The availability of quality foster and adoptive homes is an ever present challenge within child welfare. Historically, homes for teens and large sibling groups are even more difficult to recruit. There is an added challenge, currently, in that the number of new foster homes being licensed is outpaced by the numbers of children being removed from their homes. Removals are at a ten year high within Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties. Heartland for Children is committed to innovation in the approaches used to recruit and retain quality foster parents.
This is why my family chose to become a foster, and eventually adoptive family in Polk County, Florida. As a foster and adoptive brother, I have been allowed the opportunity to help shelter ten different children within our home over the past eight years. During this time I have been able to develop patience and empathy for those who have experienced great trauma. Since I was an only child for the first six years of my life, these experiences led me to share my space, toys, time, and even my family. With every child that was taken in, I felt it was my responsibility to make sure they didn't leave without knowing that there was someone who cared. I have helped prepare numerous meals, organize clothes, provide safety and fun at the park, entertainment at home and in the car, reading of books, bedtime prayers, and much more. Although some of my foster brothers and sisters stayed for only a short time, I believe that each day counts.
“Mom, are you coming?!” my youngest daughter wailed, “Come on! We’re ready to FREE it!” In order to understand what is taking place, let me rewind to about eight weeks ago.
It was a normal Sunday afternoon and the family was outside working in the yard like we do twice a month. As we were weeding the flower beds, our cat, Rasputin, appeared from around the corner, carrying something that was moving in his mouth. My daughters, knowing that the little creature was facing an untimely death, started to scream at Rasputin. Rasputin immediately dropped the creature from his mouth and ran the opposite direction. My youngest daughter had made it to the wiggling animal first and exclaimed “Oh Mama, it’s a baby bird!” As I approached, I could tell that the bird appeared to be in very bad shape. “Mama, you have to help the little guy!” Looking first at the little shivering mess of feathers, then at the two pleading faces before me, I caught myself saying ”Go get a towel and a box. We’ll take it to the ER vet down the road.”
Thanks to the generosity of all the donors who chose to be Rudolph Champions in 2015, contributing financially, purchasing items from children’s wish lists and/or sponsoring one of over 60 toy drives in our community, we were able to not only meet our goal, but exceed it!
“I could never foster a teenager”. I’ve heard it time and time again during my twenty two years working in child welfare. Why are people so afraid of teen agers? We were ALL teenagers at one point…is that why you don’t think you can do it, because you’re afraid of a child like yourself? (insert funny photo?) I have met some of THE most amazing teens during my career. These kids are earning athletic and academic scholarships to college, they excel in their high school sports and community clubs…but they couldn’t do this without a caring foster parent by their side to support them every step of the way.
Forming relationships and attachments with others is inevitable even among the most shy and isolated individuals. So long as one lives and interacts with others, a form of attachment or relationship is established. There are different types of relationships that the average person can associate with: parent to child, foster parent to foster child, grandparent to grandchild, and sibling to sibling, spouse to spouse relationship along with extended family relationships. There are also the romantic, friendship, colleague, and the roommate relationships. The list can go on and on. A relationship, simply put, is being related to or interrelated with another individual on some level.
Our journey first began long before September 2011; it began about 16 years ago with kinship care. We were contacted by the department and asked if we would consider taking in our nephews who were going to be removed from their home. My husband and I said yes. About two years later, there was a TPR hearing and the boys came up for adoption. Again, my husband and I said yes and adopted. After having previously being involved with the system through kinship care and adoption...and having two empty bedrooms (can’t have that!), we decided to take the leap and attend foster parent classes. We will soon celebrate our three-year anniversary as foster parents.
After nearly 10 years of being opposed to the idea of fostering, I finally decided to take the first step back in 2009 to learn more about the need and exactly what my commitment would be if I were to foster.
HEARTLAND FOR CHILDREN - [Foster Care Blog] - Today, our foster parents are highly skilled volunteers that work in partnership with biological parents, case managers and other child welfare professionals to ensure that while the children are away from their parents, the parents still feel supported and connected to their children.
Lori Wasson was licensed on October 18, 2011 for one child, but when she was asked if she could take two in order to keep sisters together, she quickly agreed. She was later told that they had two brothers who were also in care and she welcomed the idea of having all four siblings placed with her.
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.
Without conditions or reservations, I wholeheartedly endorse Heartland for Children as the Community Based Organization (CBC) serving abused and neglected children in Highlands, Hardee and Polk Counties.
The child welfare system has improved dramatically under the outstanding leadership of Heartland for Children. For nearly a decade, Heartland for Children has been delivering high-quality services to children and families in our communities. In fact, the system of care that was designed to protect child, our most precious resource, was not always responsive, nor highly respected, before Heartland for Children was selected as the first CBC, covering Highlands, Hardee and Polk counties.