JAY — My Father’s Arrows, a nonprofit organization that supports foster and adoptive families, is recognizing those who help children in crisis and those who care for them through its 100 Families 100 Days foster parent recruitment campaign.
Every day since Aug. 8, MFA has shared a picture on its Facebook page of a foster or adoptive family, Guardian ad Litems, MFA volunteers and those who helped with laundry or provided babysitting or donated to these families.
"At MFA, we believe everyone can do something," Executive Director Sarah Ellis said. "For years we’ve heard, ‘We can’t foster or adopt because,’ and the reasons range from time limitations to money to feeling too old or their home isn’t nice enough or whatever reason. What we’ve done is continued the conversation by asking ‘What can you do?’"
It’s a way MFA found to recognize how the community supports children in crisis situations.
"We wanted to say, ‘Hey, Santa Rosa County, we see you rising to the occasion,’" she said.
The recruitment part of the campaign addresses what happens to children who enter the foster care system.
"It’s a huge problem," Ellis said. "The kids in our county are sent out of the area because there are not enough licensed foster homes. Not only are they being sent out of the area but they’re also divided from their sibling groups. That’s where our focus has always been: the kids that are hardest to get homes for. (Children) over 10 years old, minority children, large groups and children with disabilities are the hardest to place."
On day 34, Sept. 8, MFA shared a picture of foster parents John and Sherri.
"We foster because as empty nesters, the house was just too quiet," the accompanying quote read.
"We’re constantly trying to recruit empty nesters because (they’re) bored," Sherri, who preferred to not give her last name, said.
Sherri and her husband started in traditional foster care and then, after three years, switched to medical foster care, she said.
"We kept getting the sick babies anyway," Sherri said.
Sherri, as a counselor, met a young woman in Northwest Florida whom she felt was not represented well in court. Her parents were deceased and came from a long line of drug abusers. The court terminated her parental rights despite Sherri thinking she was making good personal choices.
"My husband and I started talking," she said. "Are there other young moms out there who hit rock bottom and because of horrible choices they don’t have anybody? Our desire to get into foster care was to come alongside other situations like hers and help them. That’s what started us."
Sherri and John have since adopted three children and have fostered 20 children.
"Ten have been reunited with their families and ten have been adopted," Sherri said. "Our only regret is we didn’t start younger … It’s hands down the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done and also at moments the most stressful, unnerving thing I’ve ever done. That’s why I love what Sarah’s doing.
"Not everybody’s cut out to be a foster parent … but everybody can do something."