In our latest Inspirational Mom segment, HerScoop is happy to introduce mom to many, Tania Orsetti.
The 37-year-old Canadian woman and husband Jordy, a youth minister, have three beautiful and musical daughters: Jorja, 14, Janaiah, 12, and Ava, 8. This special family-of-five opens their hearts and their home to three extra foster children at any given time.
Coming from a long line of fostering, Tania says, “My parents taught me from a young age that just like I was special, so is every child.” In carrying on the family tradition, Tania finds great joy in being a foster parent and working with families.
“It’s so wonderful to watch some of these parents turn it around and really start connecting with their children,” says Tania. “I get to hear their life stories and appreciate them for who they are and what they’ve been through, and at the same time give them some skills to move forward. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does they are thankful and beautiful moments.”
With their love of music, Tania and her daughters are often singing and sharing musical moments with their foster kids who “all wind up singing and dancing.”
A deeply spiritual family, Tania says, “We’ve always taught our kids from the bible. We believe that love and compassion are the two greatest gifts to give anybody and it’s free.” She goes on to talk about her youth minister husband and their outreach efforts to the homeless in their community and the impoverished in Haiti.
Continue reading about Tania’s inspirational story of being a mom to many, and sharing her message of love wherever she goes.
HS: Tell us about your busy family life. You are a mom-of-three daughters and you are a foster mom. Give us an idea of a typical day in your busy household.
TO: “I have three daughters ages 14, 12, and 8. I have three extra children who live with me right now and I love every minute of it… well almost every minute of it [laughs].
My day starts at 6 a.m., making lunches and getting five of the six out the door by 8 a.m. Did I say that I’m not a morning person [laughs]? Then I clean and make food like crazy, plus I feed and bath the baby. I have my meetings with social workers and family visits between 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. so I can pick up the older kids by 2:30 p.m.
Then the girls either have basketball, volleyball, and/or track depending on the season. And they train for soccer all year. Everyone is usually home between 5 to 7 p.m. and I can finally get little ones to bed and clean up dinner, tidy (for the last time of the day) and relax. My girls were in dance and kickboxing for a bit, but when they made the decision to try out for rep soccer (both of them made the A team) they had to decide on a full commitment to one or the other.”
HS: Tell us about the joys of being a foster parent.
TO: “I love being a foster parent and working with children and their families.
It’s so wonderful to watch some of these parents turn it around and really start connecting with their children. I get to hear their life stories and appreciate them for who they are and what they’ve been through, and at the same time give them some skills to move forward. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does they are thankful and beautiful moments.
I guess you could say, in my family, foster parenting is a generational thing. Both my grandparents are foster parents…yes I said are. My one side of grandparents adopted three of the foster children, and my other grandma still takes in children. My parents are still fostering and my numerous aunts, uncle and cousins take children in. Maybe it’s a mennonite thing [laughs].
My parents taught me from a young age that just like I was special, so is every child.
It taught me compassion from a young age, and now I watch my kids with the children in my home. One of my daughters is doing a report on foster parenting and saying she would like to do the same thing. It made my heart swell with a little pride.”
HS: Please address some of the common fears of foster parenting (e.g. they are “damaged” children and might not be safe to have with your other children).
TO: “My kids have grown up fast in certain aspects of life. I had to teach them at a young age that some children have been touched in ways that are never okay; that these kids hit, kick and scream because that’s how they were treated.
My kids are very honest, strong, very vocal individuals. They parent like I parent and they talk to adults like they are equals. I was very conscientious of the children that were in my home when my kids were little, and I am still very wary of children who come into care. I don’t often feel like my family has been in danger or is in danger. I try to deal with every case as it comes, even when I hear their stories and what they are sometimes involved in.
I feel protected (I pray a lot), I try never to judge anybody, and because I have someone else’s child, I always try to find ways to involve parents so they feel like they are still part of the process.
One time my daughters came running from the room – they were probably 5 and 6 – and yelled, “‘So and so’ said vagina, they said it mom!”
I never left my kids alone with the children to play. All our toys were in the main living room for a long time. And I love to sneak up on kids and hear what they are saying and playing. That’s my job and I always tell my kids that part of their job is protecting their body, mind and spirit. When one is broken they all start to suffer.
