After ‘rookie’ start, foster parents Rene and Donna Carrasco now naturals
By Russ Dilday
“Most of the kids we’ve had, the parents have either given up on them – they don’t want them anymore – or the State has had to do it for them and take them away. There’s nowhere for them to go.”
The words spoken softly belie the tough exterior of the speaker, Rene Carrasco of Midland. As a law enforcement officer with the Texas Alcohol Bureau Commission, he has to maintain a certain professional shell.
But as a foster father soon to become an adoptive parent along with his wife Donna, the shell disappears when he talks about his foster children Anna, Christina and Big Dude,* all under the age of 4. They are in the process of adopting Anna and Big Dude, and hope to be able to adopt Christina early next year.
“They’re a part of our family, so we can’t see not adopting them. It just seems natural.”
Donna, sitting beside him at the table watching their children play outside, finishes his thought. “They’re just part of us.”
The couple began their fostering journey less than two years ago after seeing the need to help children from a unique vantage point, Donna says.
“I have worked with foster care children as a therapist for a while and saw the need,” she recalls. “We started talking about it and realizing the need and realizing that these kids were hurting, the families were hurting, and we wanted to be able to help.”
“Even when we were dating,” Rene adds, “we had always talked about adoption as being something we’d be interested in as part of our lives. I know there are kids all over the world in need, but we just felt – I mean, we have a need right here at home, so that’s a good place to start.”
But when asked about their start in foster care, the young couple laughs.
“It’s definitely been a roller coaster,” Donna says quickly. “We both were young professionals, you know. We just kind of did our thing. We didn’t really know anything about babies or…”
“We were rookie parents,” Rene clarifies.
“The first time we went to the store – I can remember calling Rene at work,” she continues. “I had to go buy Big Dude some baby food and…”
“And diapers,” Rene sighs.
“…and diapers. I don’t know if you’ve seen the baby food aisle, but there are like millions of levels of baby food. I can remember calling him and asking him can we call the wife of one of the guys he works with so I could ask her what baby food and about diapers,” she says, glancing at Rene with a smile and an emphasis on diapers..
“Yeah. I was inexperienced,” he admits.
“Yeah. He got initiated into that really well.”
But dirty diapers were minor compared to the trauma they saw in the eyes of their children, says Rene.
“You know these kids come from a bad situation, because otherwise the State wouldn’t have intervened. So you know you’re going to get some hard stuff, you’re going to see some…some kids have been through some hard stuff.
“What hit us the most is we were scared, too,” he says. “We’re rookie parents; what are we going to offer these kids?
“But I think once they get here, nature takes its course; you fall in love with them. What’s gotten me the most is watching them grow. They come into your house, they’re sad, they’re traumatized, just disengaged. We’ve seen them going from that to (being) normal kids now. They go to school, they have plans, they can’t stop talking now, they can’t stop laughing now.”
As a professional therapist, Donna saw those hard realities of trauma, too. “They do come in a shell and they come shell-shocked. They’re terrified of everything. They’re just so frightened, so scared.”
But she also sees a chance to use faith to minister to more than their children. “Something I’ve enjoyed doing is getting to influence their families. We always made sure that the kids’ church pictures went to the visits with them because the church pictures had Scripture on them.
“So we were able to not only intervene in their lives, but we were able to intervene in the lives of these family members who are completely lost,” she says. “They’ve had rough childhoods themselves, they’ve struggled themselves. We’ve built some really good relationships with the families, trying to help them get their lives straight and get their lives on track, and that’s been huge, too.”
The two also credit their Buckner Foster Care team with helping them navigate parenting children of trauma.
“They have really guided us every step along the way. I’ve probably asked the same question about a million times,” says Donna.
“From the moment we started this, I was afraid,” Rene says. “You know, going through the whole process and the training seemed a little daunting and they made it real easy. Buckner has always been there, through the whole process, from the moment we started with them until now, if we ever needed anything. They’re always there at the (court) hearings with us.”
With the adoption of Anna and Big Dude near, the Carrascos have begun to reflect on the turns their lives have taken as a result of fostering.
“Some of the kids who have come have stayed only a few months and then gone back home or gone to family,” he says. “But something I can say I’ve contributed is when these kids come here they’ve come from homes that have no stability, there’s no anything, no love, no discipline or nothing, and at least when they’re here, we teach them all that.”
“It is the most difficult thing you’ll ever do,” says Donna,” but these kids have changed my life. Every single child who has gone through this home has changed my life in some way. And my life is so much better for it.”
*Not their real names.
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