SHORELINE, Wash. -- With the Fourth of July just around the corner, there's nothing more patriotic than being able to say, "I'm an American." Six refugee brothers and sisters are taking the first steps toward that goal through a foster program supported by the U.S. State Department.
The siblings, ages 3 to 14, escaped the horror of a civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo which killed their parents. The United States is the only country in the world with a program to find foster homes for unaccompanied refugee children. These brothers and sisters now live in two Shoreline foster homes. Their American parents will raise them until adulthood when they can become citizens.
"I love the liberty of of being able to accomplish what I want to do without fear of the soldiers coming around," says the eldest sister in French. She says math and science are her favorite subjects in school and thanks God for keeping her siblings together.
Foster parents Barbara and Jeremy Tantrum already have a biological daughter, an adopted daughter and a son on the way. They say foster parenting means dishing up a lot of fried chicken and love.
"You hear a lot of what's going on in the world and you want to be able to do something," says Barbara. "Most of the time you feel pretty helpless. You can't do a lot. But this is something we can do."
"You start forming bonds," adds Jeremy. "Eventually you get to the point where you don't want to say, 'You're 21, go away!' You want to say, 'We want you to be part of our lives.'"
Molly Daggett at Lutheran Community Services Northwest says there's financial reimbursement and an array of social services for families.
"It's really amazing and it really makes me very proud of the United States that we alone do this," says Daggett. "We give safety and shelter to the most vulnerable of refugees."
The Tantrums say theirs is quite the All-American family. Barbara gives her 3-year-old a hug.
"She'd been here a couple months and she was sitting on my lap. She said, 'You Mama' and I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm your mama.'"
Child refugee settlement programs are run by Lutheran Community Services Northwest in Seattle and Catholic Community Services in Tacoma. For more information go to www.refugeechildren.net.