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Category: Foster Family

Foster Family

I see you, I hear you…thoughts and advice of a foster mom

Angels’ Arms foster parent, Lawreene Hall.

Peeling back the layers 

Lawreene’s advice for someone considering being a foster parent sounds simple: Be prepared for the unexpected. Plan, but be ready to pivot.“It is definitely going to test your patience, but it is going to be absolutely rewarding. The kids have been through so much. There are so many different levels of their trauma that you are going to deal with.

“It’s totally different from raising your own kids. I tell people all the time, I could not have done this while I was raising my sons. God knew that, and that’s why he didn’t put it on my heart at that time. It requires so much of you emotionally, physically – you are pulled in a lot of directions. But if you are called to do it, God is going to give you the grace to do it. 

“People might look and think, ‘Gosh, that’s easy,’ but they don’t see all the behind-the-scenes. You deal with everything you had with your biological kids, but with the addition of all the underlying trauma. A lot of that is peeled back in layers. All kids are complicated. You throw in the other things they have gone through, things they have not even shared with their caseworkers. Those things slowly come out the more they are comfortable with you, the more they feel like, ‘I belong, I’m part of a family, I feel safe.’ Then whole layers start coming off and they start sharing. Then you can really help them.”

Keep them together

Angels’ Arms’ goal of keeping sibling groups together is important to Lawreene. “I grew up in a large family with six kids. When I think about being torn away from them, I don’t know how I would be able to navigate and handle that. I would have been looking for my siblings. That’s why I like keeping sibling groups together. I have six boys, ages 6, 7, 11, 11, 12, 14, and that includes two sibling groups.”

One of the 11-year-olds has been with Lawreene since he entered foster care 3 years ago. His brother came about a year and a half ago because he was bouncing from house to house. “We got him stabilized and he was so happy to be with his brother. They really connect. Once he got here he could breathe a sigh of relief – there’s something familiar for me now.” 

Helping the parents

In the world of fostering, Angels’ Arms has made a tremendous, positive impact on Lawreene and her foster families. But what would she change if she could change foster care to make it better for the youth?

Lawreene believes providing resources for the biological parents of the children on a state level may be the best change that could be made. “Some funds should be allocated to the parents to try to help them get their kids back home, to reunify them. That would be a big help. Sometimes they are just stuck in a cycle. They are struggling, working minimum wage jobs. They are told they have to take a parenting class. But they need their job, and they can’t take this day off work to go to this parenting class. But they can’t get the kids back home without the class. But if they lose their job they still can’t get their kids back home. 

“Sometimes it’s something that simple that prevents the kids from going back home. Deep down, what the kids want is to be with their parents, or whatever family looks like for them. And there are times when this would be best for the kids and for their mental health. The parents feel like the whole system is against them. But our goal is to reunify families when it’s possible and healthy for the kids. Extra resources could make a big difference.”

I See You, I hear you

Lawreene is well aware that every child is unique, but she knows they all have one thing in common. “They all need to be seen. They all just want to be seen and heard. No matter what their trauma, if you just let them know, ‘I see you, I hear you, I’ve got you.’ Sometimes when they start opening up and talking to you, they are not looking for you to solve anything for them, they just want to know that you hear them. Finally, somebody sees me and hears me. You might not have a solution for me right now, but you hear me, you see me. That’s what’s common in all of them. I think that’s how I’ve been able to connect with all of them. I just let them know, I see you, I hear you.”

Saying goodbye

One thing Lawreene has learned is that her foster kids won’t be with her forever. “My very first placement came to us in 2013, a sibling group that was with us four years. It was the hardest thing in the world when they moved back home. It was like a piece of me left with them. I learned from them.” 

And just as Lawreene learned from her first foster kids, she uses that knowledge to positively impact every child she touches. She’s a mom who knows that goodbye is sometimes the best answer, but she will ALWAYS see, hear and be there for her foster children.

 

Foster Family

A Day of Sunshine

I was a bit fatigued the day after receiving my 2nd COVID-19 vaccine. But it was a beautiful Saturday in February, and I know I wasn’t feeling nearly as tired or cruddy as one of our house moms who’s in the biggest battle for her life. She has breast cancer, her2 positive, which means it spreads quickly. Her treatment plan includes chemo that goes right through her—many times a day. Needless to say, she’s always tired and feels like the life has been zapped from her. 

Ramona, foster mother, and cancer fighter.

We all know people who battled cancer: some of them fought and lost and some fought and are still here, including me. But this is different. This single foster mom has 7 children living in the home. They’re all learning virtually. As a foster parent, you never know who you’ll get, what behaviors they’ll exhibit, and how long they’ll be with you.

