Panel discusses foster and adoptive care

Eric Schrenger, left, and his wife April Schrenger listened as Valerie Buccola spoke about her experience as an adoptive and foster parent. The trio were part of a panel discussion hosted by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Family and Life Ministries, at St. Bernadette Church Oct. 4. It was the first of four events planned for Respect Life Month. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Being a foster or adoptive parent can be overwhelming but also a great adventure and joy, said panelists who spoke at St. Bernadette Church in Prospect, Ky., the evening of Oct. 4.

“It’s the greatest blessing that came into our lives,” said Valerie Buccola, who has adopted four children with her husband. In the past eight years her family also has served about 35 foster children through a respite program, which provides temporary help to foster parents. 

“You can share love and safety with so many children who need it,” said Buccola, a member of the Shrine of St. Martin of Tours.

The panel presentation was the first in a series of four events hosted by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Family and Life Ministries in observance of October’s Respect Life Month.

Panelists also included April and Eric Schrenger, parents to six children, including two they adopted and one who they are fostering. Julie Barkley, executive director of Operation Open Arms, Inc., a private organization that works to place children in foster or adoptive homes, also served on the panel. 

Their audience, which included couples discerning a call to foster or adopt children, heard from April Schrenger that “it’s chaotic, busy and overwhelming, but it’s been the greatest adventure and joy bringing a child who is scared into your life.”

The Schrengers, who attend St. Louis Bertrand Church, shared that at the beginning of their journey, it was more about “getting a child for our family.”

“Now it’s about giving our family to that child,” said April Schrenger. “It’s about allowing the Lord to use our family.”

Eric Schrenger said the experience is instilling a sense of compassion in their children. He recalled picking up a terrified child who needed a place to stay in the middle of the night. 

When their oldest woke up and realized they’d received a foster child overnight “it really hit him hard that other kids were not in the situation he was in,” said Eric Schrenger. “He took him under his wing. It’s really impactful.”

Buccola said her journey into caring for children in need began 10 years ago. She and her husband adopted four children between the ages of 5 and 10. And they now support other families with foster children through Kentucky Kids Belong, a non-profit whose mission is to support foster families by getting the community, including faith communities, involved. Buccola serves as a community engagement manager.

“We want to support foster families and let them know they’re seen and heard,” she said.

Stuart Hamilton, pro-life events coordinator for the archdiocese, said he was pleased with the outcome of the event. The panel offered “a realistic view of the challenges and the blessings in the call to be a foster or adoptive parent,” he said.

Among those who attended were at least six couples “in one phase or another of asking, ‘Is this what God is calling me to?’ ” he said.

Several remained after the panel had concluded to speak with the panelists and ask questions. It’s what Hamilton was hoping for, he said, noting, “I want to start creating a network for foster families.”

The remainder of the events for Respect Life Month include a presentation on end-of-life issues Oct. 18 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at St. Gabriel Church, 5505 Bardstown Road. And on Oct. 23 Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre will lead the last event, a discussion of “Open Wide Our Hearts: A Pastoral Letter Against Racism,” from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 S. Fifth St.

Ruby Thomas
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Ruby Thomas
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