Heather and Juan Andricain have some lessons to share about how they turned their house into a haven of love, laughter and security for children.

Two years ago, the Andricains became foster parents.

“I don’t think people realize what a challenge it is to go to work one morning with no child in your home, then go to bed that night with one or more new people in your house,” Heather said.

Laughter became their cure. One common refrain used in their home is “just kiss a cow,” a phrase their foster son Jacob yelled shortly after being placed with the family, they said.

The Andricains are among 2,000 foster families in Louisiana, where 4,500 children are in foster care during any given month, said Suzy Sonnier, secretary for the Department of Children and Family Services.

Without the help of these foster parents, many children’s lives would be uncertain and insecure, Sonnier said. She said about 180 older children who left or aged out of the foster care system made little or no adult permanent connections.

“They are quick to tell us that they just want somebody that has their back,” Sonnier said. “They need someone’s shoulder to cry on.”

After Heather volunteered at Parker House, a residential children’s home in Baton Rouge, the Andricains made the decision to foster parent. Their confidence grew after they attended parenting training classes through the state.

The couple’s impact on 4-year-old Josh and 8-year-old Jacob, whom they have parented for 18 months, is undeniable.

“Since we have had our boys for so long, we have started seeing some of our behaviors in them and know that we have made a dent in the way they see the world,” Heather said. “Jacob is already concerned about how he is going to pay his bills as an adult … . We have really tried to instill in them that they are responsible for the consequences that result from their decisions.”

Heather and Juan also pay attention to their foster children’s challenging situations.

“They didn’t ask for such a tough life,” Heather said. “So I teach them true love, responsibility, courtesy, life skills, faith … all the things you would want your children to know to become a successful adult. Even if you have to squeeze the lessons into a few months instead of years, you will make a difference.”

To find out how to become a foster or adoptive parent, visit dcfs.louisiana.gov. Orientations are held twice monthly at the Baton Rouge Department of Children and Family Services Child Welfare office, 160 S. Ardenwood.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.