Abused. Beaten. Neglected. Starved. Abandoned. Children living in fear. Children in need. Children placed into foster care. At any given day, there are over 500,000 children placed in foster care in the United States. Each of these children has suffered immeasurable hurt, unimaginative pain, and unspeakable horrors from those who were supposed to love them the most. To be sure, the life of a child in foster care has been one of great pain and tremendous suffering. For many of these children, a stable home and a loving family is all they crave, yet never truly find. More often than not, these children in care never truly recover from the emotional, physical, and psychological wounds that they suffer from. Furthermore, they are haunted daily by the various traumas they suffered before coming into care; never truly escaping from the horrors they have experienced, and never finding peace.
Like so many others, my wife and I felt called to help children. After the death of my first child from Anencephaly, a condition where the brain, scalp, and skull never truly form, my wife and I both went into different stages of grief; hers in a healthy fashion, mine not so healthy. Years later, with three more children of our own, we felt that call; that call to help those children who were in need. Perhaps it was our year traveling in the international performing group Up With People, serving others throughout the globe in various forms of community service that led us to a life of helping others. Perhaps it was the death of our first child that taught us about the miracle of birth. Whatever it may have been, we chose to dedicate our lives to children in foster care. We chose to dedicate our lives to helping those in need.
My wife and I have been foster parents these past 13 years to over 50 children, and have adopted three of those children, along with our own three biological children. Without a doubt, each child that has come to live with me has made me a better person in some way. To me, there is no difference between biological, adoptive, or foster child; they are all children I have been fortunate enough to care for as my own. To me, there is no difference between skin color, as I truly see no difference in a child's so called "race." Through these 13 years as a foster father, and 18 years as a father in general, I have learned so much, and am thankful for each child that has come to live with me. Watching a child in foster care smile the first time after years of abuse; teaching a child in foster care how to ride a bike; sharing a foster child's first real birthday with him after so many had been ignored in the past.
There have been those times when we have had up to 11 children in our home, at the same time. 11 Children at one time! Yes, there is a limit of children in one’s house. We signed waivers. Yes, there not enough foster homes in our area, or anywhere in the United States, for that matter. The number of children in need simply outweighs those willing to open their hearts and homes to these children. Yes, it IS exhausting with that many children in our home. The past few years, we have both felt called to go even further, and help even more children in need. There are hundreds of thousands of children in foster care, and not enough homes, not enough families willing to help.
As a result, we feel called to help even more children. Indeed, we need to help even more children.
But, how? In particular, how could we help those in foster care before they aged out of the system, and became one of the statistics of homelessness and imprisonment? We realized awhile ago that we could not continue to have 10 and 11 children in our home on a regular basis and continue to both work; my wife as a doctor of nutrition and massage therapist, and myself as a foster parent trainer and speaker.
For some time now, we have had an idea for a residential group home for boys in foster care. After all, boys 10 years and older are often considered “unadoptable” by society, and often needed a home. We want to help these children and young men. Along with that, my wife and I have discovered that there are those in foster care who sometimes, for a number of reasons, may simply not thrive in a traditional foster home family setting. Yet, they need a place to call home, as well. They need someone to teach them the important life skills they will surely need after leaving the system, and aging out. They need someone to encourage and guide them as they graduate from high school, and begin a career path. They need someone to help them with various forms of therapy for a variety of traumas they struggle with. They need someone to provide them with hope, provide them with a place to heal, a place they can find love, and a place they can call home. When they heal, their families begin to heal. When they hope, society can hope.
Taking our 13 years of experience as foster parents, as well as the knowledge I have gained from years of research and writing, my wife and I developed a set of outcomes we wanted our boys (and every child from foster care that comes to live with us is “our family”) to achieve. These include:
To meet the physical needs of at risk youth by providing safety, shelter, proper nourishment, opportunity for exercise, clothing and by ensuring access to medical and dental health care.
To meet the emotional needs of at risk youth by providing support, empathy, mentoring (by adults), encouragement and therapy, including psychiatric care when needed.
To meet the educational needs of at risk youth by developing and improving good study skills and academic performance. Reading and math skills will be an important part of each youth’s development.
To meet the social needs of at risk youth by providing diverse opportunities to practice social interactions, providing diverse indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities, and providing mentoring, and coaching. Also by building emotional management skills, communication skills and conflict resolution skills and by teaching about healthy interpersonal relationships including healthy and safe sexual practices.
To meet the intellectual and educational needs of at risk youth through mentoring, appropriate educational assessment and planning including college, tutoring, supporting interests, and exposure to creative and performing arts.
To meet the independent living skills needs of at risk youth by teaching independent and daily living skills and independent living skills through the daily program routine and independent living skills (ILS) classes, and through referrals to other vocational rehabilitation and employment training and internship opportunities.
To meet the spiritual needs of at risk youth by providing them freedom to explore and practice spirituality of choice and means to connect with a chosen spiritual group.
To maintain youth placements and/or successfully transition youth to their identified discharge destination.
With the help of local community leaders, we developed a plan to make our vision a reality. We met with local and state Foster Care and Department of Family and Children officials to gain their support. This summer we created a Board of Directors and incorporated Never Too Late, Inc. in the State of Georgia. We searched for a location and found a 12 bedroom facility that is for sale where we live, in Monticello, GA. To our delight, we found that this home is absolutely perfect for what we have in mind. We applied for non-profit status from the IRS, and recently, Never Too Late, Inc. received our 501c3 designation.
We now are seeking funds to make our dream a reality. Our immediate need is raising funds to purchase the home we found so we can turn it into the group home for boys. We are seeking private donation to purchase and renovate the home. Our goal is to raise $300,000 in the next 90 days. This will allow us to purchase the home so we can make it ready for boys by next summer. We are also applying for funding from public and private grants, but those will not be available until after the group home is open.
Now, we need your help. We feel called to help an even greater number of children in need, yet, we cannot do it without you. We need you to help these boys in need with a financial gift to help provide a home for these boys. website, http://nevertoolatefostercare.weebly.com
We need your help and support. Please consider a tax deductible donation to Never Too Late, Inc. Help us make our dream for foster care boys a reality. Won’t you help us create a home where boys in need can find a place to heal hearts, heal minds, heal bodies, and heal lives? Everyone deserves a home where they can begin to heal.