That’s what I asked Colleen Geary Patton, my former foster sister, in May of 2017. Oh my, here we are three years later, building a foster home community in North Texas.
I know that sounds crazy but here’s how the journey began. I was taking a walk one day and thinking about my CASA (court appointed special advocate) teen. She was 13 going on 14 at the time and was initially picked up in a nearby county and removed from her mothers’ home. She has recently aged out of the system.
Hers was a pretty typical foster teen story. She was in and out of 13 placements and was assigned nine different caseworkers over the years. God Bless those caseworkers for the job they do with an overload of cases of foster children while making the big bucks!! I followed that girl all over the state of Texas to all of her placements. She was a “runner” and honestly, I would have wanted to run from some of them too.
So, bless Colleen’s heart, she listened to my idea, my vision for helping foster children and my frustration at the lack of foster homes. I was living in the middle of beautiful horse country with sprawling ranches and land everywhere. Why not check out the land and the possibilities? Meanwhile, I would research what it would take to become a non-profit and raise funds for such a worthy cause. Surely, big hearts and big pocketbooks existed to help children! Little did she know that she would be agreeing to a journey that will probably be until “death do us part”!!
I told my husband of 42 years what I was thinking about and his response was “Aren’t you a little long in the tooth to tackle something like this?” He has a point, I am exhausted, but still passionate and motivated with a sound mind (?) and body (?)!! True, I am a seasoned mature adult but that’s all the more reason to live life with a purpose. I am supposed to be retired, playing a little golf, reading, writing, painting, traveling and enjoying this last chapter of my life with these leisurely activities. But, no, God had put this huge project on my heart. “Susie, you have the passion, you have the personal experience and you’re a retired teacher who had the heart for the neediest of your students “ I couldn’t get it out of my head. I needed a partner in this who would share my passion and get on board with this mission. Hello, Colleen!
I’ll bet part of her is saying to herself “Why did I reconnect with her when she moved back this way ten years ago? I was just having fun coming to her art shows and now I barely have time to catch my breath.” Colleen works full time, helps me 24/7 to continue this substantial project and is a very involved mother and grandmother. She has nine young grandchildren!! I have two grandchildren and having retired from teaching; this has become my full time job.
We applied to become a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in September of 2017. We received our determination letter in just under 90 days, in December of 2017. We started out as a General Residential Operation for teenage girls, because I was a teen in foster care. We have now evolved to a foster home community helping all ages of foster children in North Texas as of May 2020. This innovative idea is new to Texas and we hope to see it as the answer to successful foster care in the future, for parents and children. This was on the advice of our mentor communities that exist successfully in Oklahoma, helping hundreds of children in foster care. When we expanded the intake of children, we also made a name change, from Geary Girls Ranch (helping teenage girls) to a DBA as Geary Foster Foundations (plural with a play on “home” foundations). I think this has confused some; however, the Geary name has remained the same and the mission of helping foster children has remained the same. Being a legacy to Joe and Charlotte Geary is still the same.
Our goal is to have 8 independent foster homes with licensed foster parents in each home helping 4 to 6 children in foster care. We have a country environment on 11 acres of donated land.
We have recently opened the doors of our first foster home and our hearts and our home is full!! Other than record rainfall, a pandemic and social unrest, it’s been a piece of cake! The Lord didn’t promise it would be easy, but it has definitely been worth it with just the first home. It warms my heart to see the children being helped by our first foster couple, Jerryd and Katie Wallace. Our little family has 2 adults, 6 children, 2 dogs, 2 cats and 11 chickens!!! It also warms my heart to know that we have couples waiting to become residents in our community.
So, with continued prayers, building on faith and remaining debt- free as a total 100% volunteer organization with no paid employees and a board of exhausted professional women we are moving forward to build our community. I hope I live long enough to see it completed!
May God Bless Us All,