For those of you who know my mom, she’s a pretty cool lady. I just nominated her organization, Foster Care Support, and her for an Epoch Award in 2013. A year or so ago I had shared a bit about what she does, but I wanted to share it again here:
I’m not sure what you know or have heard of the foster care system, either in Georgia or in the nation, but I can give you a first hand account of how it has affected my life. We are a long-term foster family, which means that we take kids in until they either get adopted or go back to their family, no matter how long that may be. A child may stay for a day or for several years, all depending on their situation. The child may come with everything they need or only the clothes on their back, but I am sad to say that it is almost always the latter of the two. One thing is for sure, they all come with baggage, and no, not the Samsonite kind.
Each child that has come through my house has had a story. They’ve all experienced some kind of personal tragedy. All have gone through some type of emotional trauma. Many have experienced situations that would be considered terrible for an adult at an age in which the only thing that should concern them is whether they want to play in the sandbox or on the swings. We have had babies born from cocaine-addicted mothers. Infants plagued with fetal alcohol syndrome. A five year old left not only with internal injury, but physical scars where his father put out his cigarette on his skin. Elementary school children who have experienced sexual abuse too young to even understand what has happened to them.
Whenever I tell someone about this experience, they always ask, “How can you do that? Isn’t it hard to let them go?” Of course. You fall in love with each and every one of these children. Each child has his or her own personality. They become attached to you and you to them. Often times they are pulled from their home at only a moments notice, and rarely will you ever see them again. I still have the image of the day that a child we had housed for two years left. I can still see her face peering out the window as I left to catch the school bus. I can still hear her voice saying, “I love you, Lala.” She did not understand why I insisted on hearing it, why I needed so many hugs that day, or why tears were pouring down my cheeks. Even worse, her little two-and-a-half year old self didn’t understand why she never saw me again. I stayed up late that night crying and worrying that she thought I had deserted her. So I grieved for her as someone would grieve for a death of a family member, because that is exactly what it was; I had lost a family member.
People always say that it takes special kinds of people to do what my family does. So back to the questions of, “How can you do that?” The answer isn’t as much a how as a who.
And this is what brings me to my mother.
My mother is not only a special kind of person; she is an extraordinary person. She is dedicated, determined, and passionate. She has a fiery spirit. If you ever ask her about her height, she says she is “built too close to the ground.” She is a born and raised northerner. She is a telephone junkie and an avid Hallmark Channel watcher. She is a pack rat. She loves her mini-van. She never sits still.
Most importantly, she loves helping children.
When we started taking in foster children when I was in the first grade, just helping a few kids at a time didn’t seem like enough for her. The Georgia foster care system had thousands of children being thrown into foster homes throughout the state with nothing for them to wear, no bed to sleep in, no toys to play with, and what seems like very dim futures ahead of them. If you knew my mom, you would see that she is not usually one to stand around and wait for someone else to “handle it.”
So, she started what is now called Foster Care Support Foundation, Inc. Sounds fancy now, but what is now a state wide non-profit organization began in our garage, with only my mom and her powerful drive to enforce change on the lives of thousands of underprivileged children. She relied on donations from those she knew, and soon the foundation grew. From my garage, it moved locations multiple times, and now resides at its current spot at 115 Mansell Place.
The organization’s purpose is to provide clothing, toys, furniture, and other basic necessities to foster children free of charge. To make the lives of these children better. To make their lives as normal as possible. To help them feel like they have the things kids should have. To help them fit in.
To help them feel like they belong.
To enforce the organization’s motto that “All Kids Count.”
It may seem like a small issue to the outside world, but it affects us all. These kids are our future citizens, and how we care for them now determines whether they turn into our next criminals or our next Senators.
If you want to read more about my experience with the foster care system growing up you can read about it here.