BY definition, foster children have been delinquent, abandoned, neglected, physically, sexually and/or emotionally abused, and that does not take into account non-statutory abuses like heartache. About two-thirds never go to college and very few graduate, so it’s a safe bet that those who do have an uncommon resilience. Read More…
By MICHAEL WINERIP Published: October 30, 2013
A version of this article appears in print on November 3, 2013, on page ED20 of Education Life with the headline: Children of the State, Students on Their Own.
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.”
“Forever,” Lisa Cantanese whispered to her newly adopted daughters Ashley, 8, and Maryann, 5.
The two siblings sat around a courtroom table with Cantanese, her husband, Shaun Fryling, and two children they already had adopted: Justice, 12, and DeAndre, 7.
Together, they had officially become a “forever family” during a heartwarming adoption ceremony conducted last week by Erie County Family Court Judge Lisa Bloch Rodwin.
“I didn’t know we were having a party,” said Rodwin, kidding the girls before handing each their presents – a stuffed animal and big picture book in which the judge wrote: “Happy Adoption Day.”
“Believe it or not,” Rodwin said. “I’ve been working on this case for a long time, and I’m excited, too.”
November is National Adoption Month. Nationwide, there are more than 500,000 children in foster care, and approximately 114,000 children waiting for an adoptive family…Read More…
I was just sitting here reading so many articles and posts from people that are absolutely amazing. My heart has smiled to read about all of you whom are so excited about the opportunity to foster or adopt a child that needs you. My eyes welled with tears as I read one post from a lady that so badly wants to adopt and to provide a safe forever home to an angel in waiting. For those of you whom have read my story, it may seem sad, however I have a very fond memory of one very special foster parent. She may well have been partially responsible for my faith in finding goodness in people, even when there didn’t seem to be any. This particular foster mom was from Venezuela, and I went to live with her for a short while, well before age 7. She was likely one of my first experiences with feeling safe, loved, and wanted. There were always infinite hugs, laughter, and comfort. She is, and will always be, my foster parent angel. I often wish I was granted more time with her, and that I could repay her for her kindness. I will likely never see her again as that was 35+ years ago now, but I still think of her often, smile, and quietly say thank you.
I believe that there are many wonderful foster parents out there, and many foster parent angels in waiting. I am hopeful that the guidelines and monitoring will improve so that the people that become foster parents for all the wrong reasons , and end up hurting the children they vowed to care for, are revealed quickly and the children in their care are saved…once again. Awareness, better screening, more intensive follow-up, and quick intervention are key.
I am a huge advocate for foster parenting and adoption, and it makes my heart smile to see so many full of optimism, excitement, and passion for caring for the children that need so much. My situation was unfortunate, but I hope to turn it into something positive. If only we each help one child learn to trust…we will manage to change the world for that one.
RN Writer 2013
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, ”Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)