For the past 10 years, Sonia Lopez has welcomed countless children into her home as a Foster Parent. The role came into her life at just the right time, because the following year her husband passed away.

“Having kids around me during that difficult time helped me a lot,” Sonia says. “Being a foster parent is something that makes me feel good, because I help kids and the kids help me too.”

Sonia typically has up to four foster children in her home at a time, ranging in age from four to 10. “There’s been a few that I fell in love with and wanted to keep,” she remembers, thinking of one special boy who came into her care at just seven-months-old. “When he left, it broke my heart. I had anxiety attacks because I wanted to see him, but I couldn’t. It was so difficult.”

That experience is one of the reasons Sonia chooses to accept older children into her home. She says she feels empowered by Closer to Home staff, who remind her that every placement must be a good fit not only for the children, but also for her.

When she was having trouble with a teenage boy who she felt she couldn’t handle, the Foster Care Program Manager, Jody, supported her in her decision. She says that level of support, even in tough situations, has been instrumental to her over the years.

The model of care used at Closer to Home, called the Teaching-Family Model, has also been a key element to Sonia’s success as a Foster Parent. “All the kids are so different and they come to me with different traumas,” Sonia says. “The model makes it easy for me and for them to learn.”

“I wish I used that teaching model before when my own kids were little!”

When asked what winning this award means to her, Sonia brings it all back to the kids she opens her arms for every day. “For me, it means I am doing a good job with the little ones,” she says. “It means a lot.”