents come by and play with the girls. We also call them mom and dad. We are heit and mem. It took some searching in the beginning, but together we found a way that everyone feels comfortable with.”
The biological parents’ confidence in Martijn and Nynke is so great that when the mother becomes pregnant again, she calls Nynke directly to ask if this child can also be accepted into their family. Nynke: “I still feel the emotions when I think back to that phone call. It was so unexpected for us. We had not previously thought about a third child. But the fact that we could give another child a warm and safe home and that they could stay together as sisters was decisive for us.” And so, 10 hours after birth, Martijn and Nynke held their third daughter in their arms.
The family is complete and all three daughters are doing well. Nynke: “We are a ‘normal’ family and do not differ much from other families in daily life. The bond between our daughters is a true bond between sisters. The youngest needs some extra care and attention, but has found her great example in our eldest daughter. That is wonderful to see.”
Love and meaning
Martijn and Nynke do not have to think long about what foster parenthood means for them. “The unconditional love you feel and that you receive in return is the most beautiful thing there is. In addition, there is the feeling of being of significance to a child, purely by giving it love and warmth. It is certainly not self-evident that you can have children, so we are certainly grateful that we can give two more children a loving and safe home. It is the meaning of our family. We got to know each other as partners in a different way and it really brought us closer.”
Councilor Jacob Boonstra is impressed by Martijn and Nynke’s story. “I love seeing how much love they speak about their daughters. And also good to hear how hard we work together with both the foster and biological parents and all the agencies involved to ensure that these children have a nice and safe place to grow up.”
Foster parenting, something for you?
If you are wondering whether foster parenting is something for you, Martijn has clear advice. “Above all, go into the process to investigate whether it is something for you. The foster care agencies can give you a lot of information. You are not committed to anything. Even if you register as a foster parent, it is still up to you to say yes when the call comes.”
Foster care Drenthe
In the Netherlands, this care is available for children aged 0 to 21 through foster care. In Drenthe, three providers provide foster care, the Salvation Army, Yorneo and William Schrikker Gezinsvorms. There are many different forms of foster care. In addition to long-term foster care, such as in the family of Martijn and Nynke, there are also other variants. In every situation, Pleegzorg Drenthe looks at what the best solution is for the child, the parents and the foster family. For more information, visit www.pleegzorgdrenthe.nl or come to one of the information meetings.