With more and more Maine kids in need of foster care, Spurwink has helped hundreds find loving homes
When Robin Dulac and Robert Lavine first met Samantha, they’d been working at Spurwink — the behavioral health and educational services nonprofit — for eight years. Around the state, Spurwink provides homes, schooling, and therapy to children at a time when the foster care system has been stretched thin by the opioid crisis. As residential therapeutic parents, Robin and Robert lived 12 out of every 15 days in a Spurwink-owned home for children with emotional and developmental needs. Three years ago, Samantha came under their care, and after a year and a half, they decided to foster Samantha in their own home. Now, while Robin, Robert, and Samantha excitedly await final adoption papers, Robin took time to share the family’s experience.
How’d you start working with Spurwink?
Well, Robert and I saw a Spurwink ad in the newspaper, and since we both had experience working with our own family members with needs, we said, “Sure, we could do this. It could be really worthwhile.” Seeing children being reunited with their families, seeing when a child gets adopted, seeing children succeed — that’s what it’s all about.
Did you click right away with Samantha?
You know, it’s funny, because we’d worked with a lot of kids over the years. But Samantha kept saying, “I’m going home with Robin and Robert.” And we’d say, “Oh, honey. We work here, but we’ll find you a forever home.” She’d just say, “Nope, I’m going home with you.” She’d bounced around a lot of programs for a while, which meant she wasn’t getting it, wasn’t connecting. Then, she came into the Spurwink program and just said, “I’m going to do this. We’re going to do this.”
4 ways to make a difference for Maine children in foster care
Help expand therapeutic resources by making a donation at spurwink.org.
Call 207-871-1200 to learn about leaving a legacy by including Spurwink in your will.
Explore the Spurwink website to see what it takes to become a foster parent.
And talk to friends and family about foster care — you might inspire them!
Did you have any nervousness about fostering at home?
We were confident that we wanted to do this. There were times we were pulling our hair out, going, “What are we not doing?” or “What are we doing wrong?” But with Spurwink you have a whole team of people behind you whenever you need help. Sooner or later, you hit on something that works and then just grab that and run with it.
How’s Samantha doing now?
When she started at Spurwink, she could barely read or write, and now she’s reading and writing. She loves history. She’s starting pre-algebra. She’s also really connected with her Spurwink clinician — her therapy has been awesome. Plus, it’s amazing because she was just a tiny thing when she came to us, and she’s grown like three inches. It’s wonderful to see all the healthy changes.
When someone else is thinking about fostering, what do you tell them about your experience?
My own family was surprised when we did this, partly because I’m in my 50s now. But I said, “You know what, it’s so rewarding.” Children come into the Spurwink program because they need help. You cannot believe how gratifying it is when you see a kiddo who has failed at such a young age, through no fault of their own, become a successful person who can cope in this world, who can regulate themselves, and who can integrate into the community.
Number of children in foster care in Maine, up significantly in recent years in large part because of the opioid crisis
Children placed in Spurwink’s therapeutic foster care homes in the past six years, with intensive services to meet emotional and physical needs
Percent of children in Spurwink’s care who have been placed in forever homes
Spurwink-supported children — especially infants, sibling groups, and teens — still waiting for forever homes