Overcoming grief with foster care: the story of a grandmother and a Ukrainian family

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Mother and son, Ilona and Mikhailo are from the area around Odessa. They left Ukraine almost a year ago after they couldn't find a doctor to care for Mikhailo's neurological disorder. 

Continuing their search for better care, they crossed the Polish border by train and flew to Rome. They spent a few months in the Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital, and now live with Paola, an Italian woman who participates in the Caritas Rome foster care project.


Paola is a very good and kind person. She is like a grandmother to Mikhailo. I am very happy to live with Paola.
She has done everything—taught us, helped us, gone to rehab with us and helped me find a doctor.

Ilona says that during her first few months she didn't learn much Italian, but since living with Paola, she has made great progress. But the foster care project has also been good for Paola as she is recovering from a loss and needed companionship.

For me, Ilona and the boy have been very positive motivators because I was going through a very tough time. Less than a year ago, I lost one of my daughters to a bad tumor. And so, to have welcomed them into my home gave me a distraction, a smile. It's really helping me get through a rough time.
I think you have to welcome people because it's not just something good you do, but it's also a gift you receive.

Paola admits that she has been very lucky with the little family who have come to her home. Due to her experience, she encourages more people to take the risk and host those in need.

Francesca Porcelli, the Caritas Roma worker, who supervises the foster care project believes Paola's case is exceptional. Often people don't want to host in their own home. But she adds it is better for refugees than shelters because they can make connections and be integrated into the community. And it is also a good thing for those who open their homes.

Caritas Roma

Certainly welcoming a family is challenging in the sense that it tests both the host and the refugee. But, at the same time, it is a mutual giving, so it definitely manages to help the host grow as well.

Paola, Ilona and Francesca hope their story will serve as an example for many people to take the first step on the adventure of fostering.



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