Ryan and Amy's Story

Ryan and Amy's Story

Committed to Love – Ryan and Amy’s Story

After 15 years as foster parents, Ryan Bales and Amy Setzer-Bales have experienced their share of joys and trials. Through all of it, they have remained committed to showing unconditional love to the children in their care and to each other.

Ryan and Amy decided to become foster parents after seeing the impact another family in their church had on the children they fostered. After completing their training and becoming licensed, they cared for Tobey*, a one-year-old to whom they grew very attached. Their first real heartbreak happened when he was safely reunified with his birth family.

As they healed, they considered not fostering any other children. Yet, they press on - and looking back -  are immensely grateful that they did.

​The first siblings Amy and Ryan cared for included Jazmin*, Nia* and their two-year-old brother, Klay.*. Coming from a food-insecure home, the Klay would hoard food in his mouth like a chipmunk and became scared around mealtimes. Amy and Ryan developed a set schedule for meals, complete with a visual aid and frequent reminders that he could expect food at regular hours.

"Over time, Klay started to trust that we would feed him and feed him enough," Amy says. "This not only helped us build a relationship with him, but he started to trust us and become a kid again."

After three years in foster care, Jazmin, Nia and Klay moved in with a safe family member, who was dedicated to build upon the love and progress they experienced with Amy and Ryan. The transition took about a month of long, hard conversations, overnight stays, and work on all parties to develop schedules, routines and behavior management skills that worked for everyone involved.

Amy says that the progress Klay made, while incredibly difficult to facilitate at times, was truly remarkable and a testament to the power of a loving foster parent who can be a steady, loving presence in a child’s life.

"Don't give up on any kiddo prematurely," she says. "Stick it out, especially through the hard times. Those are the times children can heal."

Ryan and Amy have fostered 17 children in their tenure as foster parents, mostly staying for them for extended periods. Seven children became permanent members of their family through adoption. They live in the country, Harrisonville, MO, to be exact, and love taking their kids fishing, playing sports and going on ice cream runs.

According to Amy, a key to being a good foster parent as a married person is continuing to pour into your spouse as well as the children you are caring for. "If your relationship isn't healthy, it's really hard to help children heal" she says.

She also stresses the importance of treating all children as if they are members of your family.

"Love them like you gave birth to them," she says. "In the end, you will be changed – possibly even more than they change. You will be a better person when you give yourself to love unconditionally."

If you are interested in joining the Ryan and Amy in caring for youth in our community, please download our Become a Foster Parent 101: What You Need to Know webinar, attend a virtual Real Talk with a Real Foster Parent, or call 1-855-SRV-KIDS.