May is Foster Care Awareness Month, and Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s FireLodge Children and Family Services constantly searches for new Native American families to welcome a child into their home. Norman, Oklahoma, residents Jimmie and Greg Hodgkins began fostering through FireLodge in April 2020.

The Griffin and Bourassa descendant and her husband wanted to foster but knew little about the process. Jimmie asked for advice from a high school friend in social work. Then she thought of reaching out to CPN, and her desires matched their mission.

“I think it’s really important to keep as much of the cultural heritage we have alive. And then it’s really nice to think in a way they could be my very distant relative or just the fact that we’re part of the same Tribe brings a bigger connection if we were able to adopt,” Jimmie said.

Working with FireLodge became the natural choice, and they both have enjoyed creating a loving environment for the child placed with them.

“I feel like the first couple of months we had him are just a blur — just a complete blur of learning how to be parents because we don’t have our own kids. And since then, we can remember the milestones with him a whole lot more,” Jimmie said.

“It’s not my kid, but I can still treat him or her like they are our kid and just care for them. … Through no fault of their own, they’re put in some pretty incredible circumstances sometimes. And we’re a first-world country, and it really shouldn’t be like that for any kid. No kids should suffer. So if we can do something to help, then that’s what we’re going to do,” Greg said.

Since then, the Hodgkins have talked with many friends, family members and even acquaintances about adoption. Jimmie’s father is Oklahoma State Rep. Mark McBride, a descendent of the Bourassa family. Jimmie noticed a change in how he helps constituents looking to foster and adopt, taking their calls and offering to establish connections.

“It seems to me he’s a large advocate for foster care and adoption up at the Capitol just because now he sees it, and it’s more out in the open to him. So that has been very cool to see that what we have done has impacted him, and hopefully, that has impacted lots of other children,” Jimmie said.

Greg also feels like their network has grown through fostering.

“It seems like … there’s always one person who can be like, ‘Oh, I know someone is trying to adopt a kid,’ or ‘I know someone who is fostering.’ So it’s a much bigger network than I guess I originally thought as well,” he said.

Fostering has strengthened their relationship, communication skills and ability to assess themselves as well. Jimmie feels she better understands mothers and their struggles and tries to vocalize when she needs a break without the guilt — both of which she considers good things.

“It’s a great investment because no matter what, you come out helping them and yourself,” she said. “I mean, there’s so many things as an individual I’ve grown from and become a better person and much more patient.”

Greg often thinks about raising and providing love for the next generation while he cares for their foster child, and he feels like it serves a bigger purpose.

“It’s so important to give kids stability because it’s very cliché to say that they’re the future, but raising a child with a stable environment is going to provide a lot more to our society than a child that’s raised in a turbulent household,” he said.

After a year, fostering remains one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives.

“You can donate your time, but you can’t donate love unless you really take those kids in. And it’s much easier than you think to give love, and that’s the most important thing they need,” Jimmie said.

“If you’re on the fence, if the opportunity arises, just take it because you’re not going to lose. Fostering, there is no losing unless you choose to not do it.”

Find FireLodge Children and Family Services online or on Facebook @CPNFireLodge.