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Jo-Anne and Glenn Gray with their daughter Aurora. Photo by Chris Randall

Making a difference through foster care and adoption

By Chris Randall Correspondent
July 20, 2023

You may know Glenn Gray from his 36 years at Concord Printing, but you may not know he and his wife, Jo-Anne, have been foster parents for the past five years. 

“Children who enter foster care are coming from challenging situations,” Glenn said. “I want a child to know that they are loved, and I’m happy to be there for a child until a family member can step back in.”

The Grays have nine children of their own, and their interest in foster parenting “really started when we cared for the child of a family member who needed some time to pull things together,” Jo-Anne said in an interview at the couple’s home. “Happily, that child returned to her family. But that experience broke the ice: We saw the value of temporary, alternative parenting, and we felt ready and able to take care of someone else’s child.”

They met another couple with nine children “who had adopted a child, and that got us thinking about adoption,” said Glenn. “It’s funny how things work, because the very next day, we saw a poster for a Department of Children and Families (DCF) information session, which we attended.”

When Jo-Anne realized her family “could help a child through a very difficult time in their life, my heart just swelled,” she said. “We have a loving family, space in our home, time to give, and the ability to parent. I saw how valuable it would be to others if I found ways to share these things.”

After the DCF session, the couple wanted to learn more about fostering. They signed up for a DCF training and certification program called Massachusetts Approach to Partnership in Parenting, or MAPP, which Glenn said “teaches people enhanced parenting skills to help them foster effectively.” 

As soon as they finished the course and became qualified to foster, “We got a call from our social worker telling us that there was a 2½ year-old girl in need of fostering,” he said, “That was Aurora. She was our very first foster placement five years ago. Ultimately, we adopted her and have just celebrated her one-year anniversary with us as a Gray!”

Not every foster relationship becomes that permanent: “There are many children in Massachusetts who need a safe place for a certain amount of time,” said Jo-Anne. “A typical length of time to foster is nine months to a year. Aurora was an exception. We fostered her for four years before we adopted her.” 

“Over the past five years, we’ve fostered ten children. The youngest was two and the oldest was 13,” she continued. “We’ve had a foster placement as short as a day, and as long as 14 months. We’ve fostered a brother and sister. And just this week, we were asked to take in a 16-year-old girl who had lost her mom last October to an overdose and has no active father.” (DCF found another family to foster the child before the Grays could respond, she said.)  

The couple says they’ve “never regretted a single day” of fostering, feel blessed to have been able to foster and adopt, and are convinced the commitment, while challenging at times, has “always been worth it.”

The DCF website says that when children’s parents can’t give them the care they need, DCF first tries to place them with relatives, but that’s not always an option. 

The agency’s biggest challenge is finding enough foster parents. Foster parents come from a wide range of backgrounds and can be single or married. To be eligible, a foster parent must be a Massachusetts resident, at least 18 years old, rent or own a home that meets DCF’s safety standards, have a stable source of income, and pass a background check. 

Fostering “is an investment in people’s lives,” said Jo-Anne. “It provides immediate value as well as value later on. Fostering and adoption benefit individuals, families, and, ultimately, society. We see foster care as an opportunity to share the many gifts we’ve been given in life. In addition to bringing our amazing daughter, Aurora, and other wonderful children into our lives, fostering has added an extra measure of purpose and direction to our lives.”

To learn more about fostering and adoption, the application process, and the support DCF provides, contact Family Resource Recruiter Elise Levine at 978-557-2740 or elise.levine@mass.gov.