Looking for a Christmas miracle?
Foster parents are lifelines for children who have been hurt and emotionally abandoned.
It is sad work, hard work, rewarding work.
And for at least some of them, it has been the work of The Holy Spirit.
Lisa Roberson prayed over whether to become a foster mom. When she opened her Bible to a passage on welcoming strangers into her home, she felt she had her answer.
Bobbie McCallum's prayers on what to do were answered when she sat behind her future foster son in a church service. He was 14 when he came into her care. Now in his mid 30's, he is doing great.
Lisa's husband Tony is her partner in the work. The former law enforcement officer said he often wondered as kids ended up in jail, "Isn't there some other way of dealing with kids who commit juvenile crimes?"
Yes, there is.
Therapeutic foster care is for the most challenging foster children who have often suffered the most abuse, neglect or emotional abandonment.
Therapeutic foster parents are often dealing with apparently impossible situations that somehow turn out possible, healing, encouraging.
Retired teacher, Ann Chestnut, tells positive stories of working with more than 20 foster children since she started in 2008. One of her charges recently graduated from high school; and is not happy at living alone and having to pay bills in the adult world, but according to Chestnut, she is "Doing pretty well."
McCallum once drove her foster child to ROTC events at RS Central. He is now married with two children and "doing well."
There is an old slogan, "Stay in school. Don't do drugs."
The simplicity of living by the rules, hanging with classes, staying off drugs is often a challenge for young folks who have grown up around rule-breakers, drop outs, and drug users.
But Lloiann Byers, a staff support person, added, "We don't look down on these biological families. We are often able to work with them and engage them to the point that life gets better for them, too. Ann Chestnut even took her foster daughter to a wedding between one biological parent and a step-parent, stayed for the wedding and everything."
Tony Roberson said he knows of a biological father who is now off drugs and attending church regularly. He said, "He's doing a whole lot better."
These folks work with Alexander Youth Network, which has a Spindale office that serves six counties. Chief cook and bottle washer at the network is Gina Tipton who began working with foster kids in the early 90's when the Willie M. case required the State of North Carolina and other states to begin providing a higher level of care for kids whose behavior took them out of traditional foster care and often landed them in jail.
There had to be a better method of dealing with these youngsters.
Christmas time is an amazing time to consider that better method of dealing with young folks who have faced some of the worst of life's abuse, abandonment, emotional damage. As so many are gathering with family and friends, it is tender to the heart to offer encouragement and support to foster kids.
Alexander Youth Network is looking for foster parents. Full training and a small stipend will support those who qualify. Call 828-395-9017 to learn more.
Tipton said that when the work began, nearly 30 years ago, local social workers were sending kids to facilities in Asheville and Charlotte, because there was no local agency to handle the most challenging cases. She opened an agency designed to do just that and in 2010, her work merged with Alexander which serves young people across North Carolina in regional offices like the one in Spindale.
Imagine the transformation of a young person who learns structure and rule following in a therapeutic foster home.
McCallum said she was given one of the toughest.
"We ate dinner at the same time every night; and he had chores. He didn't have a choice about chores, but I did pay him a quarter every time he did a chore. Pretty soon he was earning two dollars a day, and doing great," McCallum said. "Before that he would cuss you out."
The turnaround was inspiring for both parents and child.
A Christmas miracle?
Foster parents feel miracles happen all the time.
Lisa Roberson also talked about bluebirds.
"This might sound silly, but we were about to take a little girl and I had never seen so many bluebirds. They were flying across my car, in the yard, everywhere. When the little girl came to live with us, she pulled something out of her bag and said, 'I want you to see this.' It was a little bluebird trinket."
That old Holy Spirit moves in mysterious ways.
The kids get weekly meetings with a psychologist and monthly med checks with a psychiatrist. There is a close working relationship between the staff and the parents to create the best outcomes.
Alexander Youth Network is looking for foster parents.
Full training and a small stipend will support those who qualify. Call 828-395-9017 to learn more.