Hudson Valley Parent

HVP October 2014

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Page 8 of 41 ■ Hudson Valley Parent 9 I am a Hudson Valley Parent Rachel Napolitano: Fostering hope for children By KATHLEEN WILLCOX S tability is the 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 cement as many of the leaky foundations she can in the Hudson Valley. "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 says. Her husband of seven years, Mike, works in case management in the mental health fi eld 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 in- stead 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 volunteering for a variety of local and national causes, including the Ulster County SPCA, the Buddy Walk benefi tting the National Down's Syn- drome Society, individual pediatric cancer patients in their town (Ra- chel makes balloon animals at kids' parties and then sends the proceeds to local patients) and the campaign launched by the Special Olympics against the "R-Word" ( 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' Coali- tion 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. "It has been an incredible experi- ence for the whole family," Napol- itano says. "I have really seen my children blossom and grow in their roles as siblings to the children. In total, we have had fi ve foster chil- dren come through our home so far, including our two we have now. De- pending on their needs, it can be for just a week or forever, if the child is offi cially put up for adoption." Napolitano is committed to protecting the privacy of her foster children, and won't reveal 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 cy- cles 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 fi nd 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. To hire Napolitano for your next party, visit her Facebook page at So get out there! Like the Napol- itanos, you may fi nd you get even more than you give. There is a dire need for foster parents in our area. Miles for Mac 5K Run/Walk Saturday, Oct. 25, 5 p.m. Mill Road Elementary School, Red Hook One of the many causes sup- ported by the Napolitano family is childhood cancer. Mac was a rambunctious little boy from Red Hook who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, an ag- gressive form of child- hood cancer, at the age of 16 months. Mac passed away in March at the tender age of 2. Mac's family and community are organizing this run to raise money for neuroblastoma research so that other families do not have to face the tragedy Mac's family faced. For more information, visit

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