Willie Spears

Foster Care

May 29, 2019

As I enter my eighteenth year in education one trend that hardly ever is talked about is the number of homeless students we have.

There was a time when the students last names matched the names of the parents. I often hear people in and out of education blame the parents for the behavior or academic status of the child, what many don’t realize is in several homes there are no parents.

I have had parent meetings where no parent shows. I have coached young people who competed for four years and their parents did not see one of their games.

I have taken students home several times in a school year, but never to the same house. For many young people this is their reality.

May is National Foster Care Month. It is a time to recognize that we each can play a part in enhancing the lives of children and youth in foster care.

While coaching at Escambia High School one of our players lived with me and my family for eight months. During our time at Suwannee High School another player lived with us for six months. Although we opened our home to these young men, my wife Tanika and I have never served as actual foster parents. Tanika’s Uncle and Aunt are foster parents and they enjoy it. I don’t see them all the time but before Hurricane Michael destroyed Panama City, I would see them with a different child every few months. It was always a joy to see them love a stranger in an effort to add value to their life.

Several of my friends are familiar with the foster care system.

Coach Dashoan Olds said he and his wife wanted to adopt from foster care but never agreed on the right time. Then on Black Friday 2016 they saw a news story that changed their life. His advice is not to try to find a child have them find you. Coach Olds and his wife Sofia adopted seven siblings who were all separated by foster families. Seven! They are Necia 14, Eric 12, Erica 12, Zavian 11, Dava 10, Keyon 7, and Reggie 6.

Coach O said perspective parents should have an idea of the child or children their family is best fit to parent. They should ensure their family agrees on blessing a child.

He said perspective parents should expect challenges and be prepared to work through them and get involved in church, school, or other activities that their new child may be involved with.

Tracy Larkins is an Agency Director for a Human Resources Department. Part of her job is to recruit, train and utilize foster parents to meet the needs of children who are unable to remain with their birth families.

They are also responsible for the safety and wellbeing of children who are in the foster care system. That includes safety, health, educational wellbeing and efforts toward reunification. She believes there is a great impact that one can make in the life of a child by opening their heart and homes. What is unique about Tracy and her husband Don is the fact that they have had over thirty five children in their home. They adopted their daughter Alexis in 2006 and they consider her a tremendous blessing. Lexi and my daughter Tayelor have become friends which would not be possible if not for Don and Tracy adding her to their family.

Donte Sheppard had a great experience in the foster care system. He grew up in an unstable single parent home. In eleventh grade he was adopted, and it changed the trajectory of his life. His new home taught him the value of family and provided him an opportunity to go to college. He said he will forever be grateful.

Foster Care statistics:

· A few years ago 415,129 children in the U.S. were in foster care

· That’s one in every 184 kids in America

· Nearly 265,000 children enter the foster care system annually

· That means a new child goes into foster care every two minutes

· The average time spent in foster care is 22 months

· 100, 000 kids in foster care are waiting to be adopted

What are you waiting for?

Willie Spears is a teacher, coach, author, minister and motivational speaker. He has been awarded teacher and coach of the year. He speaks to thousands each year through his business The Willie Spears Experience. Willie may be reached at www.williespears.com.

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