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Swalley becomes first-time foster parent

Kaete Schmidt

More stories from Kaete Schmidt



Business teacher Tyler Swalley looks off the pier in North Carolina with his wife and three foster kids during the summer.

Teacher, coach, dad; these are all titles that business teacher Tyler Swalley now possesses. For the last few months, Swalley and his wife have been caring for three foster children. Although not so well-known or openly broadcast, Swalley’s plan to be a part of the foster care system had been in the making for years.

Both Swalley and his wife work in schools where they interact with children in need of help. Due to the exposure to such children, Swalley’s wife expressed an interest in making a difference in children’s lives. Deciding to wait a little while after marriage, Swalley and his wife made the decision to begin foster care classes in October 2017.

“We wanted to help people in need. And like, part of it too is, this isn’t necessarily permanent. If these families are able to kind of get everything in order, they can have their kids back, and we can kind of just act as a temporary home for them. Just a safe place for them,” Swalley said.

Although fully supportive of his wife’s dreams, Swalley found himself a little unsure of what to expect as any new parent would expect to be.

“The hesitancy would have just been the unknown, not knowing what to expect. The classes that we took did a lot to just help understand what you’re going to deal with, different things that you experience. My biggest fear was kind of the unknown of the situation,” Swalley said.

Despite being nervous, Swalley was ready to dive into a new world as a foster parent. Swalley and his wife’s first experience as parents were presented with an infant. But, just after two days, the court decided that the infant could return back to her mother. Although short, this gave Swalley and his wife a glimpse into the excitement and grief that comes along with fostering.
Within the next 48 hours this grief turned into excitement as Swalley and his wife received news of a new opportunity.

“After that we got a phone call about the three kids we have now and they were actually going to be placed within police protective custody with us,” Swalley said. “They were just going to be there for the weekend. They were actually expected to go home and then after evaluation of the living situation, they decided they will stay with us longer.”

This phone call indicated the start of a new journey. Three siblings consisting of two girls and one boy, ages 6, 8 and 10, would soon be in the care of Swalley and his wife, changing their lives in every way imaginable.

“It just kind of changes how I prioritize my time and what I do with my time,” Swalley said. “There’s not as much time for like fun activities for me necessarily. Like vegging out, watching TV, watching sports. I don’t get to do those frequently. But it’s okay because I get to help out the kids. It’s all going smoothly.”

Knowing the huge change that was going to take place in their life along with their love and capacity to help children in need, Swalley said he and his wife were ready to welcome the children with loving arms.

“The first thing that we’ve tried to do is treat them as if they were our own. There’s pictures of them on my desk, in our house. They have chores just like our own kids would. So we try to treat them as much as we can like we would our own kids,” Swalley said.

Despite providing a home for three children, fostering comes with its difficulties for both parents and children.

“Our older boy, he struggles sometimes with things because he understands a lot more. He does things that aren’t characteristic of the kid he is, he is just frustrated with the situation,” Swalley said. “He does a really nice job and they’re really great kids like they are all well behaved. They’re really loving and sweet to each other. And they take care of each other.”

Regardless of any difficulties that should emerge, Swalley said he has seen this as a positive and fun experience.

“I get to take them to Taekwondo and gymnastics,” Swalley said. “We have so much fun with the kids. They’ve met our parents and siblings, they have so much fun. We took them to a wedding last weekend and got them dresses and stuff, they had so much fun. I mean it’s kind of just our new normal.”