It’s an issue impacting more than 442,000 children nationwide, and the number of children in foster care continues to rise.
The goal of foster care is to provide a safer environment, but challenges can persist during foster care – and those challenges can increase once foster care ends. The statistics are sobering for youth aging out of foster care before matching with a long-term family
Regions Bank is committed to helping remove barriers to success. For example, as part of its annual Giving Tuesday contributions, Regions donated to the Junior League of Fort Smith’s Development of Aging Foster Care Program in Arkansas.
And during National Foster Care Month, we want to introduce you to three women making a difference.
Heather never imagined her house burning down would lead to something so beautiful.
After rebuilding, she volunteered in her church’s nursery during a Foster Night Out – a night that changed everything.
“A little girl dropped her sippy cup and began crying and shaking,” Heather recalled. “She was afraid someone was going to hit her for dropping it. I went home, told my husband about it and sobbed. That was my moment.”
Having children wasn’t part of the plan.
“My husband and I were married for 10 years with no children – on purpose,” Heather said. “But we realized we had to do this. My husband said, ‘One child, one time.’”
Soon after, they brought home a 1-year-old boy they affectionately nicknamed “Stud.” Just five months later, they brought home his younger brother (“Spud”) from the hospital.
“We went from no kids in 10 years to two under the age of 2 under in five months,” laughed Heather.
Then, they became a family of five, fostering a 16-year-old daughter. Thanks to the love and stability Heather and her husband provided, and a bond they developed with their sister, Stud and Spud have thrived.
“They are all boys,” said Heather. “They’re fun, creative, fierce, stubborn and independent.”
Heather quickly grew attached, knowing it might not be permanent.
“It’s the most heartbreaking and rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Heather said. “For two-plus years, I walked through a case plan of possibly returning the boys to their biological parents, realizing the goal is to reunite families whenever possible. I cried a lot. But I’m an adult,
I can handle heartbreak.”
Ultimately, Heather and her husband formally adopted Stud and Spud in 2020.
Fostering offered Heather many valuable lessons. The greatest?
“I’ve learned to be more patient,” she said. “And I’ve learned I could be a mom. That ‘Mama Bear’ instinct doesn’t have to be biological.”
I’m always encouraging people to get involved. This is such a community issue of need. If you read this and it inspires you, go do it.
Emily Treadaway, County Coordinator, The CALL of Crawford and Sebastian Counties
Emily has been involved with foster care nonprofit The CALL of Crawford and Sebastian Counties for seven years; she volunteered first, then joined the staff.
“I fostered my niece and two nephews for six months when they were taken into custody,” Emily said.
Recruiting and walking alongside foster families is her passion.
“I’m always encouraging people to get involved,” she said. “This is such a community issue of need. If you read this and it inspires you, go do it.”
Emily’s work with The CALL has also raised her awareness of fostering challenges.
“It can be hard to place school-aged kids, children with disabilities and medical issues,” she said. “Many people want to foster toddlers and babies. But everyone needs a legal family, whether you’re 12, 18 or 35.”
“He was slowly killing me and hurting my mom. You’d wonder if he was going to come home and hurt you. You didn’t want him to come home.”
David Nichols remembers “couch surfing” at his grandmother’s house and other places to escape his father’s abuse.
“I lived in a lot of friends’ homes,” David said. “The good thing is I had a lot of community people who loved me, from police officers to people at my school.”
David’s childhood challenges are what inspired his daughter, Megan, who works for Regions Bank, to support foster children’s initiatives. Through her volunteerism with the Junior League of Fort Smith, Megan and other League members conduct monthly Skills-for-Life classes for foster care youth ages 14 to 21.
“In these kids, I see my dad,” said Megan, tearing up. “We can be part of creating change to help children facing these challenges and fill in the gaps.”
David is grateful to those who helped fill in the gaps during his early days. At 16, he quit school. He worked as an orderly, at a furniture store and at the local school.
“Some of the jobs I got I shouldn’t have gotten,” he said of people who provided job references. “I had help from time to time. Families helped me. They loved me like I was their own.”
Through that love and support, David went on to earn his general equivalency diploma. He owns a fire and flood restoration business, and he and his wife of 34 years have raised Megan and her brother.
“We wanted our children to become the best they could,” he said. “We’ve raised them to believe they do can do anything.”
He beams with pride at Megan’s dedication.
“She’s awesome,” he said. “She’s one of my heroes. I’m thankful to God. He’s given me a beautiful daughter.”
Interested in learning more? Visit the National Foster Care Parent Association website here.
- a. National Foster Youth Institute, May 2017 nfyi.org b. American Journal of Public Health, Dec 2013