Meet Kelly and Stacy Grizzle.
With the support of their three teenagers, the family decided to open up their hearts and home to a tween boy in the foster system.
For the Grizzles, it's a family affair.
“We all five, I think, tag team when we need to," explained Stacy Grizzle. "You know, just being able to realize when somebody needs a break or, you know, when somebody else's, when someone's better with homework, but someone else's better with bedtime or whatever."
May marks Foster Care Awareness Month. What many may not know is the ultimate goal of foster care is to reunite children with their biological family if the situation is safe and appropriate.
“Foster care is not a replacement for parents. It's a substitute to help parents when they are at a point where they just need some additional help from the community while they, you know, take care of personal needs and become better parents for their children," explained Michele Freeman, program manager for the Heart Gallery and Partnerships for Children.
As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. But with foster care comes misconceptions and misunderstandings.
“I think a lot of times there's a... I guess a stigma or a negativity that's addressed towards kinship or bio parents that have, are in really difficult situations and they've lost contact with their children because of some choices. But foster care is such a safe opportunity for kids to be cared for while their parents work to become better and get them back," said Meghan Holder, board member of Foster Village Waco.
“Certainly something that people say is, ‘Oh, I don't think I could do that. Like, I think I'd get too attached,’ and I started just answering back, ‘Well, then you'd probably be great at foster care, because if you're not getting attached, you're probably not doing it right,'" said Stacy.
The Grizzles can attest that foster care is not always easy.
“I think a lot of times you just think oh my gosh, we're going to be able to provide a safe, comfortable place and tons of love and great experiences, and you know, how can that not just fix all the wounds? You know, just boom, and it's not, it's not that easy," said Stacy. “Instead of thinking of it as you're bringing a child into your home, you're actually bringing your family to a child and meeting them where they're at.”
Despite those tough times, there are moments that make it worth it.
“We had a big meltdown about something, and we were sitting on the stairs talking, and I have on my stairway it's 1 Corinthians 13, and it's all about love. And at the end in different print, it says, ‘Love never fails.’ And our foster child said, you know, with tears, he said, ‘Is that true? Love never fails?’ And I said, ‘That's true, buddy, love never fails,'" Stacy recalled. "And there were hugs. And that was just a moment when I thought like, wow, what a mess. But if that's all that we can give this child, it's just love and unconditional love, then we're doing something right."
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, as of last month, 206 foster children were placed in McLennan County, while 409 children were placed in Bell County.
You can make an impact on those children with the smallest acts of kindness.
“There are so many ways to help foster families and help foster kids. So I really feel like everybody can do something," said Stacy. "So even if you can just become certified to babysit or provide respite care for a weekend for a family, or just even find, find foster families in your community and ask if they need anything, you know, take them a meal.”
“Our youngest donor is 9-years-old, and she is donating $2 of her allowance every month to Foster Village. Everyone can donate and it's so appreciated," said Holder.
Foster Village Waco is working to build a resource house to better help local foster kids.
“We've been launched since 2018, September of 2018, and we've been operating and doing a good job serving our families out of three storage units at Ideal Storage, who've been super accommodating, and we're so appreciative of the family that owns Ideal Storage, but we don't want to operate out of a storage unit forever," explained Amanda Moore, executive director of Foster Village Waco. “We want to make sure to provide a dignified experience, as much as we can, for the children that are in foster care in McLennan County. So it is not dignified for them to come to a storage unit to pick out their clothes, but we want to create a situation where they feel dignified and they feel safe.”
As for the Heart Gallery, their goal is to find forever families for local foster children who are waiting for adoption.
“For the children who are placed in the Heart Gallery, you know, our goal is ultimately to help them find a family before they turn 18, and we do that with community awareness events with Forever Families filmings and just community education about these kids," Freeman explained. “Often people are interested in adopting babies, and so the point of the Heart Gallery is to just make people aware that there are young children and sibling groups that are also amazing children that need homes.”
As for Kelly and Stacy, they say their commitment to foster care comes down to their faith.
“I totally get it, right? Because these kids are helpless..." Kelly Grizzle explained.
"And innocent and the victim," Stacy chimed in.
"And they've been put in situations that are awful for any kid to be in. But, you know, Stacy and I both really believe in forgiveness and second chances and that people can change, and that's really the hope because these kids, they don't, they wouldn't want to be with an adoptive family or with a foster family. They want to be with their parents," Kelly continued.
“We believe that's kind of the way God designed it. God designed a family, you know, as something that sticks together and, and especially should be kept together if possible," Stacy concluded.
To donate to Foster Village Waco, click here.
To donate to the Heart Gallery, click here.
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