ORLANDO, Fla. — Difficult memories make the path foster families forge that much more challenging, but Margie and Darren Fink hope to support caregivers on their journey to change lives.
- Margie, Darren Fink went from no kids to 4 in 6 months
- They created a nonprofit to share advice with foster parents
- Experience more Everyday Hero stories here
"You have a lot of foster and adoptive parents putting on a brave face out in public and they're smiling. But they're not inside; they're just barely hanging on," Darren Fink said. "We're just so passionate about what we're doing."
With the couple's nonprofit, Transfiguring Adoption, the Finks connect with parents of foster and adoptive children, sharing tips, best practices, and care. They also share media lists of books and movies they have carefully compiled that they think will foster discussions.
Their idea was born out of a chance after reading of a popular book series one afternoon.
"One of our sons just started tearing up," Margie Fink recalled. "We said, 'Hey, what's going on?' And he said, 'I know how Harry Potter feels.'"
That came as a surprise to the Finks.
"It opened up words for him and gave him vocabulary to talk about his past trauma," Darren said. "Imagine a 12-year-old boy crying at the dinner table in front of people. That doesn't happen."
The Finks explained that although trauma has a way of building walls in foster children, they found power in using books to facilitate painful conversations, working through the novels, chapter by chapter.
They would identify "trauma triggers" to avoid, sharing their findings with other caregivers.
The exercise turned into a family project and blog. But when that gained traction, it spawned their nonprofit.
"The word transfigure means to elevate or to make something more beautiful," Margie said. "We're taking something very painful and helping make it more beautiful."
Now almost two dozen volunteers help the Finks on their mission, empowering foster and adoptive parents to parent better.
"Fifty percent of foster parents quit the first year, because they feel ill-equipped. When they quit, those kids bounce to another home," Margie said. "I really want to see more parents stay in it for the long haul."
It is a journey that the Finks are familiar with, having fostered and adopted children over the past decade.
While they had it on their heart to be parents, Margie and Darren were not able to have children. They decided to go the fostering route, taking classes in 2008, then visits the following year.
"There are kids out there that need a home. They're suffering. They're going through a hard time," Darren said.
They grew frustrated in the process — despite Margie's background in psychology, they, too, initially felt ill-equipped to handle the children's trauma.
"There's very little on what trauma does to a child, and how you have to parent differently," Margie Fink said. "Trauma really impacts the brain. It does a lot of rewriting. And there wasn't a lot of emphasis on that 10 years ago."
The Finks just had their first placement of another 5-year-old girl and 22-month-old boy in 2008. But soon, another call to foster changed the course of their lives, leading to the couple opening up their home to two brothers, bounced between seven homes in seven years and in dire need of stability.
Suddenly, they became a family of six.
"In six months, went from zero kids to four kids," said Margie Fink, calling the experience "trial by fire" and "complete insanity."
"When you're in it, the day to day, it's rough. It's hard. You're not seeing change," she said.
Over the years, though, they saw improvement with their children as they navigated traumatic backgrounds. They also grew closer as a family, sharing what they learned with other foster and adoptive parents.
Darren said that the children are just as invested as he and his wife are in the nonprofit's mission.
"It's amazing to see our kids, how they're growing, how they're overcoming. They're going to go out into society and make this world a better place," he said. "We're talking about helping parents, but it's ultimately impacting kids."