This group of 7 kids is special. They are a family unit. They laugh, argue, clean, eat, and play together. Every single one of them has a happy disposition. Some of them are siblings. But if you didn’t know differently, you would think they’re one group of siblings.

I took all 7 of them to Forest Park Saturday so mom could rest and just have a bit of downtime. What a tremendous blessing this turned out to be. When I arrived at their home, they were waiting by the door. Each one of them had one of the specially-themed denim quilts made just for them in their arms.

Exploring the beauty of Forest Park.

The gratitude they exhibited was completely unexpected. “Thank you for taking us to this really cool park.” “Thank you for setting up this picnic for us.” “Thank you for taking time from your weekend to be with 7 kids.”

We walked in creeks, walked some trails, played Zombie Tag (I was “it” most of the time since I’m a slow runner), but even then, they came to my rescue and allowed me to catch them. We had a picnic lunch with everyone sprawled out on their personalized blankets. Other kids even came to play with us and shared their kites and balls with them.

The kids loved having a picnic in Forest Park on their personalized quilts from DenimQuilts.

I can’t begin to tell you what this day did for my heart and my soul. It’s quite evident that these kids are experiencing what love is. They know what it means to be part of a family. They’ve learned what it means when someone has their back.

I talked with them about how hard it is to endure chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. I talked about the fatigue, the sick feeling, the metallic taste of almost all food, the inability to sleep due to frequent trips to the bathroom. I let them know that their foster mom’s cancer is treatable and has a very high success rate. Regardless of what the doctors say, it’s scary as hell, and each day in treatment (and after) brings its own challenges.

But all the while this beautiful mama manages to smile. In fact, her tears are tears of gratitude. She and her big family have been enveloped with more love than they know what to do with. They’re receiving delicious meals from supporters, from Pink Ribbon Girls, and from Angels’ Arms. One dedicated supporter redid her bedroom to make it more of a tranquil place. Others have assisted with laundry, cleaning, building another room for storage…the list goes on.

Ramona excited about her donated meals from Pink Ribbon Girls and volunteers building out a laundry room in her home.

Ramona’s new bedding and decor thanks to long-time volunteer, Linda Robben.

The kindness Ramona is experiencing is the sunshine that’s attempting to take over the always-looming clouds.

At the end of the day, I brought the kids home. They each went in to say hello to their “mom” and let her know how much fun they had. Then I went in to tell this mama how full my heart was. When you get outside of yourself and spend time with kids whose parents have died, given up parental rights, abused and neglected them, it certainly diminishes your “problems” and gives your existence a new perspective.

A selfie to remember this fun day!

We’re here to help each other. It takes more than a village. It takes one big-ass village.

Bess Wilfong
Executive Director and Founder
Angels’ Arms

Foster FamilyOur Homes

Q&A with Kasondra – Our Newest House Mother

As our busiest couple months ever comes to a close, we can’t wait to introduce you to our newest house mother, Kasondra McDaniel! She will be moving into one of our Ballwin homes. Kasondra and Kim, one of our current house parents, are sisters. So not only are we helping foster siblings, but we also have siblings doing the fostering! Kasondra has been fostering for two years now and has fostered five children including two sibling groups. Please enjoy this brief Q&A with Kasondra:


What compelled you to become a foster parent?

My sister and all her many foster children inspired me. Kim has been a foster parent in the St. Louis area for over 20 years. Her family has made a home for over a hundred foster children. Watching her and the children over the years inspired me to help make a difference in children’s lives.  

What does it mean to you to now be a part of the Angels’ Arms Family?

Being a foster parent is challenging, as well as rewarding. Angels’ Arms provides support/resources and a community for foster families. The African Proverb is true, “It takes a village to raise a child.” That quote is especially true when dealing with foster care. In addition to becoming part of an organization that is focused on making foster children’s lives better. It will be a great honor and blessing for my family to be a part of the Angels’ Arms family. 

 

Do you have a favorite memory of fostering? If so, what is it?

Some of my favorite memories include multiple firsts for the foster children.   I can not highlight one specific memory, but I have multiple favorites that all include: bright eyes, “Ooooos” and “Awwws,” smiles, laughter, and fun. A child’s first experience at the zoo, pool, movie theater, concert, Six Flags, shopping, fireworks, special birthdays, and Christmas. When a child becomes comfortable and feels safe enough to grab you and give you a hug. It is always a special memory when a child allows you to show them love, respect, and the appreciation they deserve.

What are you most looking forward to about becoming an Angels’ Arms house parent?

