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Gardendale family that fostered 34 kids raises awareness for foster care with 5K walk | AL.com

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Tracy and Greg Hacker have parented 34 kids and counting. Six and half years ago the couple chose to open their home to foster children, and since that time, they have changed the lives of several kids as well as their own lives. This month, the Hackers are trying to raise awareness about foster care and adoption with “Walk Me Home…to the place I belong,” a 5K walk set for Nov. 23 in Gardendale.

“For us, to be real honest it has been a God story from day one,” Tracy Hacker said. “We were going to adopt and weren’t really sure how that was going to happen or how that was going to work. God just really opened the door for foster care, an idea that we never really thought about. We knew that was where we needed to be. And the rest has been blessing on top of blessing.”

In addition to the 34 foster kids they have cared for, the Hackers have two biological daughters. They learned about foster care through a teacher at Snow Rodgers Elementary School when the girls were attending. By the time they brought their first foster child into their home their daughters were 11 and 13 years old. Their oldest daughter is now off at college, with the other one not too far behind. But now, the family also includes two adopted sons, Kenny and Evan. The boys were 3 and 4 years old when they are adopted, and they are now 5 and 6 years old.

Adopting Kenny and Evan is just one of the many blessings of being a foster parent, Hacker said.

“It’s a hard process,” she said at a recent Gardendale City Council meeting when promoting the 5K walk. “It’s a hard thing for your heart when they go home, but it’s an incredible blessing for your family and to a community that will open their homes and hearts to do that. We’re honored to be a part of it.”

Right now the family has six children in the home, including one of their daughters, their two adopted sons, and three foster girls. They have had as many as eight kids in the home at one time. Hacker said she will continue to welcome foster kids until, “God says that’s enough.”

“There are a lot of kids in the world that really need families,” she said.

At the council meeting, Hacker said she was surprised to learn a lot of those kids live right in her community. “Of the 34 kids that we’ve had in our home, all 34 have lived within 30 minutes of my house here in Gardendale,” Hacker said. “That has hit me over the years. This is something that people need to be aware of. They need somebody to open their heart and their home and just to love them.”

Buddy Hooper with Alabama Foster and Adoptive Parent Association also spoke at the council meeting and said the “Walk Me Home…to the place I belong” 5K walk serves two purposes. “One is to bring awareness for the need for foster parents to help the children in the area, and the other is to raise funds for a scholarship fund that our association has been doing since 1999,” he said. “This is our way of giving back to foster children. Our goal this year is $20,000 for our walk. I think that’s going to be easily accomplished for all the support we’re getting statewide. I want this to be an event that Gardendale is proud of.”

The walk will be held Saturday, Nov. 23, which is National Adoption Day, starting at Buffalo Wild Wings in Gardendale. Registration will begin at 9 a.m. and the walk will begin at 10 a.m. Adults are asked to pay a $10 registration fee, and children under the age of 18 years old are encouraged to attend free of charge. There will be tents, vendors, inflatables, hot chocolate and other activities at the event. Strollers will be allowed during the walk. To register for the walk and for more information visit www.walkmehome.org.

“We’re just looking for people to come out and support us and be there that day,” Hacker said. “Hopefully it will touch someone who will open their home and be a foster parent.”

By Sarah A. McCarty

Gardendale family that fostered 34 kids raises awareness for foster care with 5K walk | AL.com.

Must Read – Facts About Foster Care

Hands of Children

Hands of Children

Too many children are trapped in foster care.

  • On any given day, there are approximately 400,000 children in out-of-home care in the United States.
  • During the last year about 650,000 children spent some time in out-of-home care in the United States.
  • Children entering foster care remain there on average for nearly two years.
  • Despite the common perception that most children in foster care are young children, the average age of the children in foster care is over nine years old.
  • The median amount of time children spent in foster care increased between 2000 (12 months) and 2011 (13.5 months). On average, children in the American child welfare systems spend about two years — 23.9 months — in foster care. Ten percent of children in foster care have languished there for five or more years.
  • While most children in foster care live in family settings, a substantial minority — 15 percent — live in institutions and group homes.
  • Nearly half of all children in foster care have chronic medical problems.
  • About half of children under five years old in foster care have developmental delays.
  • Up to 80 percent of all children in foster care have serious emotional problems.
  • More than 60,000 children living in foster care have had their biological parental rights permanently terminated. The assumption is that once parental rights have been terminated, the State should work as rapidly as possible to ensure that the child is safely in a new adoptive home and that the adoption is finalized. Yet of these children, the average time they’ve been waiting to be adopted is nearly two years (23.6 months).
  • In 2011, 11 percent of the children (over 26,000) exiting foster care aged out of the system. Research has shown that teens aging out of the system are highly likely as adults to experience homelessness, poor health, unemployment, incarceration, and other poor outcomes.
  • Sixteen percent of children in foster care in 2011 were in foster care for three or more years before they were emancipated.

Information Obtained from www.childrensrights.org

 

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