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A Little Bit of Empathy and a Lot of Understanding

Sunli and her foster care mother become a family through Catholic Charities’ Refugee Foster Care program.

Sunli has only been with the Thompson family for a few months, but from day one, when she came off the plane and met Mia Thompson, she called her “Mama.”

Mrs. Thompson is a first-time foster mom. She and her husband have a seven-year old son, and decided to open their hearts and home to welcome a foster youth into their family. Going from the mother of a young child to the mother of a teenager was a challenging transition, but an easy decision. “My husband and I feel a social obligation to reach out and help people who need support, especially when those needing support are children.”

Mia felt confident in the supportive structure of Catholic Charities’ Refugee Foster Care program. As an African-American mother to a teen from Asia, Mia wanted her daughter to feel comfortable in the United States and feel like a part of the family. One of the biggest challenges was that Sunli did not speak English, similar to many refugee youth, and could not express herself. With a bit of patience, Mia and Sunli began to communicate with gestures and hugs during the first few weeks. They began to cultivate a better understanding of one another and their love and trust as a family grew.

“What we have learned is that no matter where you bring these kids from, no matter their cultural or ethnic background, with a little bit of empathy and a lot of understanding, you can live together as a family,” Mia said. “You have absolutely nothing to lose, but so much to gain from this experience.”

The Refugee Foster Care program provides a home to youth who have lost their family, culture, and country. We match our youth with loving families and provide several channels of support to help them thrive in the U.S. To learn more about our Refugee Foster Care program, please contact Angela Albright, Division Director, at aalbright@catholiccharitiesscc.org.