Reprinted from Spring 2012 Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch newsletter, “The Wrangler”.
To understand why Christian and Allie LeFer were chosen as Foster Parents of the Year for Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch in south central Montana, one must consider their “out of the box” approach to therapeutic foster parenting.
Within 10 days of receiving their first foster child placement, Josie, age two and a half, was removed by the state and reclassified to a less costly level of care. After several days of grief, Christian and Allie wiped away their tears over losing Josie and they chose to try again, welcoming into their home a Native American teenager named Peggy Sue. She came from a reservation community in Montana, and her history with her own family had been marked by alcoholism and drug use.
Peggy Sue had very little supervision before arriving at their home, and her behaviors were nearly unmanageable. She was angry and withdrawn. Christian and Allie set about the perilous expedition to break through to Peggy Sue’s hardened heart.
Very early in their relationship, Christian and Allie realized that Peggy Sue had never been outside the state of Montana and had very little familiarity with modern American history. So they packed up the whole family and took a 30-day road trip to New York City and zig-zagged down the East Coast to experience historical places, firsthand.
The LeFer family went from Times Square to Washington, DC to Colonial Williamsburg where Peggy Sue was fascinated by the re-enactment of Revolutionary War times. The trip she had said would be “boring” took on new life. Christian and Allie’s newly expanded family set off on an adventure to discover what the big world outside Montana had to offer. The new experiences helped bond the family and helped them all get to know one another as they drove more than 7,000 miles across the nation.
Christian and Allie have also worked hard to help their children create a new personal and positive history for themselves. Christian said, “We’ve had to help them rewrite the hard drive of their family memories. Not removing their culture or traditions, but replacing the painful memories from their home lives with new, happy ones.” They create photo albums showing the kids being held and cuddled by their parents. They took pictures of birthday parties and cakes that they never had before. “They can look at their albums and see themselves happy. Being valued,” Christian said. And the photos reinforce what Christian and Allie want them to believe about themselves.
Christian is also developing a website to provide support to foster parents worldwide. The website will offer a place for foster parents to share ideas and to support one another in the difficult but rewarding work of foster care.
Christian says, “Every one of our children is treated the same. Some foster parents don’t treat foster children like their own. Maybe it’s because they are protecting their own hearts because they fear that the foster children to eventually leave. We don’t do that. Whatever we sacrifice for the boys, we’ll sacrifice for Peggy Sue. We aren’t so different. We’re just defiant. We do it with our whole heart, and it’s on the line for each child. Even if they leave some day by their own choice, we are always ready and willing for them to return to open arms. They’re our kids for life.”
They have now adopted Josie, who is now five years old and has been with them for more than two years. They look back on how much she has grown and flourished in their home.
“To have her relax in your arms and trust you, that’s huge,” Allie said. “To see her giggle and laugh and let down her guard and act like a normal child, it’s the most amazing feeling in the world. We see the really bad behaviors and anxieties fading away and we marvel over those behaviors she doesn’t engage in anymore because she’s not afraid. It’s amazing!”
Christian encourages others to consider becoming a foster parent saying, “If you want to change the world, become a foster parent! You can add value to society through this child! Our generation may or may not cure cancer but we’ll be 100% better off with each child who is raised, loved and nurtured. Imagine taking a troubled child who is a ward of the state and turning them into a happy, problem-solving, freedom-loving person. It happens before your eyes! If you want to stretch yourself farther than you think you are capable, and grow and learn more about yourself than you ever have before, become a foster parent. You’ll be
rewarded beyond your wildest dreams.”
Christian and Allie’s kids are already suggesting adding more foster kids to their home. Older son Caleb recently exclaimed, “Dad! We have an 8-passenger Excursion! We can fit at least 2 more kids in it!
To download the original article in PDF, click here.