Once again, I cannot choose one thing I’m looking forward to. We are looking forward to moving into a home that is freshly painted and new to us. I am looking forward to my very own bathroom…  lol. The little things I know! We love the location of the house and it will allow my kids to ride their bikes in the neighborhood safely. The new location will make my life easier due to the availability of daycare and after-school care because I am a full-time teacher too. So many things to look forward to, but the bottom line is the constant support and appreciation shown by so many in order to prove to these kiddos that people do care.

Foster Family

Introducing the McDevitt Family

Things here at Angels’ Arms are always changing and evolving. As mentioned in one of our previous blog posts, this summer has been dedicated to transitioning several of our homes. Just last week we welcomed the newest residents in one of our St. Louis City homes, the McDevitt’s. 

Mary and Jim McDevitt have been fostering for over seven years and they focus on caring for infants with medical needs. They’ve dedicated their lives to helping foster children and we’re thrilled to welcome them to the Angels’ Arms family.

“We are overjoyed to be members of the Angels’ Arms family,” says Mary McDevitt. “We look forward to continuing to serve our community by providing a safe and loving home while partnering with community members. The children are the real winners when we all come together with love to serve them. I know the children in our home will grow in so many ways as they see how much those in the community love them. We look forward to supportive relationships with like-minded families whom we can help support and draw strength from as well.”

The McDevitt Family

*A fun-fact about our new family: Mary used to work at Professor Bear’s Daycare in St. Louis City, and she was a caregiver for none other than Abbey, our Communications Coordinator. What a small world!*

Thank you to the following businesses and individuals who helped the McDevitt family move and transition into their new home with Angels’ Arms:

  • Two Men and a Truck for once again donating four men and two trucks to help move this family into their new home
  • Jim and Maggie Lang for donating a washer and dryer
  • Mary Rateman for donating a recliner/ rocking chair to help rock the babies to sleep
  • The countless volunteers that have turned this house into a home by painting almost every room in the house, cleaning the floors and sprucing up the yard
  • Last, but most certainly not least, a special shout out to our Maintenance Manager Tom for contributing innumerable hours working on this house to get it ready for this new loving family. Tom worked on weekends and even into the evenings several times making sure everything was in tip-top shape

Two Men and a Truck donated their services to help the McDevitt family move into their new home.

This hard-working team unloaded two full trucks into the McDevitt family’s new home.

It was tricky at times to get some of the furniture upstairs, but the movers from Two Men in a Truck made it their goal to get everything where it needed to be.

Foster FamilyGive Back

Extending our reach

In addition to assisting our 12 families and older youth/young adults, we are helping four large, local foster families (24 children total) being cared for by single mothers who have been carefully screened and are in dire need of assistance. Please consider purchasing any of these items and dropping them off at the office. While we can’t have visitors, you can ring the bell, and we’ll get the items from your car to the garage. Here are the following items we are looking for:

You can use Target curbside pick up for home essentials such as sheets and detergent. This is a great alternative instead of shopping in store.

House hold essentials:

  • Twin bed sheets
  • Laundry detergent (name brand)
  • Toilet paper
Frozen foods:
  • Pizzas
  • Nuggets
  • Frozen meals
  • Eggo Waffles
  • Frozen meat (burger patties, chicken breast)

As we assist more families in the area, the need for groceries grows even more. Frozen foods and non-perishable items are a MUST in every home with multiple children.

Other food:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Bread
  • Snacks
  • Cereal
  • Fresh fruit
  • Fresh vegetables 
Toys/Games:
  • Activity books
  • Water toys
  • Swim diapers
  • Yard games
  • Etc.
We are distributing these items to foster families in our community on THIS THURSDAY, JULY 2 at 12pm so please drop off your donated items anytime on the below dates and times: Tuesday, 6/30 from 9am-5pm, Wednesday, 7/1 from 9am-5pm and Thursday, 7/2 from 9am-12pm.
 
If you cannot donate any of the items and would prefer to make a cash donation, please visit angelsarms.kindful.com.
 
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Ashley at ashley@angelsarms.org  or call (314) 842-8400.
Foster Family

A Family Affair

Cathy Miller, another one of our new house parents.

Anne Fisher, Tonja and Cathy Miller have all dedicated their lives to helping children and youth in foster care. The dynamic mother-daughter(s) duo of Tonja and Anne have been a staple in Angels’ Arms’ history and mission. Now, Cathy will be moving into Anne’s Angels’ Arms home as Anne transitions out of fostering children.

