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Karl and Jessica Hess committed to caring for the child first. Photo courtesy Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families

Putting foster child’s needs above their own | Unsung Hero

They handled the hardest part of being a foster parent with grace

Seattle’s Child is proud to partner with the state Department of Children, Youth and Families Strengthening Families Washington to honor outstanding caregivers doing important work on behalf of children. Throughout February, we’ll introduce you to Unsung Heroes from around the state: biological parents, grandparents, foster and adoptive parents. Some volunteer at local schools; some have started nonprofits; some mentor others in their communities. Enjoy the stories of 2024’s unsung heroes, written by the people who nominated them.

See all the Unsung Heroes of DCYF on the Seattle’s Child Community page.

Karl and Jessica Hess, Bellingham

I worked with these foster parents for over a year as they navigated the complex situation of the child in their care starting to return home after almost three years with them. They were expecting to enter a guardianship and had committed to the child after so many years of raising him. When circumstances changed unexpectedly, the child’s mother became able to safely parent after such a long time. 

They were able to support and participate in a thoughtful transition for this child back to his mother’s care. I watched as they grappled with the torn emotions of letting go of a child they had raised for so long while also understanding the importance and the sacred nature of the biological parent and child’s bond being paramount in the situation. 

In the years they raised the child, they had pictures of him and his bio mom throughout the house and would foster conversations about his “first mom”, as the child referred to her, to help him keep his connection with her even as she was completely absent in his life for over a year. These foster parents were an example of grace and strength, putting the child’s best interest in front of their own and committing to the goal we all share of reunifying families, even as it meant grief and loss on their part. 

I am in awe of their emotional capacity and their ability to put the long-term best interest of the child first and work with the whole team to help him and his mom reunify. I am forever grateful for their time in that child’s life and the way they handled what is the hardest part of being a foster parent.

— Ella Munizza

More Unsung Heroes:

Kristin Weddle exemplifies what Parents as Teachers stands for

Motivated mom reunited with her three sons

Katie Biron: a passion for healing families, building community

Mindy Livingston has made foster care her life’s mission

Chelsea Hope is a model of resilience and a gem of a person

About the Author

Seattle Child Staff

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