In the world of foster care, some people feel called to open their homes to children in need. Jeff and Delrena Johnson are one of the couples who have answered that call. They explain that their faith led them to pursue fostering because of the need they saw in their own community and their desire to help children. “For us, it’s a God thing,” Delrena said. “You walk through life and realize you’re supposed to do something, and God says, ‘This is it.’” The Johnsons were approved to foster by DePaul in 2016; for the past three years, they have provided a loving home to seven children and teens and currently foster two young girls.
“Delrena and Jeff are always welcoming to all the children who come into their home and understanding of the circumstances that led them to be there,” said DePaul Foster Care Supervisor Deanne Wright. “They are very accepting of everyone, and have been able to manage challenging behaviors and provide a high level of therapeutic care. They find a balance between providing structure and firmness while also being very loving, nurturing parents.”
After becoming an approved DePaul foster home, the Johnsons welcomed their first placement—a feisty sibling set of three, all under the age of 6. Jeff and Delrena realized they would have to be creative and flexible in order to figure out ways to make each child feel loved. “We had to learn each child’s love language,” Delrena explained. “The oldest sibling liked us to tell him how awesome he was; the middle child liked having gifts bought for him; and the littlest one liked to be hugged and cuddled. We learned what makes one child feel loved won’t necessarily make another child feel loved.”
In addition to providing foster care to the two girls currently in their home, Delrena and Jeff are expecting their first biological child soon. The Johnsons have included the girls in their pregnancy journey, taking them to ultrasound appointments to see the baby, and both girls are looking forward to meeting the new little one. “Our younger foster daughter kisses my belly and asks, ‘How’s that big ol’ baby doing?’” Delrena remarked. “They are very excited and have very much been a part of the pregnancy.”
While the Johnsons have undoubtedly made positive impacts in the lives of the children for whom they have cared, Delrena and Jeff feel that being foster parents has made them better people. “We hear people say ‘it’s so great, the kids are lucky to have you,’” Delrena said. “But we feel lucky to have these kids.” The most rewarding aspect of foster parenting for them has been the remarkable growth they have witnessed in their foster children. “A kid might come into our care unable to hold a fork or spoon, or be so traumatized that every time you raise your hand to give them a hug they jump in response,” Jeff said. “We’ve been able to watch them transform from survival to living.”