First Mother’s Day for foster mom

Published 12:15 am Saturday, May 12, 2012

She’Ree WIlliamson will mark her first Mother’s Day this weekend.

She’Ree Williamson says she doesn’t deserve a Mother’s Day gift.

“I’m not really a mother,” she says modestly.

Her husband, Gerard, begs to differ. While Mrs. Williamson has never given birth, she is definitely in the mom business.

The Williamsons became foster parents in February, just shy of three months after being licensed by the Department of Human Resources to serve as surrogate parents.

“We both love children, but I can’t have any,” Mrs. Williamson said. “In Alabama, you have to be married three years before you can adopt. If children are in foster care and become available for adoption, foster parents get first choice.”

A few months into their first fostering experience, they agreed that the hardest part of becoming foster parents was getting prepared quickly.

While they had been licensed for a couple of months, they had no idea when they’d get children, how old they would be, or what their needs would be.

“Typically, you get nine months to prepare,” Mrs. Williamson said. “We had no idea what we’d need, so I hadn’t bought anything.”

She got a phone call at work from DHR at 9:15 one morning. That evening, she was responsible for two children, one of whom needed a baby bed. Foster parenting rules prohibit the use of children’s names or faces in publicity.

It didn’t take long to get ready. Many friends, family members, and co-workers pitched in to help the Williamsons with all they needed to care for the two children.

Although the relatively newlyweds went from being a young married couple to having responsibility for two small children in a matter of hours, they agree that their lives haven’t changed much.

“We don’t eat out as much,” Mrs. Williamson said. “I do more cooking than I did, but I have more time because I’m here with the children.”

The process of becoming a foster parent includes completion of six books, home inspections and background checks. The Williamsons had to arrange for guns, ammunition and cleaning supplies to be locked away for the children’s safety.

“It is worth any amount of effort you have to put in to it,” Mrs. Williamson said.

Part of the preparation of becoming a foster parent is knowing that the children will return to their biological parents one day. The children call the Williamsons by their first names.

“They have a mama,” Mrs. Williamson said. “If their parents are willing to go through all the state puts them through to get their children back, they deserve another chance.”

Once misconception people have about fostering, she said, is that children will be taken away from foster parents quickly. That’s not true, she said.

“It’s a process,” she said. “The birth parents start with supervised visits at DHR, then work their way up to unsupervised visits. Foster parents have time to get used to it.”

For now, the Williamsons said, they are happy to make a difference in the lives of the children in their care.