Childhood empathy leads to long-term fostering commitment

You might say it was one of life’s defining moments.

When Ann Bateson was just 12 years old, she made up her mind that she would one day be a foster parent. It all began because of a classmate. “I knew his situation wasn’t good,” she says. “Not that my own family scenario was great. I grew up with nine siblings and there were issues in my own family as well.”

Along with the committed support of her husband, Victor, she’s stayed true to the pledge she made to herself as a little girl. The couple live outside of Burns Lake, on a 563-acre ranch with the youth they foster. The ranch also has provision for some of the youth who have aged out of foster care to continuing living on site in their own suites or cabins.

Currently, the Batesons are fostering two siblings, a boy, age 12, and a girl, 13, the youngest children in a family of five whose sibling group was reunited under their care.

As a special treat, Ann and Victor are planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with the teens at the end of November. The Burns Lake School district used to do trips there to visit an artist from the Burns Lake area who used to reside there part-time and who has since retired. They wanted to be sure that their current foster children didn’t miss out on a similar educational  and cultural opportunity.

“We met with our kids before committing to fostering to make sure they were good with our decision, that it would be a family decision,” she says.

“Fostering has resulted in an evolution of our own parenting skills,” she says, alluding to how parenting philosophies have changed in 42 years, the length of time she and Victor have been married. Their youngest adopted child was 12 years old when they started fostering. He’s now 34.

The couple has been fostering for 22 years and their children are now managing their own careers while raising families. “We have 11 grandchildren.”

Ann reflects on one of the boys they fostered who has since aged out. He’s 20 years old and was recently hired to do maintenance at a ranch in Houston, B.C.

“In spite of living with fetal alcohol syndrome, learning struggles and ADHD, he’s doing really well,” she says. “He is an ‘overcomer’ and has rallied all sorts of supports around himself to help him succeed. He has goals and ambitions and has even travelled to Haida Gwaii and New Mexico with a missionary organization. He has always called us ‘mom and dad’ as he’s journeyed through 10 years of care with us, and we have a stable, supportive and intact relationship as a result of all that time.”

Ann’s advice to anyone considering becoming a foster parent is to first weigh out what’s in your heart.

“What are your personal reasons? Do you have the kind of compassion in your heart that’s required?”

She emphasizes how important it is to get all the facts, or as least as much as possible.

“Make sure you know what the expectations are. There is no greater education in life than to give yourself to others who are looking to you for their basic needs of human connection.”

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