BALTIMORE — As we close on the end of May, one of the groups we'd like to celebrate and turn attention to is foster care.
Through organizations like Concern4Kids and The Arc Baltimore, people are able to see just how incredible the impact of foster care can have on a child.
Children who are placed in foster care are often placed there when they're unable to be with their birth parents for some reason. The primary purpose is to create a safe and stable environment for the child to grow up in. An environment that creates a community feel.
For Sherry Jones and her husband Donald, that began 12 years ago when they talked about wanting to start a family. Foster care was the best option for them and at first, it didn't work out. Sherry says that there was probably a lot that they needed to learn at that point, But when they got David? That's when that missing puzzle piece fit right in.
As David grew into his teenage years, the Jones' decided to take in another child — Andre.
"When we got David, David was eight, so we could still manage him a little bit, but when we got Andre, he was already 14. So Andre already had personality. He already had what he thought was his structure. He already had some things going on ," Sherry explained.
Even though they're brothers and the Jones's tried to raise them as brothers to look out for each other, the boys are totally opposites in personality.
"They both have their own world, but they're both very, very sweet boys and they just really needed someone to take care of them and just to nurture them and to show them a path in life," she said.
That's exactly the importance of the foster care system itself, to support these children, no matter what age, no matter what background.
"I just think it's so important for folks to know that through no fault of their own, a lot of these kids come into care and honestly they have the hardest job adjusting to every new household in the new rules and new people, a new way of doing things," said Carrie Knebel of Concern4Kids. "But if you have an interest and want to help a kid and watch them succeed, it's really important to open your home up because these kids need that stabilization. They need familiarity and they need unconditional love."
Sherry is a licensed foster care parent, which means she has training to deal with children and people with disabilities, mental illness and trauma.
"I contacted the Arc of Baltimore and they have a program that's set up and there's certain requirements that you have to meet to become licensed," she explained. "They walk you through the process, they really help you, and they're very, a very supportive group."
Formed in 1949, The Arc Baltimore has made it it's mission to support people with developmental disabilities to lead fulfilling lives with a sense of belonging, purpose and meaningful relationships. They have a number of programs, services and initiatives to help support the community, including treatment foster care, which is what Sherry is licensed for.
Their Treatment Foster Care Program provides individualized, intentional, trauma-informed clinical services for children and families in the community, facilitating healthy development, lasting relationships, and lifelong success.
"We truly believe it takes a village to raise a child," said Kym-Kisha Nixon with The Arc Baltimore. Nixon says she believes this is in-part, the importance of getting involved with foster care, whether it may be becoming a foster care parent yourself or getting involved with a nonprofit.
"The younger generation is the next generation that will go on to create this United States to create the country. If we're not supporting them and their growth and development, then we're losing out as a society now," Nixon said.
"There's a child out there that's at a disadvantage and the disadvantage is they were born in a life that they didn't have the proper tools to live. So our job is to assist that child with a good, decent life, which they deserve," said Sherry. "Whatever happened in the family's life or in the parent's life, life happens, we can't change it. People make decisions for whatever reason it is, but that child didn't have, couldn't make a decision."
"If you have the ability to make a change in a child's life, God gives us these things to share and why not share it with someone who can't make a decision for themselves?" she continued.
Even through the current times of the pandemic, both of the Jones' boys will be graduating, David graduating on the honor roll. Fun fact for him? He's been on the honor roll since he joined their family!
If their story sparked an interest in foster care for you, you can find more information at The Arc Baltimore, Concern4Kids and the Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth (MARFY).