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Monday, Aug 22, 2016

Long Island siblings provide perspective and love as foster parent team

Alicia and Bishop Campbell of Long Island are veteran foster parents, but their first relationship with foster care began when they were children in care themselves. They lived with different foster families in Long Island, NY as children, and experienced the best and worst of the system. As adults, the brother and sister teamed up to give back to kids going through the same things they did. They bought a house together and embarked on what turned out to be the most rewarding path of their lives.

The Campbells have already fostered nine children and provided respite care as well. Bishop has a 12-year military background and Alicia hash a son she adopted through foster care—both have always been interested in becoming the kind of leaders who helped them through their childhoods. Teaming up as foster family has given them the opportunity to provide both a male and female perspective for the children who come through their door, giving them the individualized guidance they need to grow into confident young adults.

Paying it forward
“I wanted to give back and treat children in foster care better than what I experienced,” said Alicia. “Because Bishop and I were in foster care ourselves, we understand what these kids are going through. We understand their feelings about being in the foster care system, because we felt that way too.” Bishop experienced foster care in a very different way and looked up to his foster father Paul as a strong male role model. The two remain extremely close and Bishop continues to value his mentorship as a foster father and positive presence in their community.

Paul runs the Police Athletic League (PAL), which gives local boys a place to play sports and talk about their daily lives, while keeping them off the streets and building supportive networks with each other. Bishop has helped Paul run the program for the last eight years, and Paul’s role as program leader spans 23 years.  He shows up every day to mentor the boys in PAL, in the same way he mentored his foster son Bishop.

“I’m following in his footsteps,” said Bishop. “I’m studying child psychology and getting my daycare license, in addition to being a mentor and physical trainer.” He thinks back on his experience as a child in foster care and thanks Paul for the guidance and love he showed. “I thank him all the time for what he did for me. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for him.”

Learning to trust

As a child in foster care, separated from her brother, Alicia knew what it was like to lack trust in her foster family. Unlike Bishop’s childhood growing up with Paul as his foster father, Alicia struggled to find role models. Now, she opens up to the children in her care to build trust, little by little.

“Our job as foster parents is to teach the kids who come into our care that they have two families,” said Alicia. “I tell them that we’re not trying to take the role of their bio parents—you have two families—maybe your bio family can’t support you right now, but I can, and they will be there for you once they are able.” Alicia balances her role as a supportive foster parent with her career as a supervisor for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Through their hard work each day, they motivate their children to look to the future.

While dwelling on the past can intensify trauma, getting them to think of what lies ahead is the healthiest thing they can do. From their first day in the home, I comfort them the best way they can. I treat them as if they are all my sons. “If they’re happy, smiling, carrying on with life, that’s enough,” said Bishop. “When you worry about your past, you’ll never succeed in the present. Just worry about today.”

—Sydney Lester

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