Flexibility, faith, patience and a sense of community are among attributes Jessica Houk brings to her role as a foster home "mom."
The former special education teacher and her husband, Carson High School social studies teacher William Houk, have a 4-year-old son of their own and take on foster children a pair at a time.
"We're on our fourth pair of siblings," Jessica said during an interview about foster parenting and the things that someone contemplating such a role will need.
"I think flexibility is a big part," she said when asked what 18 months in foster care has taught her. "We're on our fourth pair now. When new kids come in, we're starting all over."
She said the family dynamic changes as the group in the home alters, swapping out 40 percent of the family equation, so promoting good interpersonal relationships is required over and over.
"Our first (pair) was two boys," she said. While he family group went from an only child to three boys immediately, that didn't throw her. "I do well with boys," she said.
The couple also has had brother-sister siblings, but as yet not two sisters in the home not far from Carson High School. The Houks, in their early thirties, feel their boy enjoys the new playmates.
"He really loves the idea," she said, adding when it began they had children five or under, but now take children three or under so their son is the older "brother" in the mix.
Houk said her son is much better with other children around.
"He thinks I'm his personal assistant when he's the only child," she said.
She praised her husband for his role while explaining they planned to be foster parents for some time. "He's more patient than I am," she confided.
Houk also said patience is required not only in caring for the kids, but also in dealing with everyone involved in the foster care process.
It requires, for example, juggling time and making certain all parties involved from the public sector stay informed regarding what is going on.
She said she and her husband are Christians by faith and currently attend the Methodist Church downtown, which in part accounts for the faith part of their commitment.
As for community, the couple grew up in Carson City and returned here after she finished teaching in Washoe County from 2006-11. Both William and Jessica went to the University of Nevada, Reno.
Jessica also said people shouldn't shy away from foster children, including caring for them if so inclined. "Kids are just kids," she said.
She said people don't open their homes to foster kids for the money, but Nevada's reimbursement is adequate-to-good when you compare it with other states where the cost of living is higher.
The role is considered crucial by those dealing with juvenile issues.
"Foster parenting is vital to healthy families in Carson City," said David Nielsen, ex-special master with the city's Juvenile Court.
People interested in foster home possibilities may contact Lori Nichols, LSW, with Foster Home Recruitment for the Division of Child and Protective Services by calling 888-423-2659.