Like mother, like daughter. They share decades of providing loving and safe homes for dozens of children and teens.
Dorine Malfitano is one of The Barry Robinson Center’s (BRC) longest-serving foster parents, joining the program in 1998. Her foster parenting story inspires others who may want to start their own foster parent journey.
“Fostering has been in our family. My mom fostered children with BRC after we moved to Virginia,” Malfitano explained. “I started as an emergency/respite foster parent, sometimes taking children in the middle of the night, but for no longer than 30 days. I took a break and then came back as a regular foster parent.”
Over the years, she has fostered about 40 children of all ages, from infants to teens. She appreciates knowing she’s making a difference in children’s lives, whether it’s big or small.
“I really enjoy seeing the transformation that takes place, from the time a child arrives until they leave,” she said. “We love on them, make a connection with them and help them build confidence. I enjoy caring for the children and giving them stability.”
Malfitano finds her experiences as a foster parent rewarding, even when a challenging moment arises. She recalls one teen girl that she guided through a difficult period.
“My husband and I picked her up from ‘juvie’ (juvenile detention). She had an extensive background that included truancy and theft. She told us, ‘This isn’t who I really am,” Malfitano shared. “We set the ground rules and only one time she broke them. She skipped school and called me later to come pick her up in another town. Her social worker ended up getting her and bringing her home.
“We had a stern talk, and she’s stayed out of trouble ever since. We provide a loving home, and we’re consistent with our kids. This girl really did a 180. She began calling us mom and dad. If I never foster again, I know that I really made a difference in this one child’s life.”
Malfitano offers wise counsel to people who are thinking about becoming foster parents:
“Think about why you want to foster. Is it really your destiny, your calling? You need to be in it for the long haul, for the right reasons. Make sure you want to help children, to help set them up for success, to be happy and healthy,” she said. “Children who have been in the foster system know when you’re genuine with them, when you have their best interests in mind.”
Besides her mom, the rest of Malfitano’s family support her passion for helping children, which is important. A strong support system helps foster parents create balance and prevent burnout
“My husband and children have always been very supportive. They accept foster children as part of our family,” she said. She has three adult children and three grandchildren, with a fourth grandbaby joining the family later this summer.
Every step along the way in her foster parent journey, the BRC Foster Care team members provide consistent support and resources for Malfitano.
“I really enjoy the BRC staff. They treat me like family and they’re always willing to accommodate me if I need something. They’re all very nice and easy to work with.”