GAIL MARTIN, Independent Editor
Dawn and Garry Malo know what it’s like to be busy.
The Malos, who live in the village of Wellesley, not only run their own business, but also serve as foster parents — as they have done for the past 29 years.
The Malos first became foster parents when their own children were six and four years old. At the time, they were considering whether to adopt, as a means of adding to their family, and decided to try fostering first.
They never stopped.
Over the years, the Malos estimate they have fostered approximately 70 children, providing respite care for foster parent families. Last week, they were hosting four children from the same family — a bit of a handful, but no match for Dawn’s really “House Rules.”
“I love the House Rules,” said Dawn. “I tell them that I would love to let them do something, but House Rules don’t allow it.”
The other day, Dawn even put herself on time out, when she felt she needed a break from the children.
She said they tiptoed around the house, whispering to each other that Dawn was having a time out.
“I think they thought Garry gave me a time out,” she laughed.
Whatever they thought, it worked.
Together, Dawn and Garry provide a safe, secure haven for children who need it — and a break for the foster families that might need one.
When they originally started fostering, they would take on all age groups, including newborns. However, over the years, they have found what works for their family — school-aged children who need that extra support and encouragement before and after school and on weekends.
For Garry, it is particularly rewarding to be able to be there for these children, as he spent some time in foster care as a child.
The Malos eventually adopted one of the children they fostered, but have never stopped providing that extra care for the foster kids who come their way, something that has spilled over into their adult children’s lives. One son, a pastor, currently runs an orphanage in Bolivia, providing a special home for children in need.
“(Our children) feel a sense of responsibility,” said Dawn.
And while there have been many challenges over the years, there have also been many rewards.
“We just love kids,” said Dawn. “They keep us young.”
This week is Foster Parents Week, a week set aside for recognizing the positive work that foster parents do in the community.
Teresa Trofymowych, a foster/adopt recruitment worker with Family and Children’s Services in Waterloo Region, said that there is an increasing need for foster families in Waterloo Region.
Foster parents, said Trofymowych, can come from a variety of backgrounds — they can be single, married (same-sex marriages are also welcome), with previous experience with children, or none whatsoever.
What is important is their willingness to provide a safe place for children who, through no fault of their own, are unable to stay with their parents — whether for a short period of time, or a longer duration.
Dawn said that she regularly encourages people to consider fostering.
“What I’ve told friends of ours, and family visiting our home, if someone showed up at your door, and needed you to take care of their children for a day or two, you’d say yes,” said Dawn. “Just say yes.”
Those interested in fostering must fill out an application form, complete training and a home study, which helps match foster families to their children.
For more information, visit www.fosteringkids.ca, or plan on attending an upcoming information night set for Nov. 28. To register, or for more information, call 519-576-0540.