Becoming a foster parent "just seemed right"
At first, she connected with the Boys and Girls Aid Society, a DHS partner that offers transitional living to children leaving Oregon Youth Authority.
"I didn't feel like younger kids were an option because I needed to work full-time," Janet said. After about three or four years of hosting teenagers, Lizzie came into Janet's life.
"Becoming her foster parent just seemed right," Janet said, and she went through Clackamas County child welfare to become a state-certified foster parent to Lizzie.
For Lizzie, it was exactly what she needed, too. Janet was able to offer Lizzie the same stable environment in which she herself had grown up, as well as an extended family. They took vacations to Disneyland and Washington, D.C., and Lizzie documented each moment by taking photographs.
"She became family," Janet said, "as if she were my own child."
Lizzie agrees. "I got to experience so many things that I never would have had the chance to otherwise. She taught me to drive. She pushed me to get a job, so I could go out and do things. She helped me have a relationship with my parents and understood how I felt when I couldn't be around them. She never tried to replace them, just helped them raise me since they couldn't."
"Janet made me a good person. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have all the great people in my life that I have now."
Lizzie didn't want to go to high school, but once she got there she didn't look back. She turned into a real go-getter, ended up on the honor roll and even got a scholarship to go to college Janet said.
But like any family, there were tough times too. "Lizzie went through a lot of stuff," Janet said. "Our house was robbed, I had cancer and I got in a car accident. But I had a job and insurance, so we got through it."
Janet said that those difficult experiences may have been an even greater gift to Lizzie than the fun trips because she learned that tough times don't have to devastate your life.
Janet credits DHS for giving her the support she required to raise Lizzie: "She had a whole network of people on her side. I just don't think you can do it all by yourself."
Lizzie is now 21 and soon to be a mother herself, but remains in close contact with Janet. "Janet made me a good person," Lizzie said. "If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have all the great people in my life that I have now. She is still in my life and will stay that way. She is going to be a grandma to my daughter."
Janet explained that for her foster parenting wasn't a series of big warm-and-fuzzy rewards. It was hard work, but the day-to-day interaction with the child was so cool. Today, she hasn't ruled out caring for another foster daughter.
"It's a wonderful experience," she said, "and I would do it again with the right fit."
Lizzie has advice for people thinking about becoming foster parents: "Be patient. It's hard for the kids who are being taken from their friends and family. They make it hard for you for a while, but it's not to hurt you-they just don't know how to show how they feel. Listen to them, make them feel special. Let them know you are there. Janet was there and willing to make me feel special. She did what she could to help me realize it may be hard, but I had someone I could go to."