Hello everyone. My name is Heather Irvin and I have the honor of representing Promise686 here in Thomas County. My family moved to Thomasville from Columbus, GA where we lived for 10 years, in July of 2019, but we moved to be closer to family (we are Whigham and Tifton folks). My background includes working with DFCS as a Resource Development/Foster Care Case Manager and Supervisor (where I would occasionally work the Child Protective Services in Investigations), CASA Volunteer Coordinator, Program Director for Clement Care (a Foster and Adoptive Ministry), and my current role of Client Advocate at The Treehouse CAC. I want you to take a moment to read my story and why I will be wearing my string on May 20th for foster care awareness month.
I was originally introduced to the hardships of foster care when I was just starting out as a case manager with DFCS. It was there that I saw firsthand how adults could be cold and disconnected towards children in foster care. It was my third month at my new job, when I was assigned to a foster home that was no longer in compliance and their home would need to close if the required documents were not obtained to keep them open. I learned that the children who were residing in their home (both under 10) were siblings and had been living there with this family for the last 2 years. I found it odd that they would refer to their foster parents as “mom and dad”, but as I would learn later, children are looking for a person to fill the role of “mom” and “dad” and someone to love them. I watched as these boys unknowingly went about their days as if nothing was wrong, all the while, the likelihood they would need to be moved became a strong possibility as the foster parents refused to cooperate with the simple request for required documents to keep their home open.
I had so many thoughts running through my head. Questions of why and trying to figure out the rationale of this situation we had found ourselves in. Were they burnt out or did they feel unsupported. Maybe they were frustrated with the children or with DFCS. I’m really not sure why they decided not to cooperate, forcing us to action if not done. I didn’t understand it, didn’t they love those boys? Didn’t they see how this was going to cause them harm? We gave them a deadline to have them turned in, but still no documents.
Then it came, the day I was dreading…. the day I would have to close their home and remove the boys from their foster home. I was nervous, scared… and heartbroken. As I pulled up to their home with my supervisor, prepared in one sense… the paperwork, but completed unprepared for what would come next. I’ll never forget that day as we pulled up in their dirt driveway. The foster parents met us outside, so we would not go into their home. They had the two boys by their side and they were holding two large black trash bags. That was it, all they were willing to provide us. They “misplaced” their other things. Inside their bags were a few wadded up clothes and a pair of shoes. We told the boys that we were going to go to their new home, which was in a different county. They would be in a new community, new school, new friends… all that was familiar to them… gone. I watched as the boys ran up to their foster parents with tears and we heard them say, “I love you, momma and daddy” as THEY gave goodbye hugs. They didn’t understand what was happening, but for some reason didn’t question it. Like it was what was normal for them.
My heart felt different after that day. I watched as they went from that home to the next… with basically nothing. At that time, I wasn’t making much, but I just couldn’t allow those boys to go to a new place without having at least PJs, socks, clean clothes that fit, and hygiene items. I felt, in a way, that I was all they had in that moment.I gave everything I could and I gave them all the support and attention I could as their case manager until I was able to find them a forever home with a relative.
This is one story, just one. It was a pivotal one indeed as I saw needs go unmet, support not given, children abandoned, but I wouldn’t allow them to be forgotten. My heart for children who are in foster care and my passion for finding caring, loving, supported foster homes and forever homes roots back to stories like this one. This…. This is why I’m wearing my string, to remind me of moments like this one. I challenge churches who have a passion for children in foster care, please prayerfully consider developing a foster ministry. The bottom line is that if a foster family could be supported, encouraged, prayed for, there would be longer lasting foster homes that are sustained through unconditional love, the same love Jesus Christ showed us.
You can go to Promise686.org to learn more about how your church can start a foster ministry and work alongside other foster supportive organizations like The Forgotten Initiative. Please feel free to email me at [email protected] if you would like to arrange a meeting with your church leadership. I would love to talk with you about how your church can get started.