Palisade family supports children, families and foster care community
April 28, 2021
Lisa and Paul McGinnet have been foster parents for 20 years. The family of eight in Palisade consists of Paul’s mother, their 17-year-old daughter, two 16-year-old son, their two-year-old son and an infant who is currently in foster care.
“No one in our home is biologically related except for my mother-in-law and my husband. Every one of my kids has a different story that's unique to how they came to be with us because we didn't seek them out,” said Lisa. “We had planned on being missionaries in South America and working with children, but then I had an illness that prevented us from going. Everything we do is about service, so this is just a tangible way within our community that we can help children and families. No one should ever age out of the system without a family. No one should ever not have an emergency contact. No one should ever not have somebody they can rely on.”
Over the years, Lisa and Paul have parented 65 children and youth in foster care. They always seek to create connections with biological family members and let them know that they are on their team and want to support them and keep their children safe until they can be reunited. Lisa sends photos and encourages parents to email her and has created supportive relationships.
“I had one little baby who I would take to a women's recovery everyday, so the mother could breastfeed. I wanted her to keep that bond. I got approval to do supervised visits within my home so that she could see where he was being raised. We invited her over for holidays [so she could be there for] his first Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Lisa. “A few years ago she emailed me to let me know she was celebrating two years of sobriety and wanted me to know I had a part in that. She knew I would celebrate with her because I cared about her as a person.”
By supporting the parents of the children they care for, Lisa and Paul feel they are making an even bigger impact on society and their community. They still hear from bio families and, because they live in a small community and have had many children in their home, Paul and Lisa often run into families whose lives they have touched through foster care.
“We went to do art at a place called The Palette and I recognized a dad who was there. I worked really hard with him to help him get this little girl back,” Lisa recalls. “He asked his daughter if she remembered me and she ran over and hugged me. Stuff like that happens a lot for us because we let the families in unless there's a safety issue. We really want families to know that we're on their side, but ultimately if it goes awry, we're on the kid’s side.”
In her professional life, Lisa works with Project 127, a nonprofit that inspires and recruits churches and families to foster and adopt children and youth. The organization also works within the Christian community to help provide for the physical needs of families. Lisa works to break down barriers or misconceptions that potential foster parents may have and is also authentic about her own experiences when presenting the training that foster parents need to be certified. Lisa has an exercise she does with new foster parents to help them empathize with birth families.
“I give them a sticky note and I tell them to write the worst thing they’ve ever done in their life that they are ashamed of on that sticky note. Then I say, ‘Now I want you to put that sticky note on your forehead.’ That's exactly how a biological parent feels because their bad thing is out there for everybody. Imagine what that must feel like.”
Lisa recommends that anyone who is interested in becoming a foster parent take the training. If it is not a good fit, the training also provides tools that are applicable to many aspects of life. For new foster parents, Lisa says having a sense of humor and connecting with the foster care community for support is important. “You have foster families in the community that we're in who share and swap things we need and support each other,” she says, “and you can always reach out to the professionals for additional help.”