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I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Rachel Napolitano

Saugerties mom fosters hope in children

Rachel Napolitano visits the Ulster County SPCA with her biological children, Molly, 8, and Maverick, 6. The Napolitanos work tirelessly for several charitable causes in the Hudson Valley, and have fostered five children in the past year.

“There is a dire need for foster parents in our area and the state in general.”

Children need stability as much as they need air, water and food. Stability is the necessary foundation upon which a child’s emotional and intellectual life is built.

Rachel Napolitano, a mother of two biological and two foster children in Saugerties, is trying to help cement as many of the leaky foundations she can get her hands on in the Hudson Valley. Unfortunately, there are all too many.

“My husband and I have always wanted to foster children, but we wanted our biological children to be old enough to go to school and also understand the process a bit more before we brought any other children into our home,” Napolitano explains.

For Napolitano, family and community have always been synonymous and intertwined. Growing up to be (and marrying) someone whose job does more than just provide a paycheck seemed par for the course, she says.

Her husband of seven years, Mike, works in case management in the mental health field and she works at the Boys & Girls Club afternoon extension program, and as a Girl Scout assistant leader in her 8-year-old daughter Molly’s troop.

The Napolitanos face the typical Hudson Valley parent juggle: job, schoolwork, after-school activities, sleep, wash, rinse, repeat. But instead of just passively watching the balls spin over their heads, they get involved, and throw in a few more for good measure.

Rachel, Mike, Molly and their son, Maverick, 6, spend their down time from work and school volunteering for a variety of local and national causes, including the Ulster County SPCA, the Buddy Walk benefitting the National Down’s Syndrome Society, individual pediatric cancer patients in their town (Rachel makes balloon animals at local parties and then sends the proceeds to local patients) and the campaign launched by the Special Olympics against the “R-Word.

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Fostering, however, takes their commitment to the community home with them — literally.

“There is a dire need for foster parents in our area and the state in general,” Napolitano says.

In New York State there are more than 20,000 children in foster care, according to the latest statistics from the New York State Citizens’ Coalition for Children. The Ulster County Department of Social Services took 58 children out of their parents’ homes between January and April of 2014, which accounts for more removals in four months than all of 2013, according to a recent report in the Daily Freeman.

To get licensed, potential parents take classes for 10 weeks and have in-home visits from social workers who interview everyone in the family to ensure that all members will welcome new children with open arms.

 “It has been an incredible experience for the whole family,” Napolitano says. “I have really seen my children blossom and grow in their roles as siblings to the children. In total, we have had five foster children come through our home so far, including our two we have now. Depending on their needs, it can be for just a week or forever, if the child is officially put up for adoption.”

Napolitano is committed to protecting the privacy of her foster children, and refrains from discussing their ages, genders or names. The Napolitanos would welcome adoption, she says. “We knew saying goodbye would be hard for all of us, but we were surprised how hard it was,” she says. “I got almost instantly attached to every child we brought home. I don’t know if it’s a mommy thing or a young child thing or what, but I went through the same the hormonal cycles I went through after giving birth twice when we initially brought them home. Within 48 hours every time, it hit me like a ton of bricks. But a good ton of bricks.”

While few parents can find the time to make their way to the end of this article, much less structure their entire work, family and recreational life around helping others, everyone has time to sign a pledge, participate in a fundraising walk or choose to adopt their next pet from their local shelter. You can also always just hire Napolitano for your next party, knowing that little Susie’s birthday entertainment is providing more than just a moment’s thrill. To hire Napolitano for your next party, visit her Facebook page.

So get out there! Like the Napolitanos, you may find you get even more than you give.

Do you know a Hudson Valley parent who inspires you? We want to profile local parents who impact their community through business, politics, volunteer work, grassroots advocacy, you name it. Submit your “I am a Hudson Valley Parent” nominations here.

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