Story By: Jacqueline Clark
By 7 a.m. Natalie and Charlie Binette of Tustin are up. They get the children ready for school, eat breakfast, and head off to work. Like so many households in Orange County, they are shuffling through a busy morning with four children. Not all of them are theirs.
The Binettes are not conventional parents; instead they’re foster parents. Some of the children they care for may be with them a week, a month or years on end.
This month, they are fostering an energetic ten year old girl named Lila. This is Lila’s second placement with the Binette family. After her initial placement, she was returned to her biological mother. Hopes were high for a successful reunion, but within six months she was back with the Binettes.
Others in the family are their own two, Cassandra, 23, a kindergarten teacher, and Delaney, 15, who plays high school water polo, and Candice, 22, the only foster child the Binettes adopted. (Family members say they all felt connected to her and couldn’t let her go.)
Lila is just the latest of 32 children the Binettes have adopted over the years.
Charlie Binette, a 1998 psychology graduate of Chapman University, is a social worker. Natalie Binette is a supervisor at Koinonia Family Services, an adoption and foster care agency in Orange County. Their other big job, of course, is taking care of the foster children.
Like so many of Lila’s peers in the foster care system, life with a biological parent is often not an option. The reasons run the gamete from physical, sexual, emotional, substance abuse, or neglect. Despite the idyllic scene of life with a caring parent, for most of these children the reality is far more complicated. Lila is a petite doe eyed fourth grader, who despite ongoing separation from her mother is happy with the Binette’s. When describing what she likes about living with her foster family she replies “I like having my own room, going to school, and having a family that loves me.”
The Binettes became foster parents after struggling to add to their own family after Cassie was born. They will never forget Cassandra’s response when she was just four years old, and asked about having foster children come live with them. She told them: “We have beds and we can help.”
Binette Family Photo [/caption]Binette Family Photo [/caption]They have no regrets with this path they’ve chosen. Said Natalie Binette: “I hope we have made an impact on the children we have had. I believe we have. They have definitely impacted us.”
Along with the joys of fostering come difficulties. Some children come to the Binettes with the hope of being reunited with a parent or relative. If this day comes it can be both exciting and sad. When asked about the process Cassandra said: “Losing the children is the most difficult part. It’s a mixture of so many emotions. You have a special kind of bond with each individual. I get attached easily so this is really hard on me.”
The Binette’s believe that they have learned ‘compassion, bravery, and strength’ from the children they have encountered. They also hold hope that one day their own children will become foster parents.
With over 4,000 foster kids in Orange County and 50,000 in LA County, there is a need for good foster families. The Binette’s have shown that despite the trials and tribulations associated with being a foster parent, the reward of helping change a child’s life makes it worth wild. Natalie Binette encourages others to open their heart to experience:
“We have a need for foster parents. It is not an easy job. It tugs at your heart and tests your patience in many different ways but, it is the most rewarding experience you will ever have.”