I haven’t seen a damaged child or parent that in the right environment cannot turn it around.
I watched one child go from being in the office daily for fighting and picking on kids, barely passing to getting As and Bs and praying with me every night that no matter what happens, God would give him the power to respond in a positive manner. Love that kid to this day.
I give myself headaches some days saying the same thing over and over: love, love, love. I sent that kid notes once a week for six months straight telling him he was made for greatness and he had the power to change.
I don’t think there is any such thing as a damaged child, or adult, for that matter.
The biggest thing that I see is complete disregard for their own self worth — for both the parents and children. No one has ever told them they are worth everything, and that they are beautiful human beings who deserve what other people have. I find that when taken out of a negative environment and told that, indeed, they are made for a purpose and for greatness, most people respond.
It’s key to provide skills to cope with everyday stressors. And the biggest of all is laughter — sometimes, no matter what circumstance you’re in, you just need to laugh!”
HS: Do you ever have foster children with special needs? Please give us a look at the population of foster kids you’ve had.
TO: “I guess, all the children who come into my home, have special needs.
There are times when you are dealing with babies that are withdrawing [from drugs], and there are behaviors in some of these kids that your children would never have.
I have never fostered a child with physical special needs though. My mother has a child [with physical disabilities] who I used to do respite care for. I found that it got more difficult as my kids were in so many sports. She would tire quickly from our activities and I would feel so terrible.
I find I deal with behaviors a lot better because of our busy schedules. We have tons of fun, but in a very no-nonsense kind of way sometimes. I don’t have time for fits, so you better behave or no one is getting ice cream after the game, and they’re all going to be looking at you [laughs].
I’ve had about 40 kids in my home if I pool together all the respite kids, plus ones who have actually lived here. I think I’ve had six for a long period of time and two right out of the hospital.”
HS: How do your daughters feel about having foster kids in the house? Do they help out? Do they share in the joyful addition to your family?
TO: “I couldn’t do it without my family! I cannot stress enough all the things my kids do in a day. They are all amazing at school and on the honor roll. They are all great athletes and when most kids’ days are done, they are putting on one child’s pyjamas while I’m getting one out of the tub.
They can cook and clean just like their mama, and they play and entertain when I’m busiest at dinner time. My oldest is more apprehensive, and hangs back a bit more after our hearts were broken when we had a little child leave that we had right out of the hospital. But my younger two are still very, ‘Hi how are you? What’s your name??,’ and they get right in there.”
HS: Tell us about some of your family philosophies and how you’ve raised such talented and well-rounded daughters. Please also talk about their signing talents.
TO: “My kids are pretty great kids — I almost get choked up thinking about them.
I was very strict with my kids between the ages of 0-7. I feel like that is the time to instill their moral compass. I spoke to them like they were adults from the time they were tiny.
I kept the discipline consistent even though we were busy singing and dancing and putting on plays. I talked to them tons and was very strict in other areas of our lives.
We’ve always taught our kids from the bible. We believe that love and compassion are the two greatest gifts to give anybody and it’s free! My favorite verse is, “Don’t try to take a sliver out from your brother’s eye when you have a plank in your own. First take the plank out of your own eye so you can see clearly to help your brother.”
My husband takes the older girls once a month to feed the homeless downtown. The first rule is: listen don’t judge. When they hear the stories – some of these people downtown have university degrees – they understand the importance of being careful when it comes to drugs and alcohol.
They understand that we are all one bad choice away from being the people that they meet. These people have good hearts and didn’t have bad intentions.
We talk tons. I can’t stress enough how much we talk to our kids about all issues — even when they are rolling their eyes. We have an open door policy and there is nothing bad that they do that cannot be fixed. But we have to know, or we can’t help. It won’t be easy and we can’t fix it for you, but we can put you in the right direction.
My girls and I sing together (click here to see YouTube video) and this is my greatest time with them. They are natural born singers and dancers from the time they could breathe.
I love this time with them, although I’ve got a couple perfectionists in the bunch it can get pretty bossy. For instance, I just showed my oldest what I was writing and she said, ‘Whatever mom, you’re so Type A.’
I think singing helps the soul for us. when we’re singing you just concentrate on the words and the sounds and something beautiful happens in the deepest part of your heart. And it makes you happy – we pass that along to the kids here – and they all wind up singing and dancing!
