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Foster Family

The Reality of Foster Care

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Right at this very moment there are more kids in foster care than ever before. And also right at this moment, there are fewer foster homes available for them.

We can get angry at the parents for having kids and not knowing how to parent and for making poor choices, but the kids are still here and they need us. Each of us can have a part in these innocent children’s lives.

Foster parents are the real saints in this world. They have to teach and “unlearn” and deal with behaviors most of us have never encountered. They have to have more than just patience. They have to have steadfast faith and hope in each child and believe that their guidance and direction is having an impact on these children.

But these foster parents and we at Angels’ Arms get to experience the joy of many firsts for foster children. We get to see the expressions on their faces when they have their first birthday party; when they eat their first Dippin’ Dots; when they give us hugs and thank you cards; when they get their first “A” on an assignment; when they go to Trout Lodge and experience their first vacation; when they take a dance or music lesson; when they run track or play soccer. The list goes on and on. The joys are endless, and what we have to do every day (sometimes every hour) is remind ourselves that these joys outweigh the scary and troubling behaviors and attitudes.

All of us can and need to play a part in foster children’s lives.

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Bess Wilfong
Angels’ Arms Founder/Executive Director

Foster Family

Javon’s Story – Beating the Odds

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Javon pictured with Angels’ Arms Founder Bess Wilfong and his foster mom Phyllis Hackman.

This is a story 10 years in the making. The “once upon a time” began on October 25, 2005, when foster parents Phyllis and Eldon Hackman moved into Angels’ Arms’ second home in Ballwin. The foster parents to two boys now had more space, and they opened the home and their hearts to more kids. Javon was only 13 when he joined the Hackman family. He had been in foster care for four years and was living at the Annie Malone Children’s Home. A good kid, Javon was at a critical age, and was starting to go down the wrong path. He needed a more stable, loving environment, and the Hackmans provided just that.

The first few years were rough, to say the least. The teen years can be a struggle for any family, and Javon’s relationship with the Hackmans was no exception. He tested his foster parents daily, especially Phyllis. But no matter how much trouble he got in to, Phyllis and Eldon didn’t give up on him. Javon will be the first to admit that he was grounded for much of his high school career. His foster parents had strict rules in place and Javon continued to break them. This went on for a while but soon, Javon began to understand: the rules were there to protect him and keep him from heading down the wrong path once again. Ultimately, he began to trust them and realized that they had his best interest at heart.

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Javon pictured with some of his biggest fans, Bob Ruebsam, Tess McMahon and Tom Hartnagel.

Javon graduated high school with a 3.4 GPA and received an Athletic and Educational scholarship at Benedictine College. After two years at the private school, he wanted a change and transferred to Southeast Missouri State. SEMO gave Javon a place to be himself. He joined a fraternity, made new friends and held a part time job. In the midst of his busy college life, Javon kept in close touch with his foster parents, who were now his family. Visits on weekends, summer breaks and holidays strengthened the close ties they developed.

Javon will never forget the sound of applause that filled the air on May 16, 2015. His 10-year journey had come to this: walking across the stage at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau, receiving his college diploma, and listening to the cheers of his foster family and his Angels’ Arms family.

While living with the Hackmans, Javon’s support system grew. He was surrounded by individuals who loved and encouraged him to be his best self. People who helped cover his tuition costs, sent him care packages, helped him network and even land an internship at a Fortune 500 Company. This community of supporters became an extended family for Javon. With their encouragement and assurance, Javon learned that all things are possible, and that opportunities for success are endless.

After graduation, Javon will return to the place he calls home, living with the Hackman family as he begins his career with World Wide Technology. In addition to working full time, he is determined to give back and passionate about helping other foster kids facing similar circumstances. He wants them to know that life is full of opportunities waiting to be seized and that nothing’s impossible.

Ten years ago, all the cards were stacked against him. But Javon truly beat the odds. Nationally, only 50% of foster children graduate from high school and less than 3% graduate from college. Javon’s future was in his hands all along, but the guidance he received from his loving foster family and the many supporters who believed he was capable of great things helped Javon become the amazing young man he is today.

The next 10 years – we can’t wait to see them unfold for Javon.

Foster Family

Angels’ Arms Teens Honored By HateBrakers

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Jake and Jeff pictured with their foster mom Barb Bocklage.

 

Their incredible story of survival sounds like something from a movie. Jake and Jeff, fraternal twins from St. Louis, were taken by their abusive father to the Dominican Republic to work in his garbage recycling business. He forced them to work night and day in an unventilated 110-degree room with vermin coming out of the trash. Unschooled and malnourished and after many months in an orphanage, they escaped to the American Embassy. Eventually, they were flown back to St. Louis and placed in the Angels’ Arms home in South County with 4 other foster siblings and their foster mom Barb.

On Monday, May 11, they were honored at the HateBreakers 3rd Annual HERO Awards for their heroism and moral courage to transcend acts of hate and become leaders and healers. Today, Jake and Jeff are sophomores in high school, enrolled in the College Bound Program and have a bright future ahead of them. We couldn’t be more proud of how far they’ve come.

To learn more about HateBreakers, click HERE

News

We’re going mobile!

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We are thrilled to unveil our new mobile friendly website, made possible by our friends at Forward Slash Technology. In celebration of our 15th year of supporting St. Louis foster families, we wanted to freshen up our brand with an updated logo and a redesigned website. This new design will give you, our generous supporters, an easier way to make donations, navigate through all the latest happenings with our foster families, learn more about and register for upcoming events and do it all from your mobile device. As a small non-profit, our marketing budget is very limited and an expensive website upgrade like this was not going to be possible but thanks to Monte Hickey and friends at Forward Slash, we were able to make the switch to a mobile optimized website. One of the new website features will include weekly blogs from our wonderful team, giving you the inside scoop on the day to day life at Angels’ Arms. Check back often for more stories about our kids, foster parents, events and more.

Thanks for reading!

Jasmina Schue
Development Director

Foster Family

Getting to know Hannah

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I can’t believe it’s been a year since I joined the Angels’ Arms family and since we’ve moved into our new office. Working so close to Hughes family, I’ve gotten to know Hannah pretty well. What an amazing young lady she is becoming. She is a member of a South County dance team, and is having such a wonderful time with it. I enjoy watching her do what she loves the most and can’t wait to see her at her next recital. She wanted me to pass along a short message to all of you. Enjoy!

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Amber Odom
Angels’ Arms Administrative Assistant

A message from Hannah:
“Hello everyone! My name is Hannah, I’m a sophomore in high school and I live with the Hughes Family.  I am on the South County YMCA Studio All Star dance team thanks to Angels’ Arms. I do a variety of different dance styles including hip hop (my favorite), lyrical (my second favorite), tap, jazz, modern, and contemporary. To say the least, dance is beyond my favorite thing to do. Dance is my get away place. It is where all of the bad things in my life seem to disappear.”