For 17 years, children of all ages — from babies to pre-teens — have found a foster home and a mother with Nuemy “Mimi” Madrigal.
The City of San Fernando resident has given her love willingly to any child who needs it, and even adopted a set of twin girls who have grown up with the family.
For Madrigal, being a foster mother means helping a child in need — when they need it most.
Her journey as a foster mom began in 2004 when she found herself at home after being laid off from the law firm where she worked for 20 years. She began to think about what she wanted to do next.
“I told myself ‘I don’t want to get locked up in an office,” Madrigal remembered.
She had always liked children and had two of her own — Erica and Peter, who were out of high school or about to finish.
So Madrigal “did her homework” and thought about fostering kids. She had the space in the house and, with the support of her husband Pedro, began to welcome children into her home.
At age 42, Madrigal began to change diapers again and caring for little ones.
“I started all over again. I loved it. I always loved kids. I always cared for my nieces and nephews,” she said.
Some children have stayed with her for some weeks, others for several months, and two of them all of their lives.
The Family Adopts
Thirteen years ago, Madrigal got a call asking if she wanted to become foster mom to a set a newborn twin girls. She jumped at the chance.
She fostered the girls for a year and half, and was then they were told they would be put up for adoption.
By then, Mimi had fallen in love with the twins and couldn’t see herself apart from them.
“We said, ‘They don’t know anybody but us,’” Madrigal said.
She and Pedro decided to adopt them. But they talked with their biological kids to get their opinion. Both Erica and Peter “were supportive” of the idea, Madrigal said.
“We talked with each other and then we talked to the kids,” Mimi recalled, noting her son and daughter were supportive of the idea.
“We were happy. And how often do twins come around?” she said.
Twins Amber and Ava—who turn 13 in June—have grown up with the Madrigals, who during all this time have not stopped fostering other kids. The girls currently share the home with a 10-year-old autistic boy who’s been there for a year and a half.
“He gets dressed by himself, but he puts everything on backward. You have to do it at least three times to get it right,” Madrigal said of the boy.
The boy came into the home almost without speaking and now he’s speaking all the time, she said proudly.
“The social workers were all surprised. I just tell them, ‘you just have to spend a lot of time with them,” Madrigal said.
It’s not the first time she’s taken care of someone with a condition. Mimi says she still cries for another boy she fostered when he was a baby and could not move. He had cerebral palsy.
While it was difficult to take care of him, she didn’t hesitate to bring him into her home.
“A lot of people work and can’t take care of [special needs children]. I don’t work. I do it. I take care of everybody,” she said.
“I had him as a baby and then he left. I cried because I thought, ‘he can’t fend for himself.’”
Despite the heartbreak, Madrigal was also happy because the goal is to reunite the children with their families. That is the reality of being a foster mom.
“Our goal is to reunite them (the children with parents),” she explained.
But when they leave, she said, they leave knowing much more than when they came in. And Madrigal said she keeps in touch with a few of the kids she’s fostered.
“I have a couple that still call me, and I’m friends with some of their grandmas on Facebook. One of them, he’s already going to be 16,” she said.
Madrigal, who is now 59, said taking care of these kids keeps her young.
“They have me running after them. We have a pool and we play in the pool. It’s like I’m a kid all over again.”
While Madrigal says the rewards of being a foster mom is knowing she can give love and fill the needs of a child when they need it most, Mother’s Day is still a special occasion.
“Mother’s Day is a special day. I say to myself, ‘I’m so happy and blessed that I was able to have my kids and be able to take care of these other kids that entered my home,’” she said.
On Sunday, May 9, her older children — one of whom has already made her a grandmother — will come to the house and set everything up. They’ll order food and bring a cake.
“We all sit on the porch in the back yard. We get presents, even if it’s just a hug, but it’s the whole day with the kids here in the house,” Madrigal said.
Madrigal now recruits others to be foster parents.
“I have a lot of friends and family that became foster parents. My sister became a foster parent and is now the legal guardian to another. My niece just got a set of twins who are seven. We’re all happy,” she said.
She and her relatives are valuable to the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) because they speak Spanish and there is a great need for Spanish-speaking foster parents.
Juana Aguilera, DCFS spokesperson, said 60% of kids in foster care are Latino. The department usually oversees the care of more than 30,000 children a month. In March, there were over 35,000 in DCFS’s care.
“We need the [Latino] community to step in and help these kids,” Aguilera said. And there are many ways, she said, in which people can help besides becoming foster or adoptive parents.
“They can be mentors, they can be babysitters. They can step in and assist foster parents when they need a break,” Aguilera explained. “This is something that is very rewarding.”
Aguilera said anyone, even single persons, can help, as long as they are over 18 and live in Los Angeles County.
There will be a home inspection and classes to take. But the most important requirement to become a foster parent, Aguilera said, is the desire to do it.
Just like Madrigal, who only knew she didn’t want to go back to an office all day long and instead became a full-time mom.
For information about becoming a foster parent, call (888) 811-1121.