Frank and Katie Quebral have an agreement.
When Gateway-Longview calls the couple to inquire whether they can take in another foster child, Frank takes the phone.
“They have to call Frank, because otherwise we would have a house with millions of children and I would be divorced and it wouldn’t be good. So he gets the call and makes the determination,” Katie Quebral said last week in the gated, and crowded, livingroom of their West Side home.
Brandon, 2½, and Lily, who just turned 2, ambled around the enclosed space while a foster baby lay in a small crib near the couch. The couple took in baby – who was born prematurely and remains in fragile health – the week after they adopted the older children, who were foster kids when came into the Quebral home as newborns.
“We’ve always wanted kids,” but a medical issue prevented the couple from having biological children, Katie Quebral said.
The Quebrals have been married nine years. She is a real estate agent; he’s a machinist.
They decided to become foster parents after Katie attended a workshop titled “Spirituality and Your Money” in 2012 and a fellow attendee shared her story about being raised as a foster child.
Frank Quebral had this advice for someone thinking about becoming a foster parent: “Go talk to somebody and ask them anything, whatever you want to know. Don’t be afraid to ask.”
Now is a good time to ask. The number of children in the Erie County foster care system outpaces the number of foster parents available to meet their needs.
That’s why a collaboration between nearly a dozen Western New York social service agencies and the Erie County Department of Social Services will host the region’s first “Foster Family Fair,” to be held from noon to 2 p.m. Feb. 14 in the Science Hall Commons at Canisius College, 2001 Main St.
Current foster parents and young people who have benefited from fostering will talk about their experiences and those who attend the free gathering will learn about training to become a foster parent. Foster parents can be single, married, divorced, widowed, or living with a partner. The age requirement is 21 years or older, and foster parents can come from any part of Erie County.
Visit www2.erie.gov/fosterfair for more information and an RSVP form.
Kelsey Jones – subject of today’s In the Field feature in WNY Refresh – is among the Gateway-Longview staff who have helped train and support the Quebrals, other foster families, and birth families.
Poverty, addiction and other challenges have forced family court judges to remove foster children from their birth parents and temporarily put them in the custody of the county.
The ultimate goal of the system is to reeducate and redeem those parents, reuniting them with their children.
In many cases, that becomes impossible, and foster parents who are interested then have the opportunity to adopt children who have been in their care.
The Quebrals are among those who made clear at the start of foster parent training that they were interested in adoption; other foster parents tell agencies up front that they prefer to offer a temporary haven to children in need.
In either case, those willing to shower a young stranger with love and support will bring more meaning into their lives, The Quebrals said.
“It’s the most challenging and the most rewarding thing you could ever do,” Katie Quebral said.
Jones, 23, a social worker, has helped through the process.
“Kelsey was brand spanking new when we started,” Katie Quebral said. “Kelsey walked into the house and she’s younger than I am and I told her, ‘I don’t know if you’re going to be able to put up with me.’ She said, ‘I’ve got this. We’ll be fine.’
“We had an immediate relationship. She got me and I got her. She helps in support and answers questions when I get a crazy idea, when I want to get Christmas presents for the birth families. She talks about boundaries: ‘Yes, the baby book is great. No, can’t put people in your car and take them anywhere. No, don’t give your phone number out.’”
Jones and her boss, Michelle Federowicz, director of foster care and permanency services with Gateway-Longview, lavished praise on the couple for going the extra mile when it comes to working within the foster care system.
Katie Quebral has shared baby books with the birth families of Brandon and Lily – who are not biological siblings – traded information with those families, and even, at a family court judge’s request, sat in on supervised visits between the birth families and the kids.
During the process, the Quebrals resolved that, should they be able to one day adopt Brandon and Lily, they would have enough information about the birth families to share if either of the children want to reach out to those families in the future.
“It’s hard at times because there’s not permanence until there’s permanence,” Katie Quebral said. “It’s tricky, but in a lot of ways you have to have faith that whatever happens is meant to happen, even if you don’t like what it’s going to look like. It’s not about you, it’s about the kids. It’s not about what’s hard for you, it’s about making sure that the kids have what they need.”
Jones said it isn’t unusual for waits of two or three years for foster parents who want to adopt those in their care. The court system can move slowly, deliberately.
None of that mattered Nov. 7, when the Quebrals became adoptive parents to Brandon and Lily in a packed Erie County courtroom.
There was plenty of smiles and laughter.
The new adoptive parents cried, too.
“Like a baby,” Katie Quebral said.
Added her husband, “I’m going to start crying again right now.”