I am in my sixties now, but I don't regret it one bit. The past twenty years of my life has been nothing but one big blessing after another.
I am thankful. Very thankful. I have five hundred reasons to be thankful. My beautiful foster children. That's right: my husband Wilbur (since passed) and I have fostered over 500 children, most with special needs, and we (I) haven't regretted one minute of it.
Some of the children died; others went on to different families or to be adopted. I adopted seven of the children we fostered: Hannah Lynn (30), Garth Patrick (22), Eveline Grace (19), Robert Tadgell (15), Julie Anne (12), D'Arcy Elizabeth (8), and Vinnie (Vincent) Dean (5). Like most of the children we had under our care, our seven have special needs.
Hannah and Garth have Down syndrome; both live in a group home for people with mental disabilities. Both are also working and are learning to become self sufficient. I am very proud of the two of them; both Hannah and Garth have made tremendous strides in their lives when others simply gave up on them. They are both wonderful, loving, compassionate adults.
Eveline (Eve) has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair (though, when younger, she walked with braces on her legs and crutches clamped to her arms). She also has heart problems and has had two heart surgeries (her latest one was last year).
Robert (Robby) has CP and is in a wheelchair; he has very little control of his movements and can talk, but with extreme difficulty: it takes a trained ear to understand what he is trying to tell you. Still, despite it, Robby is a sweet, loving young teen who loves music (the louder, the better) and hanging out with his friends.
Julie Ann has autism and doesn't respond well to people, but around people she knows, she is as ebullient, loving, and gracious as they come. She, too, like the others, has come a very long way.
D'Arcy has asthma and severe allergies; she is often in and out of the hospital. I owe all my grey hairs to this child. Yet I still love her with the fierceness of a mamma tiger and will do anything to protect her or keep her from harm. She is my Angel Girl.
Then there's Vinnie. Ah, Vinnie. Such a miracle boy he is! Born four months premature he weighed as much as a can of Coke: 12 ounces. He has brain damage and CP (diagnosed at the age of 1 1/2 years); he cannot walk or talk, but in his own sweet, special way, Vinnie knows how to give love and accept love from others. He has me wrapped around his little finger; he is my Goodwill Ambassador. I am so proud of my Vinnie I could just cry with sheer happiness!
There you have it. My crew. I love each and every one of my babies so much.
Then you have the children who passed through our doors over the years. Silvery-haired Steven who was deemed unreachable by doctors, yet the boy surpassed all their predictions and became a productive member of society by going into the United States Marine Corps before being killed last year in Afghanistan defending our country. Curly haired Isabella who lived despite severe hydrocephalus and fought with the tenacity of a lion before finally succumbing to pneumonia at the age of 11 five years ago (had she lived she would have been seventeen now).
Keleigh and Kaylea (twins) both had severe mental disabilities from being sexually abused by their father, a pastor; both stayed with us for a few weeks, but both girls put us through hell. They were wild, unpredictable and were prone to violent outbursts at the least little provocation; one never knew what might set them off. Having them in our lives proved to be a trial, but Wilbur and myself gave them as much love and guidance as we possibly could before we made the painful decision of having them placed into a mental health hospital better equipped to handle their needs.
Jimmy Joe (JJ) and Jebediah (brothers) had been abandoned by their alcoholic mother and left to fend for themselves before police picked them up and put them into foster care. Both boys had fetal alcohol syndrome and were grossly behind in their development, but with our guidance, the boys flourished and grew even despite their disabilities. JJ had seizures and mental disabilities; his brother wasn't as severely affected, but still had noticable delays. Both boys were loving, sweet, and respectful of others. They were a joy to have around. (Both boys were killed in a car wreck four years ago; they were 11. I miss them both terribly. We were in the process of adopting them when they unexpectedly died.)
Cara Joy had severe facial deformities from being burned; nobody wanted her. She went in and out of the hospital for treatment or surgeries on her burns/scars; she was a thoroughly frightened child who only wanted to be accepted: she was one of the saddest, unhappiest children I had ever seen. I tried my best to give her the love she desperately needed; Cara Joy was extremely bashful and was hard to reach. She ended up going to a different family who was able to handle her needs better. I loved her; I miss her as well. I hope and pray she is having a good life; she's already been through so much as it is.
Pee Wee (real name Rooster) was a huge teenager the size of a tank. He was the biggest boy I had ever seen. At the age of 17, he easily towered over four-foot-five-inch me and six-foot-tall Wilbur. Despite his gargantuan size, Pee Wee was as gentle as a lamb, with the personality of a kitten: he loved everything and everybody. Pee Wee stayed with us for a year before he left for the military (Marines). Last I heard, he was doing well, living in Alaska with his family (wife and two small children, both girls).
Karla Jean was an angry young African American girl when she came to us at the age of 10. Raised by a drug-addicted mother and a father who refused to take responsibility for the six children he fathered, she went into foster care at the age of two, but nobody could handle Karla's anger. She proved to be a thorn in our side, but we were determined to help her overcome the pain she'd suffered; she stayed with us for five years before she ran away. We haven't heard anything from her; we don't know if she is alive or not or whether she has managed to settle down or get involved in drugs or whatnot. We pray for Karla every day and we hope that her life has gotten better. If there was anybody who deserved a chance, it was Karla.
Those are but a few of the stories I have for you regarding some of the children we took under our wings. Some of the stories are happy and upbeat; others, as you can see, not so much. Yet my heart still beats and holds love for those kids who moved on (or died). They are still a part of me and will always remain so. It is by having them in my life that I have become a better person; I don't know what I would have done if I didn't have Karla, Cara Joy, Pee Wee, JJ and Jebediah, Keleigh and Kaylea, Steven, or Isabella in my world. My world would have been a lot sadder, especially since Wilbur died of myesthenia gravis.
I am in the process of writing a book about my life and the children we had under our care, as well as the current crop of kids who were fortunate enough to become ours, legally and permanently. I want to give other people hope and show them that under the right guidance, foster children can flourish if one is willing to give them love, hope, and a future they might not have otherwise had. Foster parenting is not easy, espeically when the charges under your care die for whatever reason or leave your home; yet they live on in our hearts as we remember the impact they made in the sthort time we had them in our lives.