Fostering tough, but rewarding

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 21, 2003

Raising your own children is no easy feat, but it is one millions find themselves doing - and happily - every day, all over the world.

Raising someone else's children is even harder, and yet there are thousands of who also do this every day. Foster parents sacrifice time and risk heartbreak when they take on these children, youngsters who have been placed in the system while their parents come to terms with difficult situations, or permanently.

Some of the children come with more baggage than back pack. They come with special needs, not only physical, but educational, or emotional. The foster parents who take on the tasks of tending and teaching these special children are called "therapeutic foster parents" and require extra rationing.

They also

- all of the foster parents - require support and they get that from other foster parents. At least, that's what, Shirley Trawick, Linda Sconiers and Becky Royals have discovered. They are among those who have created a new support group, the Covington County Foster/Adoptive Parents Association.

"We felt there was a real need there," said Royals, who is taking care of teenage boys at this time. "We're a support group for the foster and adoptive parents in the area."

Besides sharing helpful hints, and even heartaches, the support group members share techniques and information, and that makes their jobs easier and their relationships with their foster children better.

It was at one of their training meetings when the foster parents realized they were eligible to receive 100 pounds of food a per child per month from the Wiregrass Food Bank, a \n organization that provides for qualified people.

"There are only about seven counties in all Alabama using the food bank," said Royals.

When a group went to pick up the groceries the first time, they also found out they were qualified to pick it up for other groups – the poor and the elderly. Now, when the foster parents go to get their own groceries, they also do quite a bit shopping for those in the area who cannot do so for themselves.

And the kids help.

"My boys love to go along and help give out the food," said Royals. "Anything they can do, they're tickled to help anyway they can."

"It's thrill for them to help," said Sconiers.

Of course foster parents do receive some compensation for taking in the children who need them so much - but money is hardly the issue.

"No amount of money is worth the stress!" said Sconiers.

"You've got to really want to do it to get into it," said Shirley, who also runs a daycare where many foster children attend.

"You've got to have the heart," said Royal. "Don't get involved if you're doing it for money."

Commitment is a key part of being foster or adoptive parents, but it is a commitment the women cannot deny.

"Your heart goes out," said Sconiers. "You can't just shut the door in a needy kid's face. It is very rewarding to become parent."

Being a foster parent is not easy - neither is becoming one. Once a person has indicated a desire, they are screened very carefully.

"They take fingerprints, turn your life inside out," said Sconiers.

After passing the screening, the prospective foster parents have to undergo a 10-week training program before a child is placed with them. Those interested in becoming therapeutic foster parents have to take even more specialized training.

But they continue to do it - share their homes and hearts with children. Many of the children appreciate the efforts and the love, and keep in contact after leaving their homes. Foster parents refer to them as "my daughter" or "my son" - not "my foster daughter" or "my foster son."

The Covington County Foster/Adoptive Parents Association will be having a fish fry from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., May 3 in the Wal-Mart parking lot to help defray the costs of getting the food from the Food Bank. The meals will include fresh mullet, cole slaw, baked beans, a roll and pound cake for $5. If requested, it will be an additional 75 cents for Coca-Cola or Sprite. They will take advance orders

and deliver to workplace if needed.

For more information, contact Becky Royals at 222-1258, Shirley Trawick at 222-1234 or Linda Scanners at 427-2059.