After volunteering with underprivileged children at the Boys and Girls Club, Crystal Williams decided there had to be something more she could do to help. So she prayed about it, and realized she was being called to become a foster parent.
When people think of foster parents, someone like Williams wouldn’t automatically come to mind. She is single, has a full-time job and was an only child until she was a teenager. The only childcare experience she had was volunteering and babysitting. But she did have a passion for children, which sometimes all you need.
Finding her calling
Williams first became familiar with foster care when she worked as a guardian ad litem intern in Robeson County, North Carolina. A guardian ad litem is an impartial person the court appoints to act as a representative for the minor children in a contested custody proceeding.
When she moved to Raleigh, she began working at the Boys and Girls Club and realized there was a high population of foster children. So Williams took two big steps to make an impact: she became a foster parent with another agency and a foster care case manager with Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC).
When she originally interviewed with LSC, she was asked how she planned to manage her time and do both.
“I just said, ‘In all things I have faith and I don’t really know how it’s going to work, but this is my plan.’” Williams said.
More rewarding than challenging
Since becoming licensed, Williams has fostered 11 children—ages 3 to 18— with three of those being long-term; a minimum of 9 months. Her current placement recently got accepted to East Carolina University and Williams decided to be her host home that she can come back to during college breaks.
She also made a lateral move to become a foster care family recruiter for LSC. She is based in Raleigh and can travel up to 120 miles away to recruit.
“I’m going to stores, businesses, and if I have someone that expressed interest and they want to meet me or me come to their home, then I can sit down and talk to them,” she said. “I have a packet and information that I give them that just talks about the agency our mission, what we believe in, why we look for quality foster parents and what foster parents look like for us.”
Taking the job as a recruiter allows Williams to have more time at home with the children she fosters, and also gives her an opportunity to be more transparent with the families who are considering fostering. Being a foster parent herself, and addressing some of the challenges that come along with it, often gives her a leg-up in the recruitment process.
“It’s easy for me to have a very transparent conversation with people about how in my opinion, it is far more rewarding than challenging,” Williams said. “It does present its challenges, but I tell them at LSC we are great at giving you the support you need. I’m able to give an opinion on both sides of the coin because I have a holistic approach to it, and they appreciate that.”
The best advice she can give to families who work full-time but also want to become a foster parents, is to find their support system; church members, friends, family, or neighbors who can pass a criminal background check and be there when needed.
“I have sorority sisters and friends and church members that always embrace all of my kids,” she said. “If I need anybody, they are willing to help.”
For Williams, the most rewarding part about being a foster parent is giving the children new experiences; whether that be taking them to the movies for the first time or giving them their first birthday party.
She is always ready to talk to families about her experiences, and hopes it will encourage more to take that next step and welcome a foster child into their home.
“It’s important that we always have parents on the roster that we can call, even if you don’t get a placement right way. Kids come into foster care every day, so being able to find a suitable home for them is important,” she said. “Not every home is going to be suitable for every child, but if we have enough homes with various dynamics, then any kid that comes into care we should be able to find a suitable home for them.”