On the first day of a new semester, Jeremy Walden starts class with a unique introduction. The Auburn professor flips through a slideshow about his profession, his education, and a glimpse into life with his one-of-a-kind family.
As he jokes about his need for a large passenger van, he unveils that he and his wife are the proud parents of four biological children and three foster children. Walden and his wife have fostered four children long-term and have provided overnight care to several minors in the Lee County area.
The couples’ journey into foster parenthood began with a desire to adopt their first child. After seeking insight from several adoption agencies, the two decided to use fostering as the first step toward providing a loving home to children in need.
“Giving a child love and stability is one of the best things you will ever do,” Walden says.
Walden describes the rewarding aspects of providing a healthy home-life to the children he cares for. This includes one of his favorite memories of taking his foster daughter to a daddy-daughter dance.
“One of the most rewarding things is having them call me Dad,” he says. ” It is also really fun doing things with them that they have never done before like fishing, taking them to the movies and going to the beach.”
Though foster parenthood has been an enriching experience for the couple, Walden admits there are difficulties that accompany this family dynamic. These include complications from the court system, maintaining a strong marital unit and balancing the needs of his biological children.
“You will need a strong support system,” Walden says. “If you are married, your marriage needs to be rock solid before getting into a potentially stressful situation.”
Walden has seen several marriages struggle, separate or end due to the strain of foster parenthood. To deal with the potential stress, the couple uses support groups like Big House and the Foster Parents Association.
The Waldens also have to examine the needs of their own children when considering taking in a foster child. The DHR even interviews each child to confirm their support for foster care before the couple is granted licensing.
“When we’ve been approached about taking in another child, we sit our kids down and explain to them why we are doing this and how it could potentially impact them,” Walden says. “Overall, our kids are very welcoming and open to sharing. However, it has been challenging at times for some of them.”
Walden explains that tension can sometimes arise between his biological and foster children. When the children are the same sex and age, competition can be created.
Despite the potential for conflict, the family of nine has managed to strike harmony in their home. This family unit is so strong in fact that they plan to adopt their three current foster children.
As students take on the bustle of a college semester, it can be easy to overlook the personal lives of our professors. Walden’s patience and care for his family reminds us of the humanity behind our Auburn instructors.