Walk A Mile In My Shoes: Foster Care Awareness

By on 13 April, 2018 in Amanda Burbank with 0 Comments

Photo courtesy of Kathy Eiff

I was babysitting six kids, busy helping with homework, when the phone rang. The mom, Jessica Bedient, was calling from court where three babies had officially been put into custody of Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) and assigned to their home for foster care. This was the second week in a row that she and her husband Ben had had to arrange for childcare so that they could attend court on behalf of these babies. She asked me to tell the kids that the social worker had asked if she could come straight there from court and to make sure the house was tidy. The house looked great to me, but I passed on the message. Immediately their four children, three of which have been adopted out of foster care themselves, and their two school friends all went into a cleaning frenzy, working together, doing chores out of the joy of welcoming the babies into their home and wanting to show the social worker their very best. This kind of exuberant, self-motivated cleaning is not something I see often in elementary school children. It is one of many times I’ve been touched and impressed by this family, who all give of themselves daily to serve the children in our community in need of care.

You may not know that there are approximately 6,000 children in DHR custody in need of foster care. My husband and I went many years without knowing about this immediate need, perhaps because we didn’t know any foster care families yet. In fact there are few foster families compared with the number of children in need of homes.  In Montgomery alone there are over 200 children in care and there are only enough homes for 30 percent of these children.

Live the Promise is an organization based in Georgia that challenges and equips churches around the nation to become a solution to the foster care crisis by asking every church to raise up and support one foster family. The organization also provides the opportunity for those who aren’t foster families to show compassion to foster children and make a difference in their lives by serving foster families through a support team trained to meet many needs foster families face.

My husband and I have had the opportunity to be a part of such a team and it has changed our lives. We are so proud to be a part of what this amazing family is doing — offering love that can change the lives of countless children who have come in and out of their home for short term stays; family and stability for those who have stayed for a year or longer; and adopting a sibling group when reuniting with their family was no longer an option. We have been blessed to be a part of these children’s extended support network, showing them that they are loved and cared for.

I chose to blog about this right now because there is an opportunity coming up where you can learn more about foster care and how you can be a part of the solution. Live the Promise in Montgomery is about to host its second annual Walk A Mile In My Shoes, foster care awareness event. Last year, the one-mile walk raised awareness about this important issue and collected suitcases that were donated to Alabama’s foster children, who often have only a trash bag to use for their personal belongings. 130 people, some of whom were foster families, met at Vaughn Road Park, where the event will be held this year on Saturday, April 28, from 9 a.m. until 11.

According to event organizer, Randee Antone, last year at the walk she enjoyed seeing the kids playing on the playground and their foster parents making connections with others who share their heart for foster care. Being able to have conversations with others who understood what they were going through gave them a sense of strength and fueled their drive to keep going, she said. It is so important for hard-working, often exhausted, foster families to know that they are not alone.

This year, instead of suitcases participants are asked to bring new twin sheets and toiletry items which they will carry during the walk and then donate to Brantwood Children’s Home. Brantwood is a group home that cares for older foster children who don’t have placements. The sheets and toiletries, besides giving these children something new of their own to welcome them into the home, can also serve as a symbol for participants of the many moves foster children endure due to the shortage of foster homes.  Participants in the walk are also asked to consider donating a gift card in five dollar increments for local food and outings to enrich the lives and experiences of these children. It is free to register to walk.

More information about fostering will be available at the Walk from agencies who work with foster children and foster families such as: Alabama Children’s Home, APAC, AGAPE, and DHR, as well as Live the Promise. They will have informational tables with representatives to answer questions. Foster mother Dawn Acosta will be sharing her experiences with attendees, and Hardy Sellers from Live the Promise, Vaughn Forest Church will share ways that people can help and pray.

I have said how being a part of Live the Promise has changed our lives. The Bedients have expressed the same sentiment. Jessica has shared with me a bit of their story for this article. I will close with her words:

“My family has been fostering in Montgomery County for 5 years now. Becoming a foster parent has been the most challenging and rewarding thing my family has ever done. It’s not easy, especially if you don’t have a great support system nearby. Live The Promise has been such a blessing to my family. We had an emergency with one of our foster babies and had to take him to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. My Live The Promise “care team leader” came to Birmingham right away to check on us with a care package in hand. Our team also supported my husband who was home with our other 6 kids. I can’t begin to express how thankful we are to be a part of Live The Promise and our incredible care team. The meals and practical help are amazing, but the most meaningful thing has been knowing that people are thinking about us and praying for us.

“Many people want to help children in foster care, but can’t foster themselves at this time. Live The Promise offers a great way for anyone to show love to children in foster care, and the families that love them. I would recommend getting involved whether you are a foster family who could use a little support, or a person with a big heart who wants to help.”

Thank you to Randee Antone and Jessica Bedient for information used in this post and Kathy Eiff for photos from last year’s Walk.

Walk A Mile In My Shoes: Sat, April 28, 2018, 9 a.m. – 11:00. Vaughn Road Park, 3620 Vaughn Road.

 

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