Cathy has been fostering children for two years, but started out as a license respite provider. She has been around the fostering community for 14 years – ever since her mom, Anne, started fostering. Cathy currently has three girls living in her home. Although not an “official” Angels’ Arms house parent until recently, Cathy and the foster children she takes care of have already been part of the Angels’ Arms family for several years.

“Ever since I met Miss Bess, she opened her arms up to me and accepted me as already part of this family,” says Cathy.

Cathy has been involved in Angels’ Arms events, shopped for supplies in our garage and attended multiple family activities. 

“Angels’ Arms is exactly as the titles states,” says Cathy. “They open their arms to anyone and everyone to offer support. It’s been the biggest blessing.”

We’re so lucky to have an entire family of dedicated foster parents in our organization.

The Miller family with foster and bio children.

Anne with her farewell canvas from Angels’ Arms

 

Anne spent seven years with Angels’ Arms from 2012-2020, but has been fostering children in need for about 15 years. During her time at Angels’ Arms, Anne took in 25 children who she loved and treated as her own. “I’m so blessed and thankful…,” says Anne. “Thank you Angels’ Arms.”

Tonja with her farewell canvas from Angels’ Arms

Tonja fostered 19 youth during her two years with Angels’ Arms. Many of the children she helped, were involved in our Life Launch program. Tonja, along with Angels’ Arms, helped provide tutoring resources for those who needed an extra help in class among a myriad of other forms of support.

Foster Family

Introducing the Hall Family

There has been a whirlwind of changes here at Angels’ Arms over the past few months – as our friend Olaf from Frozen would say, “all good things, all good things!” We are in the process of transitioning three of our homes for new families. During this season of change, we have gotten to know several amazing families who are doing such wonderful things to improve the lives of foster children. There are two new families we have selected that will be joining the Angels’ Arms family. Introducing our newest house parents:

Lawreene and Will Hall will be the newest parents living in one of our South County homes. The Hall’s have fostered for over six years and have five foster children with them currently, four of whom are siblings. They take elevated needs children and are in the process of completing their therapeutic classes.

“For us being welcomed into the Angels’ Arms family is such a blessing,” says Lawreene Hall. “The boys are so excited about the larger yard and the extra bedroom. We currently have two sets of siblings that will now be able to spread out some. The added support has already made such a huge difference in our lives.”
 

Hall children

Two Men and a Truck donated their time to help the Hall family move into their new home

Lawreene and Will Hall in their new home

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“We’re simply blessed to be part of this organization,” says Will.
 
When we say “it takes a village,” we truly mean it. Thank you so much to the following people and companies who have helped get this home ready for a new family:
  •  Greentree Community Church for helping our Maintenance Manager, Tom, stain the deck, paint, install flooring and everything in between
  • Tim Mitchell for also helping Tom install new flooring
  • Judy Kriete and Joe Robideau for painting the master bedroom and inside of the closets
  • Two Men and a Truck for donating their services to help move everything from one home to another
  • Marnie Clawson, Chris Madison and Linda Marino Adair for donating to our Wish Wednesday fundraiser on Facebook so the Hall’s can get an outdoor play set for their children to enjoy
  • Even some of the youth in our Life Launch program stepped up to help Tom move heavy furniture from one home to another
Stay tuned for next month’s blog post where we will introduce you to the other wonderful family that will be moving into an Angels’ Arms home in St. Louis City.
Foster Family

A Farewell to the Browns

Katie and Josh Brown have been an integral part of the Angels’ Arms family since 2011. They have treated every single child who has entered their home with love and compassion. The Browns are known for their love of the outdoors. During their time at Angels’ Arms, they have given children the opportunity to enjoy fun outdoor activities they normally would have never had.

“It’s so exciting to show kids who come to our home a whole world of experiences that they haven’t seen before,” says Katie. “Whether it’s going for a nature hike, running in their first 5k, or even just playing at a local

 park. One of my favorite memories was taking a young man on his first hike, he told me afterwards he had ‘no idea there was so much space out there to just walk around.’”

Below, we asked them a few questions about their time at Angels’ Arms:

  1. How long have you been with Angels’ Arms? How many years have you been fostering total?

We have been with Angels’ Arms for 9 years and fostering for 12 years total.

  1. What made you want to become a foster parent?

We both grew up understanding the need for kids to have a stable home due to our own life experiences.  It was, and still is, important to us to be a safe, stable support for kids in need.

  1. How many kids have you fostered through Angels’ Arms? 

We fostered around 50 different kids during our time with Angels’ Arms.  Kids as young as 2 weeks to young adults and just about every age in between!

