Written by Alaina Abbott
Did you know there are over 8,500 children in foster care in the state of Tennessee, according to a June 28, 2022, report from television station WBIR-TV? That doesn’t include the thousands upon thousands of children and teens in the foster care system nationwide. The age range is newborn baby all the way to 18 years old — the older the teenager, the harder it is for them to be placed with a family.
My youngest brother was recently adopted into our family after a year and a half of living in our home as a foster child. My household before my little brother consisted of me, my biological brother and our single mom (plus a few cats and dogs). Our mother sat us down one day and said she had felt a calling to become a foster parent for a while, and she wanted our input before officially opening our home to another kid. My brother was skeptical at first, but I was immediately on board. My family had all the resources at our disposal to make someone else’s life better, so it felt like a no-brainer.
After a few more discussions with us and with our social worker, my mom was matched with my little brother. At the time they first met, he was living in a group home in Memphis, Tennessee, four hours away from where he had grown up due to overpopulation in the foster system in the cities surrounding his childhood home. He was 13 years old at the time and had a very unlikely chance of being reunited with his biological mother. He had no other family, was in an unfamiliar place and just needed someone to advocate for him. The more time my family spent with him, the more we knew he was meant to be a part of our family. Months of paperwork, court dates and signed papers later, my brother became an Abbott in the eyes of the law.
I think foster care is a wonderful thing. If your family has considered becoming a foster family, pursue that goal. If you’ve considered it and aren’t sure it’s the best fit for your current household dynamic, partner with a family who is actively fostering. Be a helping hand, resource, prayer warrior, snack maker, babysitter or laundry folder. You don’t have to directly open your home to be an advocate for these children and teens; no gesture of love or encouragement is too small. Volunteering at group homes or after-school programs or donating clothing and books can make the biggest difference for a kid who might just need a little extra push. Each of us needs love and support; our backgrounds shouldn’t determine how much of that love and support we get.
Because my mom listened to her heart, our little family is complete. My biological brother is now a middle child, my mom is a mother of three, and I’m a double big sister. What’s stopping you from doing a little research and getting involved in the foster community? If you have a heart for this demographic, I encourage you with everything in me to listen to that stirring in your chest. If you asked me five years ago if I thought this is what my family would look like in the year 2023, I would’ve laughed — but now it seems impossible to imagine life before my little brother. If reading this interested or inspired you, let’s talk.