A Foster Parent's Journey: Meet the Altys

by Susan Ripley & Cebien Alty

When Cebien Alty’s wife, Joy-Lynn, brought up the subject of becoming foster parents, as her biological mother had been during her adolescent years, his quick reply was a resounding “NO!"  He wanted to focus on having children of their own and was quite honestly worried about the "type" of children in the foster care system.

To understand some of his resistance; Cebien had preconceived ideas of why children were in Foster Care, as one of his cousins during his teenage years was placed into the system of care and lived in a group home.  He would visit her at the group home, and to him, what he saw was not something that he himself wanted to experience or deal with.  Because of his skewed understanding as to how the kids in the group home ended up in there, he unknowingly placed the blame/fault on them.

This was in stark contrast to Joy-Lynn’s experience, where caring for children was always part of her reality because she saw how impactful it was for many of the children her own mother provided care for.

Fast forward to 2008—10 years later—with Joy-Lynn often “soft mentioning” the idea of fostering, when on a beautiful Sunday, the Altys sat in the congregation of a friend’s church, where unbeknownst to them, the speaker that faithful day would be a guest pastor whose message was on the subject of fostering and adoption.

The pastor shared his own family’s story of fostering, adoption, and the positive changes they had experienced in walking out this ministry.  He also spoke about how great a need there is for families/individuals to get involved in fostering.  At the end of his testimony, the pastor asked for families to make a commitment to at very least attend an info session and listen, taking the smallest step by educating themselves about the need within the system of care.  Cebien turned to his wife and said, “Okay babe, I’ll commit to the info session but that’s it.”

Not even half way through the info session, Mr. Alty told his wife, 'I’m in. Let’s make this happen.'

The Altys did not waste time; they searched and found the nearest Community Based Care organization responsible for foster care and were directed to Heartland for Children (HFC), where they signed-up for the next available info session.  Not even half way through the info session, Mr. Alty told his wife, “I’m in. Let’s make this happen.”  Whatever he needed to do to start helping young lives, he was dedicated to start doing.  So the story goes, the Altys completed their MAPP training, now called Passport to Parenting.  They became licensed foster parents in the fall of 2009, and their journey as foster parents and advocates for children in care continues.

The Altys entered their fifth year of being foster parents in 2014 and have had 50+ children in their care.  This is not the “norm” for “traditional” foster parents.  The Altys wanted to extend care to as many children as possible, so they made themselves available for short-term, long-term, overnight, and respite, sibling groups, etc., which is why they have been able to touch the lives of so many young people.

The Altys serve as one of three foster parent mentor sets for newly licensed foster parents through HFC.  The goal of HFC’s mentoring program is simply to be an extended resource of help for licensed foster parents and to provide guidance for new foster parents as they journey through their first year of advocating for children in the system of care.

Aside from being foster parents and foster parent mentors, Mr. Alty serves as a participant in the HFC Foster Parent Advisory Board where he is able to advocate for both parents and children by aiding in constructive dialogue around improving the system of care at large.  The Altys also host a foster and adoptive family support group called Heart2Heart, which is hosted by their non-profit, UMatter Organization, Inc.  Their Heart2Heart support group is another way the Altys feel they are able to give back as well as fulfil a need of the foster and adoptive communities.

When interviewed by Inside Polk Magazine in 2012 about their journey as Foster Parents, Mr. Alty stated his only regret is that “he didn’t do it sooner.”  Some might say that it’s the young lives that are ultimately impacted and changed by having loving, dedicated foster parents, but as quoted in Inside Polk, Mr. Alty shared that, “Yes, we make a difference for them, but they have changed our lives…the kids are amazingly resilient.”

The Altys’ testimony about their fostering journey goes much deeper than this summary, but their commitment is to continue to provide care and advocate where they can to ensure the young lives that they touch are impacted directly or indirectly.

If you are one or know of someone who is hesitating because of preconceived ideas or reluctance of the unknown, at very least, take the necessary step of learning the “why and how” children in foster care are there.

Are you the next Cebien or Joy-Lynn Alty?

Do you need to hear his message in person to convince you to come along the fostering journey?

Register for one of our information meetings to learn more about how to become a foster parent!

Call (863) 519-8900 x 289 or email ghinkle@heartlandforchildren.org for information on how to become a foster parent.  Foster Parent Information Nights and orientations are listed on our calendar and may be found in the events section of our Facebook and Google+ pages.