“We have three biological children, but became foster parents when we were thinking about adoption. We met with DHR and they told us there is a need for foster parents in Baldwin County. So we signed up to be foster parents. Our first placement was a newborn. We did more respite care in the beginning, which is babysitting for other foster parents.
We have had ten foster kids during the two years we have been foster parents. But we have had 30 or 40 phone calls about taking in kids. It is hard to turn down any call. Often I email them back and tell they they can’t find anyone, we will take them. If we know we are going to get a phone call to get a foster child, we bring our children in and decide together because fostering affects the whole family.
I noticed kids would come here with two or three items in a trash bag and we had to immediately go shopping for clothes and items they needed. I saved tote bags as souvenirs and started giving our foster kids my bags with things inside so they wouldn’t go back empty-handed. I started my non-profit, Giving Totes, in December to give kids bags with things for them to keep as they move between homes. A parent from Baldwin can request bags from me from the Giving Totes website and I will get the bags to them.
Inside the totes for younger kids is a bear and a blanket. My daughter is ten and has been obsessed with bears since she was little. It is something for them to hold on to while they are leaving from a place they have known to go to a stranger’s house. In the teen totes is a blanket, a journal and a pen. Sometimes when kids go to a foster home, they don’t want to talk. But some of them like to write. I thought it would help them be able to get their feelings out.
One day I want a building in Baldwin County where I can offer training for foster parents. We will also have furniture, clothes, school supplies and other things foster parents need to care for kids. Everything comes out of the pocket of foster parents. I also want to start a prayer group for foster families.
There is a misperception that these are bad kids and that they are in foster care because their parents don’t want them. That is not the case. A lot of them are A and B students. They want to be somebody and to feel like they belong. They want encouragement and to fit in. We don’t know what they have been through before they come to our house. We have had phone calls at 2 or 3 in the morning where they need someone right then for emergency care. Sometimes they ask if the child can stay with us for one night while they find another placement. It feels good to know we helped someone and provided a home for them, no matter how long it is.
My grandmother was my go-to person. When she died, I felt lost. I want to be that for my kids and our foster children.”