Dave and Maria Garcia know the best way to prepare a kid for life is to teach them that they can get through any situation.
“We raise survivors, not victims.”
The Garcia’s have raised over 70 foster kids in the last 15 years. They probably have the biggest family in southeast Alaska!
And in the Garcia home, everyone is family. When foster kids end up getting adopted or returning to their birth families, they still keep in touch and come back to visit.
It’s all about making sure the kids are safe, and have consistency in their lives – something that might have been lacking before.
“They all need a place to lay their heads knowing they’re going to be safe,” says Dave.
Having consistent activities and mealtimes is also important so that the kids know what to expect each day, and each week.
“They know they’ll get breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack before bed.”
They always say the same dinner prayer.
Besides mealtime, the family does lots of activities together: fishing for halibut and salmon, watching movies, and the occasional trip out of state.
Some kids really enjoy getting involved in Alaska native dance, and weaving baskets. Dave says it really helps them get to know their own culture, and helps their mental health.
That said, every kid is different and has different mental health issues they’re working through. Trying to get everyone on the same page can be a challenge sometimes.
Dave is also on the RFAB (Resource Family Advisory Board) where he provides suggestions of how to make foster care work better and be more helpful. Insights he’s gotten from raising so many kids have helped statewide, making requirements like making sure kids have clothes that fit, or the proper release form when getting picked up from school.
The Garcias mentor other therapeutic foster families too.
“We’re role modeling,” he says, both to other families, and to all the kids they raise. “Treat [the foster kids] as you would your own kids.”
Silema Garcia certainly does – she treats everyone who comes into her home as her own brothers and sisters. One time at school, the teacher told everyone to list their siblings’ names. Silema asked for more paper, because she didn’t have enough space to write down all their names!