Viviana and Gerardo Gonzalez have become a second family for two eleven-year-old twin boys. The couple, who have been married for 26 years, decided to become foster parents through the Children’s Aid Medical Foster Care program. They chose this program because they wanted to provide love and support to children they felt needed the most care. Six years ago, the Gonzalez family began taking care of the twins, who have cerebral palsy, severe developmental and cognitive disabilities, and are wheelchair dependent.
To accommodate the special needs of the children, Mr. Gonzalez built a wooden ramp at the entrance of his Queens home. He also designed and built a changing table, specialized high chairs, and a swing in the backyard. The Gonzalez family even purchased a wheelchair accessible van for the twins.
Though the twins live with the Gonzalez family full-time, their foster parents have made sure to welcome the boys’ birth parents into their lives. The birth parents attend medical and school appointments, and special events like birthday parties and holiday celebrations. During weekend visits, the birth father cooks Chinese dishes for the whole family, while Mrs. Gonzalez will cook Ecuadorian dishes. Mrs. Gonzalez has also learned how to cook Chinese food to keep the children connected to their heritage. Both sets of parents have even taught each other how to speak Mandarin and Spanish.
While the Gonzalez family has been able to accomplish many of the things they wanted in life – they own a home and a vacation property, and have been able to travel – the one thing they longed for was a child of their own. They said choosing to become foster parents has enriched their lives.
“The children bring so much joy to our lives and we cherish the time we have with them,” Mrs. Gonzalez said. “They make all of our outside stress go away as soon as we walk through the door.”
The twins will move back with their birth parents in the near future but the Gonzalez family plans to be part of their lives forever. Mrs. Gonzalez, who now serves as a Foster Parent Leader through the Home Away From Home initiative run by the Administration for Children’s Services, will also serve as a mentor to incoming foster parents. Her knowledge will allow other foster parents to provide a loving and supportive home similar to the one Mr. and Mrs. Gonzalez have provided to their foster children.