Meet the Resource Parent: Gayle Ballinger
Here at AFS, we are lucky to work with some amazing Resource Parents. Today, we’re going to highlight one of them: Gayle Ballinger.
Gayle was a foster parent for 23 years, electing to become a resource parent after two biological children. Over the decades, she has fostered over 30 kids. In this time, Gayle has worked with individuals and siblings ranging in age from eight to 21 years old, all as a single parent.
It was after working as a youth minister that Gayle decided to become a foster parent. As a result of her work, she is generally drawn to foster teens which is the age group she’s cared for the most.
Gayle notes while teenagers can be challenging, it’s possible to have really good conversations with them. For example, teens would challenge her on why they should set a table correctly, to which she’d reply to help them when they’re older– and some former foster youth told her it actually did help them later in life!
What’s the secret to working with teenagers? According to Gayle, empathy is key as well as considering how she’d want her own kids to be taken care if they were in foster care. Gayle would do well for the kids for their own wellbeing.
Gayle keeps in touch with just about all of the youth she cared for and has even been there when some of them have kids of their own! Gayle’s fortunate to have seen some of her former foster youth go to college and see success later in life.
During the holidays, Gayle hangs 30 stockings for Christmas, for the former foster youth and their families who come over. Current and former youth are not the only ones who stay connected with Gayle. Her AFS social workers are regularly invited to family and book sharing events.
One of her most memorable experiences of raising a foster youth was Ella*, a 13-year-old who totally broke down three months into care. But Gayle and Ella persevered and are now on good terms–in fact, this challenging 13-year-old is now a 27-year-old college graduate!
After being a single foster parent for so many years, what keeps her going? Gayle always believes she can help and doesn’t want to reject anyone. She noted that placement has to be a mutual fit so teens need to agree to stay with her.
Her advice to anyone interested in fostering? You owe it to yourself and the kids to investigate the coupling further. It may not be right for you now, but perhaps it will be right for you later. It took Gayle three years to finally get her first placement.
AFS staff, families and kids are grateful that Gayle chose to partner with our agency. She has had a profound impact the lives of so many Northern California foster youth. Thank you for all your compassion, commitment and care!
Interested in fostering kids or teens in your community? Head to https://www.afs4kids.org/register-to-become-a-foster-parent/ to learn more and get started on your application!
*Name changed for privacy purposes.