“We started Fostering Together Gulf Coast in November, but it has been a dream for seven years. We became a foster family while we were living in Alexander City, a rural community without much support for foster families. But we were 45 minutes away from Auburn and got involved with the group there. They had kids nights out where you could drop your kids off and have a date night. They also had mom’s dinners. As a new foster mom, that group ministering and caring for us was so helpful. My husband and I have fostered 15 kids and adopted a newborn and a 12-year-old. We are working on a third adoption of a precious 18-year-old. She was about to age out of foster care with nowhere to go. The cycle of abuse and neglect would have continued. I have always had a heart for orphan care and did mission trips. I thought I work in an orphanage in Africa. God said not Africa, but where you are.
We moved to Mobile five years ago. There was nothing like this group and I kept saying someone needs to start it. After years of talking about it, we gathered our people together, took action, and now we are moving into a building. There are 517 kids in foster care and 131 foster homes in Mobile County. Foster care is a necessary evil. These kids have been in dangerous situations in their home lives, but it has to get really bad for them to be removed from their family and placed in foster care. Once kids get into the system, it repeats itself. They need people in their lives to say you are mine and stop the cycle of abuse and neglect. Chaos is normal for these kids and they try to create it so life feels comfortable. They have a lot of needs and foster families need a lot of support and training in trauma-informed parenting. We want the foster families to grow and more to get involved. We have to support them and love them and tell them they can keep doing this really hard thing.
I was able to introduce a family to their sons for the first time. We were fostering the boys and that was a highlight of my life. Older kids in foster care see an example of how life can be, even if they go back to their families. A mom and dad can love each other and be stable. It is a glimpse At what is possible.
Fostering is for anyone who has a heart for children and willing to learn. We have a monthly mom dinner and get them to sit around the table and support each other. Our first mom dinner had a mom who was about to get her first child and one who had been doing this for 20 years. They are able to reach out and help each other. The first week in a home, the kids are scared. They don’t know your routine and your family. It is introducing them to your home and getting to know them. We try to help families with meals and clothes that first week and do things to take the stress off so foster parents can focus on the child.
Parenting a child who has experienced trauma is not natural. I thought loving a child would be enough, but you have to be equipped or you will quickly feel like you are drowning. Change doesn’t come quickly, you have to learn how to help them heal. You have to be in for the long game, but healing happens.
We need good, strong families to provide foster hones. We also need the community supporting foster families and adoption families. Multiple families in Mobile County have more than eight children in their homes. Many of the foster families have adopted some of their foster kids. They are heroes.
The people who are gung ho about Fostering Together Gulf Coast are the foster mamas. They are the ones who volunteer and say they will do whatever they need to do to make this work. We are working on flooring for the building and painting the walls. We have a 4,000 square foot building and that much flooring is expensive. We also need donations of children’s clothes and baby gear. I didn’t think the building would happen this quickly, but the community has been so good to us.
We want to help build a strong, vibrant foster care and adoption community. We also want to provide tutoring and counseling that all of our kids need. It will come in time. The end goal is that kids don’t need foster care and the families who are struggling can get the help they need from the community.
Being a foster mom has changed me in every way. I have learned I am not as good as I thought I was. We are all broken and messed up, but healing is possible. We can make a lifetime of difference in each other’s lives. Just because it is hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. We need people to step out and do hard things. We are all on journeys, no one has made it.”