  1. What has being a part of Angels’ Arms meant to you?

Being a part of Angels’ Arms, meant being a part of a family.  Without having many of our own family members close to us in St Louis, Angels’ Arms became like family and a strong support for us.  The love and generosity of the community not only helped the foster children we served but we also made some invaluable friendships along the way.

  1. What is your fondest memory of being with Angels’ Arms? 

We have so many special memories from our time at Angels’ Arms.  One of my first memories was when we took an infant girl shortly after moving into the Angels’ Arms home.  Within less than 24 hours of asking for clothes for the girl, we had an entire porch full of clothes for her!  We hadn’t felt that kind of love and support before with fostering!  Another fond memory we have were of the monthly family activities.  The volunteers who ran those activities had such a way of making each child feel special and appreciated!  We truly looked forward to each one because it brought such joy to the kids!  

  1. What’s next for you and your family?

We will miss being such an integral part of the Angels’ Arms family but with our 2 children growing up and needing more from us, we need to take a step back from taking the larger number of foster kids.  We will continue to serve children in the St. Louis area so keep an eye out, the Browns will still be around!  We want to thank each person who has been a part of our Angels’ Arms journey, you’ve made such a difference not just in our lives but in the lives of all the children we were able to foster with your support.  Thank you!

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”13″ display=”basic_thumbnail” thumbnail_crop=”0″]As their chapter with Angels’ Arms comes to a close, we will not forget how essential they have been to Angels’ Arms’ entire story. The following is a message from our Founder and Executive Director, Bess, about how the Brown family has impacted Angels’ Arms’ mission:

Many of you have been fortunate to get to know some pretty special foster parents who have lived in our home in Winghaven for 9 years. Josh and Katie Brown have been family to many children in need over the years. But these two individuals go way beyond what foster parents are expected to do.
 
While taking kids who’ve been physically abused, sexually molested and severely neglected, they make sure that each of these children receives every available resource out there. They ensure that each child is included in all aspects of family life. In short, they truly love each and every child and teen who walks through their door.
 
I recall Josh, who’s a pilot, taking the kids on a tour of a plane. 
I recall Katie visiting incarcerated biological parents on multiple occasions and trying to keep the lines of communication open with their children. 
I recall Josh and Katie visiting the homes of the biological families to try and make the transition back home from their foster home a bit smoother.
I recall them taking children to the emergency room at all hours of the night.
I recall them ensuring the children in their care ate healthy and became physically active. They even enrolled some of them in walks and marathons.
I recall them going to church every week and ensuring the kids felt comfortable in their classes.
I recall Katie being in the delivery room with one of their teens who came to them pregnant. She was a mom to this young girl and still remains a part of her life. 
I recall Josh teaching a teen how to drive and trying to guide him in the right direction through all of his challenges. They still are in touch to this day.
And finally, I recall the day when this beautiful family adopted Zeke, a young boy full of life and tons of potential. And I recall the day they adopted sweet Olivia, a caring and lovely little girl. 
 
Please join me in sending off Josh, Katie, Zeke and Olivia Brown as they transition into their next chapter of life. They will be sorely missed by all of us, but they will always continue to do God’s work. Their journey is rooted in faith, and that’s where they get their extreme dedication and strength.
Foster Family

Our Newest Angels’ Arms Family

We’ve spent many weeks preparing our Angels’ Arms home in Shaw Park for a new foster family. There were numerous volunteers who dedicated their time to painting, cleaning, organizing and assembling furniture for the Jewett family. Foster Mom, Brittnay, and the four children in her care are thrilled to have a new place to call home.

The move was made possible by our wonderful friends at Two Men and a Truck. In addition, dozens of supporters answered our call for help and donated beds, rugs, and toys to help furnish the bedrooms for the children. Special thanks to The Wallner Team for loaning us their moving truck so that we could pick up all the donations.

It has truly been a community effort and we are so grateful to everyone who lent a helping hand to make the Jewett family feel welcome and supported. It’s true when they say, “it takes a village”.

Foster Family

Furniture Drive for Angels’ Arms

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We are asking for your help in furnishing two of our homes. We are are in need of furniture and supplies for bedrooms, kitchens, family rooms and play spaces.
 
FURNITURE NEEDS:

Family Room
Living room chairs
Rugs
Shelves
Desk

Bedroom
Toddler beds
Mattresses
Rugs

Toys and other
Baby gates
Toy chest
Play kitchen
Water/sand table

If you have any of these items to donate, please email amber@angelsarms.org a list of your item(s), photos (if possible) and your location and we would be happy to schedule a pick-up.
 
We have a truck and volunteers ready to pick up on Thursday, June 6th.