Helping Children Close to Home
I’ve always had a soft spot for kids. I used to send money to Save the Children all the time, but one day I looked around my home town of Memphis and said to myself, there are a lot of children who need help right here. I’d give food and clothing that my own kids had outgrown to little kids in my neighborhood. One day I heard about foster care on television and decided to check into it. I knew I had enough love and time to help children. But when I got the information, it looked like too much work. Then I got a call asking me why I didn’t fill out the paperwork. Because of an emergency situation, I could get a one-week-old baby girl, even before I attended the mandatory preparation class. So I said yes, attended the class and graduated. That was 12 years ago.
Since then, I have been a foster parent to 80 children, and I have adopted four of them: Teasha, 11, Denise, 9, Othello, 9, and Enequa, 6. I signed up for children who had problems. Denise, for example, came to me when she was four days old. She was born addicted to drugs, and they had affected her nervous system. She also had trouble breathing, due to asthma. When Denise started school, she developed behavior problems (she had a very short attention span), but I couldn’t get her professional help because my hands were tied. I was not her legal guardian. I wanted to adopt her, but she did not have a social worker (the one who originally brought Denise to me quit the next day). Denise had no social worker for six years. The state kept telling me to hold on, to just give them time. I didn’t give up, and I was finally able to adopt Denise. I took her to a doctor, who put her on medication to calm her down. She went from a D student to being on the honor roll. We are such a happy family now!
To parent a child who was in foster care, you need a lot of patience and a willingness to give of yourself. A child needs more than only her basic needs met.
A child needs love, commitment, and exposure to the world. But the most important thing is love and understanding.
—Pearle Cash, Memphis, TN
Trust Your Gut
It was not our intention to be foster parents and then to adopt, but it did turn out that way. We took our son into our home when he was just a little over five months old, after he had been in three good foster homes. We were technically considered foster parents and were even paid a monthly stipend until we signed the Adoptive Agreement Placement. However, we considered ourselves his parents from the start.
We chose this method because we had unsatisfactory experiences with two private adoptions. The agency we used was not very supportive. When we settled in San Diego, we checked out the county adoptions and were impressed in what they offered. They stressed open adoptions (but were not dogmatic about it), and offered classes for adoptive parents. We had a good feeling that we would end up with a baby, no matter how long it took. We had spent a lot of money with the private agency before this but did not receive the services promised. Private adoption and overseas adoption seemed too expensive.
It is important to trust your gut. We’d had anxieties about the private agency and found them to be justified. But the County of San Diego played straight with us. We really trusted them because they were thorough and realistic. It took about two and a half years after the first paperwork was filed to get our son. Other people we know have gotten children sooner. In our case, Michael (now four and a half) was definitely worth the wait!
— Ed and Karen Kennedy, San Diego, CA
My Heart Was with These Children
We had three birth children — Caleb, 12; Lucas, 10; and Morgan, 7 — and wanted to expand our family. You hear horror stories about children in foster care, but those are the rare cases. Yes, they may be a little different to manage. They need love but are sometimes reluctant to receive it — it just takes a little time. My heart was already with these “lost” children because I had been a foster care coordinator, so it was a natural for us to welcome a child into our home permanently. We adopted Max from the Pennsylvania foster care system, and it did not cost us anything, except for the finalization legal expenses, which amounted to a few hundred dollars.
We learned that you may not get exactly what you want. Initially we wanted a little girl, but we ended up with Max, who was almost five. He was the one for us. We were told he had some problems, wasn’t potty trained, couldn’t talk. We worked together with his foster parents to make the adjustment easy for him. We adopted Max over a decade ago, and if you saw him now, you’d think he’d always been part of our family. He was potty trained, and learned his colors and shapes in no time. He gets speech therapy (free through our school system) and is improving every day.
Everybody tells us how lucky he is to have been placed in such a good family. We see it just the opposite. We feel blessed, for he makes us appreciate life’s simple pleasures every day.
—Tracy and Jimmy Pillow, Pittsburgh, PA