Bridge the way forward with Mother’s Choice and
Have you ever considered fostering a child for a short period of time? Well, mamas, you’re not alone. We’ve recently learned about Mother’s Choice newest project to help find temporary homes for vulnerable babies and children in Hong Kong. All of us at Sassy HQ are huge supporters of Mother’s Choice and love the meaningful work they do.
Project Bridge is a program run by Mother’s Choice to connect volunteer families to the many children in Hong Kong who are in need of temporary care because of abandonment or a crisis at home. Families welcome a child into their home, give them love, include them in their family life and help them to thrive. Behind the scenes, the Mother’s Choice team work hard on the child’s behalf to ensure they can either be reunited with their birth family, or join an adoptive family, as soon as possible.
In this special Sassy Mama Supports edition, we learn from a Hong Kong mum who has become “Bridge Parent”. We had the opportunity to sit down with Jennifer Wannenmacher, who with her husband Tim has welcomed two kids into her home with Project Bridge. (All images are of Jennifer and her family. No pictures of the Bridge children are pictured for privacy reasons.)
Can you tell us how you and your husband became Project Bridge parents?
I have actually known and loved Mother’s Choice for a long time. In fact, I volunteered when I was a teenager at Island School! When I became a mom, reengaging with Mother’s Choice felt natural.
What I didn’t expect is how my husband would embrace the organisation and its mission, too. Between the two of us, Tim is really the one who is full of compassion and generosity for the children. Usually after a visit to Mother’s Choice, I need to check his pockets for babies!
So when we were first approached to be Bridge parents, Tim was wholehearted and keen – but I had reservations. I felt our lives were already very full between our jobs, kids and our active schedules. But as our friend Alia (CEO of Mother’s Choice) said, “We are all busy, but not too busy to love”, we decided to give it a go.
Read more: That Mama: Alia Eyers of Mother’s Choice
What was your first experience of being a Bridge parent?
Our first Bridge child was a two-week-old premature baby boy. After three of our own babies (one of whom was ten pounds!), I thought it would be a breeze. But I had no idea what it would be like to take care of a tiny, fragile four-pound preemie!
He stayed with us for three of the most sleep-deprived weeks of my life. He would feed almost every hour, only a few drops of milk each time. When a space opened up at Mother’s Choice and he moved out of our home, each time we visited we were thrilled to witness how he was growing stronger and cuter. When one day we got a call to say he would be adopted, we were overjoyed. Even though our investment in his life was short, we feel incredibly honoured to be part of his life story.
You recently welcomed another child into your home, can you tell us about her transition into your family?
The little girl we have at our home now is four years old. After just a month, she has become part of the family, and we are thankful to provide an experience of a normal (or not!) family dynamic – one which is often full of love and fights, tears and laughter, and Papa’s delicious barbecued meats.
It took a while for her to trust us. The first few nights were rough. She had been removed from a difficult situation in her home for her protection, but she is too young to understand that. She felt traumatised and scared being in a totally different place, and spent the first few nights sobbing, no matter how much we tried to comfort her. In the middle of the night, she would put on her shoes, her backpack and sit herself at the front door, begging to go home and not understanding that it was impossible. Those first three days and nights really broke my heart, but it got better. The difficulties were worth it to see how she has blossomed in our family since then.
What is the best thing about being a Bridge parent?
The best thing about being a Bridge parent is the privilege of being part of the tapestry of a child’s life story, with hopes of weaving a loving, positive thread at a young age. Opening our home temporarily is a tangible way for us to express our support for children in need. Financial support is crucial no doubt, but being Bridge parents forced us to expand our minds and hearts in ways unimaginable.
What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about becoming a Bridge parent?
If you have the desire to provide a temporary home to a child in need, then I believe you can do it. The challenges of fostering a child are very similar to the challenges of raising any child, and I am convinced each of us have maternal instincts that will naturally kick in. Fostering is not glamorous. Like parenting any child, it can be messy, noisy and exhausting, but also full of laughter and rewards – both for the child and yourself. Raising a child takes a village, you need people around you. I am fortunate that my best friend also fosters, and it helps to share our stories. Make sure you have the full support of your spouse, helper and children. And wine for when they go to bed!
Mother’s Choice is a local charity serving the many children without families and pregnant teenagers in Hong Kong. Mother’s Choice has an urgent need to find safe families for children. If you are interested in opening your home to a child in need, please visit their website, contact Mother’s Choice Foster Care Services on 2313 5648, or email [email protected]. The next Project Bridge Information Session will be on Saturday 16th July.