Altamonte’s Chad and Holly Nuttle are the Florida Foster Parents of the Year
Holly and Chad Nuttle of Altamonte Springs are really good at being foster parents. They now have a prestigious award from the Florida Coalition for Children Foundation to prove it. What’s more amazing, though, is that the Nuttles are really new at it, too.
Chad and Holly have been fostering children in need for only a year. But in that short time, they’ve helped more than a dozen kids, and like any new parents, they’ve found a style that works best for them and the children in their care.
In the Nuttle home, Holly and Chad let their foster children call them whatever they want. Sometimes it’s Mom or Dad, just as the Nuttles’ two biological children say. Other times, it gets more humorous.
“We had one little girl who wasn’t sure what to call me,” Holly remembers. “She would just say, ‘Hey lady!’ when she wanted my attention.
And so, Holly embraced her role as Hey Lady.
The Nuttles’ laid-back humor is a must when they have several children in their care at any given time. It also takes loads of logistical strategy and lots of love.
Chad and Holly were nominated for the Florida Foster Parents of the Year award by Embrace Families, Central Florida’s lead child-welfare agency. The Nuttles have had 13 foster children in their care this year. The Florida Coalition for Children presented the Nuttles with their award at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort this summer.
“They readily accept kids with extensive health needs, treating every child as their own, while focusing on the goal of safely reunifying them with their families,” says Danielle Levien, communications manager with Embrace Families.
There are more than 1,700 children in Seminole, Orange, and Osceola counties who are currently in out-of-home care, meaning they live in a licensed foster home, group home, or with relatives.
During a recent visit to the Nuttles’ Altamonte home, there were six children in their care: two babies, two toddlers, and Holly and Chad’s own 10-year-old twins, Grant and McKinley. The scene played out like that inside most local homes, albeit with a few more kids on hand than average. The family ate breakfast together before scooping up the babies for cuddles. One toddler actually put himself in time-out after taking a toy from the other, walking over to a corner and coming back to the play area only when the other child stopped crying. Holly says it’s difficult to begin discipline as soon as foster children arrive, but it’s necessary for there to be rules in place for everyone.
“It’s our job to model discipline as foster parents,” she says.
Outside the house, the Nuttles travel with their full and ever-changing brood in tow, often getting curious looks and fielding strangers’ questions. Chad and Holly do all this while working, too. Both are registered nurses, and Holly is studying for her Master of Science in Nursing.
Oh, and they homeschool McKinley and Grant.
How do they do it? When do they sleep, exactly?
On the three nights a week Chad works 12-hour night shifts, he sleeps in an air-conditioned RV on the couple’s property. The lack of shared walls makes for effective rest that readies him for sharing childcare duties when he’s home.
“That can mean bringing them to doctor appointments or for meetings with their biological parents – it’s often shuttling kids in different directions,” Chad says.
Holly adds that Chad is an equal partner, and that they couldn’t be foster parents without their special brand of teamwork.
Another great asset: McKinley and Grant, who love helping and playing with the little ones. The twins get their schoolwork done in the mornings so they can play with the other children in the afternoons.
“I love them so much,” says McKinley, with Grant calling the babies “entertaining.”
The Nuttles know that family reunification is the goal. They’ve already had to say goodbye to several children in their care.
What makes the Nuttles special, says Danielle, is that they gladly take siblings, meaning that sibling groups can often stay together. Keeping brothers and sisters together is so important to Holly and Chad, that the couple is now building a house in Orange County that’s big enough to accommodate even more foster placements at one time.
“Our goal is 10,” says Holly as she picks up a baby who has crawled over to her, smiling.
“These kids’ worlds have been turned upside down,” says Danielle. “To remain with their siblings and be able to temporarily stay with foster parents like the Nuttles makes a world of difference.”
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