While many potential foster parent applicants hesitated during 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tribal member Lacey Buettner opened up her home for the first time. After working with FireLodge Children & Family Services and Foster Care and Adoption Manager Kendra Lowden, she felt confident in stepping up to the task.

“I had no idea what to ask. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t know the process. Kendra talked to me for a long time (and) told me all the things I needed to know and then some. I don’t think I could have gone through this process without Kendra and without CPN,” Buettner said.

She thought about fostering for quite a while before making her decision. FireLodge presented itself as the perfect match.

“I looked in other places to foster and adopt, and a lot of them were great, but there wasn’t that personal connection. And whenever I talked to Kendra, I realized that it’s better to go with my Tribe. I know my Tribe. I know all the great benefits of being in our Tribe and being a member,” Buettner said.

Lacey Buettner serves as a foster parent with the help of CPN’s FireLodge Children & Family Services.

Everyday life

FireLodge staff placed a child with Buettner for the first time in July 2020, and it changed her life. Taking on the responsibilities of a foster parent was worth the small joys they shared.

“Hearing her coo in the morning and going from waking up to an alarm clock to waking up to giggles is so much better than waking up to something blaring at you in the morning,” Buettner said.

“I didn’t realize how much a child grows, just a week-by-week basis and not just physically but mentally, and it’s incredible.”

She fosters as a single woman with plenty of affection to give. The experience showed her the differences between parental and romantic devotion.

“I think the most rewarding thing is getting to share my love with someone,” Buettner said. “You can share your love with a spouse and with a boyfriend, but getting to share your love with a child — an innocent child — is the most amazing thing in the world.”

Utilizing FireLodge’s resources and offerings for foster parents made the transition to having a child in the home much more manageable. The department and CPN answered all of Buettner’s questions and ensured she had everything from diapers to formula.

“Being a single parent, I needed that support. I needed not only my parents and my brothers but I needed my friends, and I needed my Tribe. They always say it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a tribe. And so that was the reason I decided to go (through FireLodge) because I realized that … I could never get what I needed to be successful without going through CPN,” Buettner said.

The bigger picture

FireLodge Children & Family Services prioritizes placing Native American children in Native homes to sustain and promote connections to their Indigenous heritage and culture. Their mission aligned with Buettner’s goals.

“I think it’s important because we have too many kids in the foster care program, and we don’t have enough good homes. But I think the most important thing is if we have one, two, three little kids go to non-tribal homes, then that’s one, two, three kids that are going to be raised not knowing Potawatomi. They’re not going to know anything about our heritage, and it’s sad,” she said.

As someone connected to her Potawatomi roots, Buettner believes fostering Indigenous children provides them a potentially life-changing path.

“I know so many people that have been in abusive homes growing up, unhealthy homes, and now they’re adults, and they have struggles,” she said. “And so if we have an opportunity to give a baby, a 15-year-old, an 18-year-old, just a very small glimpse of an opportunity of a good life and what they can have if they try, I think that’s the best thing that you could ever give.”

Buettner encourages other potential foster homes — whether as single adults or couples — to consider FireLodge as their path to parenthood.

“When you realize that you’re not alone going through this process and that you have people that are willing to walk you through all of the paperwork … and then you have people that are supportive, financially and emotionally and physically, that when it comes down to it, you’re not alone,” she said.

Visit potawatomi.org/firelodge for more information about foster care and adoption services or email Foster Care and Adoption Manager Kendra Lowden at kendra.lowden@potawatomi.org.