Foster Parent Spotlight: Ange and Phil Cahoon
Ange and Phil Cahoon are both 37 years old and have been married for 13 years. They are both professionals…Phil is a software engineer and Ange is fundraising professional. The Cahoons have four children – two are biological and two are foster! We recently asked Ange and Phil about their experience fostering with The Villages.
The Villages: What made you decide to foster with The Villages?
Ange and Phil: We decided to become foster parents after reading about a horrific child abuse case where a child was threatened with peanuts (he was allergic to them) as a form a discipline. Our youngest child has an allergy to peanuts, and we were appalled that a life threatening allergy could be used to intimate a child.
That story made us think about our “dream” to be foster parents. We thought that there must have be parents out there who don’t understand how dangerous food and environmental allergies can be, but we did because of our son. We knew that any child who came into care would already been really scared, and they needed to know if they had allergies the person caring for them would be able to handle that. We could help those kids…we were already dealing with soy, peanut, gluten, artificial color allergies and asthma.
We choose The Villages’ for a couple of reasons. First, because of our allergen-free lifestyle we were able to accommodate mild, medical needs children and as a therapeutic foster care provider, we knew that The Villages were looking for homes like ours. And second, our biological children had attended Children’s Village, The Villages’ Child Care Center, and we liked seeing the consistency in the staff…we saw the same faces year after year…and we knew that was the culture throughout the entire organization. Knowing there was a very high turnover in staff in the child welfare field, we wanted to work with an agency whose staff were as committed to helping children as we were.
The Villages: What have been your biggest challenge fostering children and how did The Villages help you overcome them?
Ange and Phil: Our biggest has been adjusting our expectations of every member of our family. We had prepared our sons for children younger than them. Our first, and only placement, was for a boy and a girl who were the same age as our youngest bio child. Our son was expecting to be a caring, strong older brother and got a same age sibling instead! The boys are only 120 days apart and needed to carve out their own identities, much like twin do. Our Villages’ caseworker, Kathy Stagg, has been instrumental in helping the boys play bonding games, discovering what makes them each unique and learning to trust each other. Kathy is helping all of our children to find their own role in our family and it is making bonding easier.
The Villages: Do you do anything special/specific for a new placement to help the child get used to you, your family, your home?
Ange and Phil: The day our foster children were placed in our home we went to a local Indy Park. Kids need to just burn nervous energy out of them, and it sets a good example of how we’d like the kids to use exercise in their everyday lives.
The Villages: Describe a joyful experience you and your family had over the last year?
Ange and Phil: This Fall, we took our four kids to Southeastern Way Park to follow the trailing. This was not our first time hiking with them, but this was the first time they were able to follow a trail independently, notice the beauty of nature and be safe while experiencing the joy. At one point, we came across a fallen tree that was lying over a dried up creek bed. It was probably 4 feet off the ground and 8 feet across. Our sons attempted to cross, but fear of falling pulled each of them back and they gave up. Then our 5 year old foster daughter, who is very tiny, began walking across. Her arms were out for balance. She focused on walking and made it across. One by one each of the three boys tried. They cheered each other on and celebrated with each other when they crossed. The boys were able to accomplish this small feat because they were encouraged by their younger sister. It was the moment when I realized the gift we’d received from our foster kids: we have learned to cheer each other on and support everyone. Without our kids, we would be different people
The Villages: Do you have any advice for someone considering becoming a foster parent?
Ange and Phil: Do it! Look for an agency were you’ll get the support you need to be successful and help with the children that enter your lives. Fostering is a great way to pay forward the many gifts and blessings in your life. We’ve become a stronger family and more comfortable loving each member of our family because of this experience.