Foster parents give hope to many

Recruiting foster parents is an ongoing mission in Florida. Photo special to the Outlook

By St. Clair Murraine, Outlook staff writer
Just hours after getting her license to become a foster parent, Mildred Bryant got a phone call about taking in a child.
She found herself prepar-ing a bedroom and scram-bling to gather the essen-tials to make the 7-year-old boy feel at home. He wasn’t a total stranger, though, as she already had him at her home on a temporary basis.

“Everything came at me at one time,” said Bryant, a single parent who has raised a child of her own. “I’m getting off from work and I get a phone call say-ing ‘you don’t have to take him back to the other lady’s house.’
“My mouth was wide opened.”

So was her heart. Bryant and thousands like her across the country are being recognized for what they do for children who need a loving home. In addition to those who serve as foster parents, others such as volunteers and mentors are being acknowledged throughout the month.

The recognition is well-deserved, said Kimberly Thomas, a former board member of One Church One Child, a foster parent recruiting agency.

“It takes a person who is dedicated and willing to go all out for the child because many of these children have been taken out of abusive family homes or the children have other challenges,” Thomas said.

Thomas and her husband, Lee, provide mentoring and watch care through Destiny Church of God International, where they are pastors.

In Florida, there is an estimated 14,000 children in foster care. About 750 oth-er children are waiting for permanent family. Many of the foster children often are adopted by their parents when they reach age 18.Admittedly, fostering or adopting a child as she has done with her son can be challenging, said Bryant. In her case, she is raising a son with mental challenges.

“It’s so hard for them to learn the good things like the behavioral, academic and daily living aspect,” she said. “He is not attached to anything.

“You have to make sure you give them a high-five or a hug. You have to know when the right things are right and the wrong things are wrong.”

What Bryant experiences is a scenario that Sandie Rice knows well. She and her husband are raising two children with special needs. They’ve had both – one age 19 and the other age 32, since their childhood. The couple also has two biological children of their own who are attending college.

Rice’s voice rings with passion and pride as she talked about being there for the adopted children.

“We knew there was a need and we knew we had the experience and education to deal with kids that had medical and develop-mental problems,” Rice said.  “We felt it was a good fit for us.”

Rice has made her mis-sion a ministry, working  through Whitney’s Hope, a resource arm that she operated through her Genesis Church.Obviously, Rice is driven by the opportunity she and her family provide for others to thrive. “It’s that knowledge in your heart that you are making a difference, literally saving someone’s life in some cases,” she said. “It’s a life-changing thing.”

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