May is National Foster Care Month, a time to celebrate the power of foster care to transform children’s lives. We’re honored to share edited excerpts from a recent interview with Courtney Knowles of Weatherford, TX, a longtime foster parent with Upbring Foster In Texas. She and her husband have fostered 18 children since 2014 and adopted three — making them true partners in our mission to break the cycle of child abuse in Texas.
Upbring: Where does your foster care journey begin?
Courtney: Jeff and I have always loved being around kids and helping those who needed some extra attention, the underdogs. We’ve worked with teenagers in the youth department at our church and in the church nursery. My husband coached pee-wee football and I coached pee-wee cheerleading. If one of our son’s friends was going through hard times and needed a place to stay, we’d take them in.
We felt called to love other children through fostering or adoption. An international adoption didn’t work out, so we looked for options here in Texas. A caseworker at Child Protective Services (CPS) recommended becoming foster parents with Upbring. From our first meeting at the Fort Worth office, I thought, ‘This is where we were supposed to be.’
Upbring made us feel like fostering was not only possible but that we could do so within our means — seeing as we still had teenagers in the house. It was so empowering. We started the application process in April 2014 and began fostering in the fall of that year.
Upbring: Tell us about some of the children you have fostered?
Courtney: Most of the children were very little, 2 years old or younger. We fell in love with our first child, a six-month-old boy with big cow-like eyes. He had spent most of his life in a ‘drug house,’ so we helped him cope with some sensory issues and adapt to normal family life. We cared for him for about four months until his grandfather could come from El Paso and take over. I’ll admit, that was hard. We cried.
Other children we’ve fostered have had a range of special needs, from a heart condition to autism to fetal alcohol syndrome. At times we’ve fostered sibling groups, too. We helped one girl get counseling and therapy for sexual abuse.
Every time Upbring came to us about another child, we said, ‘Let’s go, let’s make it happen.’ I became very invested in helping these babies who didn’t have anybody else. I always gave them 200 percent of me, whether they stayed with us for three months or three years. We treated everyone as if they were our own.
Upbring: What growth or changes did you witness along the way?
Courtney: Each child is different, but everyone who has come through our doors has flourished in their own way. For some, it was just helping them come out of their shell. For others, it was getting them the medical attention or therapy they needed to thrive.
For example, one baby had sat in a car seat for most of his young life, due to neglect. His body was so stiff he couldn’t turn his head, so we got him physical therapy. Another little girl lived in a house with no running water, so at 11 months old, she was terrified of water. By the time she left our care, she was obsessed with water, always jumping and splashing and blowing bubbles. As a foster parent, that type of progress tells you you’re going a good job.
Upbring: How did Upbring support you in this journey?
Courtney: We have loved the great communication from Upbring, and all the online trainings are so helpful for our schedule. Kimberly Caldwell Jones was my Family Service Worker the entire time we fostered with Upbring. We’re still friends. She even attended my son’s wedding!
It’s because of Upbring’s open arms that we were able to foster so many children over the years. God bless!
Upbring: What does your family look like now?
Courtney: Our lives are very full. At home, Jeff and I have Avery (age 7), Adrian (6) and Stella (2). All three children came straight from the hospital to us, so they’ve never known any other home. As a family we love going to the beach in Galveston, playing board games and visiting my mom’s house for Christmas. And our biological son and daughter are both grown and married with babies of their own!
Jeff and I retired from fostering in 2021, but we are still in touch with some of the other children we have cared for and their new adoptive families.
Upbring: What advice would you give people who are thinking about fostering children in Texas?
Courtney: Have a good support system. It’s crucial that you take breaks. I’m grateful my mom was here to help me if we needed to go somewhere or have a date night. If you get to know other Upbring foster parents, you can take turns watching each other’s kids. [NOTE: In Texas, any respite caregiver must undergo a background check and prior approval, so be sure to follow all the necessary steps.]
Also, don’t be afraid to talk about the kids in your care. You can tell people you’re fostering and celebrate the progress they are making while still protecting their privacy. These kids deserve to be bragged about! Tell people your story and their story — that’s how others will learn more about fostering and adoption.
Finally, through it all, continue to support and love your biological children if you have them. My kids were old enough to understand that fostering would take up much of my time, and they loved every child who lived in our home.
Thank you, Courtney, for sharing your family’s story!
Fostering is one of life’s rare opportunities to transform the life of a child. At Upbring, we understand this experience is life-changing for our foster parents as well. Thousands of children in Texas need a safe, loving home. To learn more and begin your foster journey, fill out our Foster In Texas Interest Form.