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Today, Paul and Tracy Tencer's home is full of love, laughter, and the joyful sounds of children at play. But for a time, the Tencers weren't sure that providence would ever bless their home in such a way.
"We had tried to create our family through natural means," explained Tracy, "but eventually realized that adoption was going to be the best way for us to start a family."
Their path to parenthood became clear after speaking with Christie Cross, Family Services Supervisor for Community Action Southwest's Try-Again Homes Program (CAS/TAH), which provides foster care and adoption services to children in need.
Try-Again Homes was first incorporated as a separate charity by a group of ministers and lay people who wished to help abused, neglected and troubled children and families. Try-Again merged with CAS a few years ago to be in a better position to meet its mission to serve needy children and families.
As any parent can attest, raising children can be challenging. Raising foster children even more so.
Children in the foster care system often are in crisis; they can feel unwanted and unloved and are understandably frightened. CAS/TAH seeks foster families who are able to ease a foster child's fears by "providing a safe, nurturing and supportive home," said Christie. "It takes very special people to rise to the calling of being foster parents," she added.
Paul and Tracy Tencer rose to the calling not just once, but five times.
They answered the call, as all foster parents do, not knowing if the placement would be for a day, a week or a year. Foster parents open their homes and their hearts to help a child in need. But as Tracy and Paul have learned, fostering a child can have a profound impact on the foster parents.
"We first thought that if we fostered a child that we would be saving that child," remembers Tracy. "Afterwards we realized that our children really saved us."
The Tencers went on to adopt four of the children they fostered and are currently fostering another child. One of their adopted sons was an emergency placement on a Sunday morning.
"We were lucky with answering that phone call from CAS/TAH," said Tracy.
Although she and her husband have never questioned their decision to become foster parents, Tracy admits that the experience was difficult at times.
"It is a hard journey and can be very scary," she said.
And the journey can require special sacrifices, such as a family relocation for the Tencer Family so that one of their children could have greater access to the special services he needed.
Tracy is thankful for the support of the CAS/TAH caseworkers, with whom she has created a special bond. "It puts you at ease when you know there is an additional support system outside of your immediate family," she remarked. "Their tireless and selfless efforts on our behalf have enabled us to not only start but continue the foster to adoption process. We could not have done this without them."
Above all, Tracy is thankful for Divine Providence.
"We feel blessed and thankful that God chose these children to be ours," said Tracy.