TEWKSBURY — Steve and Susannah Trudeau have a deep love of family, faith and community. The Tewksbury couple was recently recognized by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families as Foster Parents of the Year by the Lowell/Chelmsford office.
According to Olivia James of the DCF, “Each DCF office statewide annually recognizes foster parents for their outstanding contributions and achievements in caring for children until they can be reunited with their families or find permanent homes.”
The Trudeaus, who have been welcoming children into their home for 12 years, were honored but humbled.
“We don’t do this for any recognition,” said Steve Trudeau, “it’s for the children.”
Supporting children in need had always been on Sue Trudeau’s radar.
“My mother was the director of an adoption agency, my sister is adopted, my best friend is adopted, so I grew up around it,” said Trudeau.
However, she admitted she was scared to take the leap herself and worried if she’d ever be able to give back until one day at her church when she was approached to pray for a little boy. After inquiring about the situation, Trudeau realized perhaps this was an opening.
“God led us to it, and God leads us through it,” she reflected, explaining that the timing was such that she and Steve were able to enroll in a DCF training program for foster parents, complete the requirements and background checks, and receive the proper licensure.
“Two weeks after licensure, we welcomed the child into our home,” said Sue.
The Trudeaus eventually completed adoption of the child, and have also given a daughter her forever home. Trudeau is clear to point out, however, that foster parenting is not a path to adoption nor a requirement. The foster home is a “trusting, loving environment while the court situation plays out” with respect to settling the child ultimately in a safe, hopefully biological family situation.
May was Foster Parent Appreciation month, hence the timing of the award. The Trudeaus have never looked back from that first experience.
“We’ve had approximately 40 children in our home, from babies to teens,” said Trudeau, though they are typically a go-to family for newborns.
Trudeau explained that children are removed from their biological parents when a potentially harmful situation is at hand.
“DCF works very hard before they make a decision like that. Staying with a biological parent is always the goal. Sometimes we may just babysit a child, and sometimes we may have them for weeks, months or years,” said Trudeau, explaining that in all cases the child is welcomed with love, security and a sense of safety. “They are part of our family.”
The Trudeaus share that the decision to foster is a family affair.
“There have been times when each of us has had to take a break,” said Sue, explaining that there are many types of foster families and many types of need.
She admits it is an emotional process and that the attachment to each child is deep.
“Some families are one day/short term care, and others are weekend or longer-term care homes; you have to do what works for your family,” she said. “Ultimately, we are a bridge; we take a child from a less than ideal situation, something potentially harmful, to something that is better.”
As part of the recognition, the Trudeaus received a drive-by celebration from social workers, friends, and agency representatives, complete with balloons and signs. Trudeau is philosophical about fostering and encourages others to explore the opportunity.
“You plant a seed and hope it blooms sometime; you hope your values and love, caring and nurturing supports the child and you hope you’ve made a difference and that it takes root someday,” said Trudeau.
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) strives to protect children from abuse and neglect and supports young adults, age 18-22, who are transitioning from DCF custody to independent living. DCF works toward establishing the permanency and well-being of children by providing supports and services to families at home when it is safe to do so. When necessary, DCF provides foster care and, if parental reunification is not possible, finds new permanent families through kinship, guardianship or adoption.
Foster parents are in need, and one need not be married or own a home to help. Visit https://www.mass.gov/foster-care to learn more.