My entire family sings and plays instruments. So even when the aunties, uncles, cousins and grandparents get together, there is a song going on somewhere.
And last but not least I try to tell my kids how amazing and beautiful they are everyday. Here’s the catch, then I say, ‘Every child is beautiful, now think if no one ever told you.’
So we have challenges of the week. For instance, we’ll challenge the girls to compliment someone they don’t normally talk to, or someone they don’t like. It’s really easy to compliment someone that you like, but try going up to someone that gets on every last nerve and telling them they look pretty.
Always – so far – they’ve had positive results. Then it gives us something to talk about at dinner. It’s even came so far that one of my kids is now friends with that person. It’s great learning – sometimes people act like jerks when they’re insecure.”
HS: Please tell us about your husband who is a youth pastor. What are some of the things he teaches the teens? Tell us some stories.
TO: “My husband Jordy is a youth pastor, and we are working with tons of teens all the time. They recently got back from Kelowna [a city in British Columbia, Canada] for a youth conference called RUSH. It’s awesome!! There’s music, speakers and a day of going downtown to clean up, cook for, and get to know the homeless.
He really focuses on showing these kids God’s love. They met a man down there who told them his story. His name is Papa. He was a crack addict and used to be homeless. He said that he was flailing everyday. Jord had never heard this term before so that man explained: when you are hooked on crack, your psychosis changes and you keep looking down and sweeping your eyes on the ground in hopes someone dropped their dope. You don’t lift your head up because you want to find something to smoke so bad.
He said one day this light came down on him, and he had to look up, and he hasn’t looked down since.
A man has taken it upon himself, because Papa is illiterate, and phones him every morning and reads the bible to him. He takes him to his appointments and when Papa needed eye surgery, this man whom is fairly wealthy, took him to Vancouver and stayed with him. On the way home Papa asked him, ‘Why do you do all these things for me?’ The man said, ‘Because I went to church for a long time and I forgot who God was, and I see him through you.’ There are so many amazing people who are spreading goodness out there.
My husband is a constant inspiration to our family. Where most people would get fed up in dealing with some things, he always shows grace. He apologizes when he is not wrong, he shows grace where most people wouldn’t, and yet he’s deadly honest.
His goal is to teach the youth that just because they do things that are wrong, it doesn’t mean they aren’t forgiven and God loves them no matter what. If we want these kids to be perfect because we’re Christians, its an unreal expectation. They still have the same feelings, hormones and everything else that other teenagers have. So pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start fresh the next day.
Some of the kids, actually a lot of the kids, are not from Christian homes and are everyday regular kids. They love feeding the homeless and sometimes they just rent out a gym and play a mean game of floor hockey! The key is building relationships in our community and letting kids know that they have a person to talk to that won’t judge them no matter what the situation.
And we have so much fun with these kids! One day I had a bus show up at my house packed with 40 kids. All of a sudden, the youth pastor is bringing out breakfast and my living room, staircase, and kitchen were full of youth and adults, laughing and having a great time. Stressful? Yes. Fun? Yes.”
HS: Tell us about your recent missionary trip to Haiti.
TO: “This passed summer we took a team of 13 with 2 adult helpers to Haiti. What a fabulous time – we just had a blast. We got to do a soccer camp, with a side of Jesus, and of course my favorite: singing and teaching them songs from our Sunday school program.
There were too many life lessons to count, but I’ll give you two good stories.
One little boy had one eye and the other eye had been sewn shut. I asked what had happened to his eye. The lady told me that he had a horrible infection in his eye and the fever was taking him. There was no doctor, so the mom popped his eye out to save him. My heart ached, I can’t ever imagine having to make that kind of decision — we are so blessed.
The other story: a boy came to the soccer camp and he had a loaf of bread. We don’t know where he got it, because these kids don’t have a loaf of bread — ever. He took the loaf and started breaking pieces off, he fed about 20 kids before he had one tiny piece left for himself.
Sometimes I take my favorite food and go in to the laundry room so I don’t have to share it, and here’s this little guy giving everyone he could a piece before he took the last bite.
These kids have nothing and are so happy. They would meet us at the gate first thing in the morning singing the songs we had taught them the day before. I loved it there and can hardly wait to go back.”