According to Wikipedia, “It takes a village to raise a child” is an African proverb that means an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to grow in a safe and healthy environment. It became a popular saying in American culture several decades back.
We at Geary Foster Foundations (GFF) want to build a foster “village”, a community of support that makes fostering a little easier and helps with the success of retaining foster parents. Many new fosters burnout early because of all that is required to meet the needs of these children. It can be overwhelming and exhausting without a village of support. It takes special people to foster and having a support group can be the answer in sustaining their calling for a most rewarding mission… giving children a safe home.
According to the Texas Tribune, in July 2021, there is a crisis of placements for foster children. It has worsened each month this year and increased significantly because of Covid. The system is responsible for 15,000 children. In June, 415 children in Texas spent at least two consecutive nights in hotels, churches, and CPS offices because there were no beds available, according to state data. I called one of my advocate friends about a child recently and she was on her way to deliver lunch to some children staying in a local hotel. Many “facilities” have been shut down recently because of reports of further abuse, which needed to happen. These are facilities that are considered “businesses.” The ones that still exist are required to heighten monitoring and make changes, however, this leads to more facilities closing. These temporary “facilities” are only adding to the trauma that these children have already experienced.
Statistics show that children placed in a safe environment can thrive in a short period of time and that foster parents can make a difference. I have witnessed this change in the children in our home in a short period of time. Our first family has made a difference in the lives of ten children to date. Our parents receive the training and support of our Child Placement Agency that provides an individual plan for each child. Our homes are large enough to accommodate large sibling groups and with the completion of our second home, we’re on our way to creating our village of support and helping another six children at any given time. Phase one will be the completion of four homes, the Community Center, and the playground. Phase two will be the completion of six more homes for a total of ten on our site plan.
As I am writing this, I just got a message from one of our mentors about her time with the children in the home recently and she stated that “they are all precious. You have such a great ministry going on out there.” Hearing this makes this journey all worthwhile. Our goal is to have mentors for all our children in each of the homes. Another area of support we offer to our families and the surrounding communities is the foster closet “Gigi’s Closet North Texas.” It provides free furniture, clothing, school supplies, and toys to the foster families and children.
Our village is built on donated land. Our homes are built debt- free from donations and grants with a dedicated board and volunteers donating their time. It’s been a four- year journey thus far, but so rewarding to see our progress with home #2 and loving parents ready and waiting to help more children.
I know that our “village” is a solution to good loving families with the heart and mission to foster for all the right reasons. We are building “homes”, we are not a “business”, we are not a “facility”; we are creating “families” that support each other with a shared mission to provide safe homes for the children for as long as needed.
We are humbled and thankful for all the support we have received thus far. It has been a more challenging mission to build home #2 because of Covid. We worked so hard to raise the funds to build home #2 debt- free, which is precisely what we are doing. But I must admit, the increase in costs of materials, the supply chain shortage, the contractors with fewer workers, the continued domino effect of Covid, has impacted our budget. The much-needed grants that we received have been given the six- and nine-month progress reports with required documentation and photos of Home #2. We have wonderful parents ready and waiting to help more children in this second home and this will happen. Luke 1:37 “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
When it comes to helping foster children, we have no hesitation in doing what is needed for more safe homes and building a community of support. As this year comes to a close, we look forward to next year. We will Open our Doors and Open our Hearts to more children in need and we are OPEN to more blessings of SUPPORT.
May God Bless Us All,
Susie Black Holamon
Geary Foster Foundations