Villages Highlight: Brenda Suminic
Brenda pictured with her husband Zach and their puppy Luna.
Brenda Simunic, BSW, Foster Care Case Manager
Brenda’s passion for children in need and the families who support them radiates from her. “I have a heart for children in these situations,” says Brenda, who discovered social work as her passion while a student at Indiana University.
Brenda says she began her college career majoring in psychology, explaining she gave it a shot and that it didn’t go so well. A friend from her Christian Student Fellowship small group was in the School of Social work and told her about the field and coursework. “When she told me about social work, I thought, ‘I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it.’”
Her interest for the field stems from her family roots and high school experiences. Brenda’s mom is from Guatemala and her dad is from Puerto Rico. They met in Connecticut when they immigrated to the United States and the family landed in Bloomington when Brenda’s dad took a job in the city in 2007.
Brenda says when she was in high school, she traveled on her church’s mission trips to Guatemala. She and her boyfriend (now husband) sponsored a pair of siblings who were part of the organization they got to serve, Agua Viva in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. With little money in hand for the sponsorship, her boyfriend created tee shirts that had Guatemala – home away from home printed and sold them. The fundraising venture fulfilled the sponsorship for one year for both children. “We still keep in contact with our kids. We write each other. It’s so fun to see them grow,” says Brenda.
While Guatemala does not have a foster care system with children instead living in orphanages and residential facilities, Brenda says the experience was the catalyst to her heart for foster care and children needing and deserving a safe and happy place to live and grow. When she graduated from IU in 2019, she Googled looking for jobs in foster care and found The Villages of Indiana.
“I didn’t think it was possible to work in a place where leadership and coworkers are the way they are here,” says Brenda. “Just recently my boss’ boss gave me gift card to Starbucks because she saw I was stressed. That’s appreciation. My direct boss is also really understanding, caring and easy to work under.”
And while she’s passionate about her work, Brenda says she also is learning a lot about herself while working with children and families. “I love kids so much. Getting to know and spend time with my kids during such a vulnerable season in their lives, I wish they knew the impact they have on me…. seeing kids go through the things they do makes me think I can do anything because (these kids) are so strong.”
Brenda says one of her favorite things about working with foster children is hearing stories about what they’re doing, their favorite sport and that sort of thing. She is not shy recognizing the strength she sees in foster parents, too. “The heart they have is inspiring to me. That they chose to bring these young people into their house all while juggling their own work, families, and the requirements of being a foster parent. Foster parents do so much. I don’t think they get enough credit.”
Just a year into her job, Brenda says her very first adoption hearing stands out as one of the best memories. She says the family specifically wanted to work with kids with challenging behaviors. “This child challenged them to the very end. Yet the emotion that was in the room (during the adoption) was amazing,” says Brenda. “I remember foster dad telling the judge, ‘you wouldn’t know (his soon to be son) wasn’t already a member of this family.’ It was sweet to hear the child want to be adopted by this family and he even took on his new dad’s middle name as his own.
“To see that was exciting and reminded me why I want to do this,” says Brenda.