foster care Archives - OhioGuidestone

Supporting Children in Foster Care: Donor Q & A

Supporting Children in Foster Care: Donor Q&A. Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns Tight End and Founder of The Austin Hooper Foundation.

Why did you choose to support Foster Care?

I chose to support Foster Care through The Austin Hooper Foundation because when I came into the league in 2016, I wanted to make a difference. I realized that there weren’t that many things helping out foster kids, especially those aging out of the system, so I really wanted to make that a focus when I had the opportunity to do something positive.

What are you concerns for those children aging out of the Foster Care system?

It’s very important that my Foundation emphasizes those kids in the foster care system who are aging out of the system because, depending on the state, you aren’t given that many opportunities and essentially, once you turn a certain age, you aren’t given a lot of effective resources. I just wanted to try to effect kids’ lives in a positive way.

How did the partnership with OhioGuidestone come about?

The partnership with OhioGuidestone came about through a mutual friend when I first came to the city. I told people about my passion and I was immediately turned to OhioGuidestone. When I met the people that represented OhioGuidestone, it just made the perfect partnership. Unfortunately, due to COVID this past year, I wasn’t able to attend as many in-person events as I wanted to but I was still able to throw virtual watch parties for foster kids and their families. Hopefully with COVID restrictions loosening up, I can be in a more active role this year.

What is the ultimate goal of the Austin Hooper Foundation?

My dream goal with the Austin Hooper Foundation would be to become a more active role when COVID-19 restrictions loosen up. Second would be continuing my mission statement of helping these kids who are aging out of the system. I just really want to let them know that there is hope, there are resources with my foundation and I will do my best to
provide those for them.

What message do you have for kids in the foster care system?

What I’d like all of the kids in the system to know is there is hope. People believe in you, people are rooting for you and to keep your head up. I mean obviously that’s much easier said than done, but great things are possible and I’m just trying to help you guys along the way.

What are your thoughts on the upcoming Browns season?

I’m really excited for the upcoming Browns season. We’ve made some great moves in the off-season and we’ve got some talented players on the roster already. We’re feeling more comfortable as a team being in year two under the same system and the same regime so I feel like we’re our own worst enemy. As long as we keep our nose to the grindstone, keep working, I really think we could do something special here.

“I’ve Seen Miracles” — Finding Hope in the Foster Care Forest

“When we met her, she was a lifeless infant. Now she is the best version of herself.”

That’s how OhioGuidestone foster parent Theresa Howard describes little Tia. Theresa and her husband Jerome met Tia when she was just six weeks old, with her birth mother nowhere to be found.

Tia was in bad shape and had a very grim prognosis due to her birth mother using drugs while pregnant. Doctors prepared Theresa and Jerome for a losing fight. Tia faced an uphill battle, including multiple surgeries, no control of her bowels and possible paralysis.

“We held her that night in the hospital and knew we had to do something for this little girl,” said Theresa. “We told the social worker to schedule our training because Tia was coming home with us.”

Theresa worked as a Child Support Investigator for Lorain County and saw firsthand the need for more foster families. Her sister and brother-in-law were foster parents with OhioGuidestone, so Theresa knew it was an agency that offered support and resources to its foster families.

Theresa began taking in children with medical needs. It’s a difficult, yet very important role in the foster care system, according to OhioGuidestone’s Foster Care trainer and recruiter, Holly Spencer-Trueman. And help is available.

“These kids often have medical issues serious enough to need a parent with extra training specific to their unique needs,” said Holly. “They might have a chronic childhood illness like diabetes or cystic fibrosis. One of the great assets of our unique program is that we have a nurse on staff fully dedicated to our foster families. If you have a child with medical needs in your home you can count on a close working relationship with them.”

Not all OhioGuidestone foster homes cater to children with medical needs. Some homes accept children with treatment level needs. They require high levels of supervision, very likely have their own mental health diagnosis and may need medication. For parents, it requires patience, structure and consistency in parenting style.

Nikki Schiro always knew she wanted to foster kids, but it took her many years to make the life-changing leap. In fact, a conversation over coffee with another OhioGuidestone foster parent helped her realize the time was right.

“She shared with me how OhioGuidestone provides extra resources that help both the kids and the parents,” said Schiro. “We have a weekly support group with fellow foster care parents who have experiences with the challenges I am facing in my home.”

Nikki fosters kids with treatment level needs, and says her greatest reward is seeing how children’s views on their future can change and brighten. “A boy once said to me, ‘I can’t wait until 10th grade, so I can quit school”, recalled Schiro. “Two months later, he said he wanted to get a doctorate degree, study computer science and drive a Tesla.”

Theresa agrees, saying the thing that brings the biggest smile and warms her heart is seeing kids overcome obstacles and begin to thrive. “With medically fragile kids, we so often hear they will never walk, never eat orally, but I have seen some miracles,” recounted Theresa. “And if they are able to get back to their homes, seeing them shine is amazing.”

Tia’s story is following a similar path. She is now five years old and has been adopted by Theresa and Jerome. She has endured seven surgeries and had her foot amputated. She faces more medical procedures ahead, yet she isn’t slowing down.

“She is smart as a whip and has been wheeling herself around in her wheelchair since she was the age of two,” exclaimed Theresa. “She has beat every odd she faced and is a tiny, but mighty force.”

Answering the Call: Medically Fragile Foster Care

Written by Michelle McManus, OhioGuidestone Foster Parent

When I was in middle school, I was introduced to this seemingly private world of foster care when my parents took custody of my younger cousin for several years. When his case worker would come to our house, I would engage in conversations with her. She told me about other children, complete strangers, who needed homes. From those monthly talks, my passion for foster care first began and I committed to becoming a foster parent.

Eight years ago my husband and I sat through pre-service training to become foster parents. We had an almost 2 year old son at home and I was currently pregnant with our second biological child. We would often receive unsolicited advice and egregious questions regarding the safety and love of our biological children. It was as if bringing another child into our home would somehow negate our previously praised parenting skills – that we would be harming our permanent children or unable to effectively parent them by temporarily caring for other children. The stigma surrounding foster children and foster care in general is unsettling to say the least. It’s outright wrong and often fueled by those completely on the outside with no real life experiences. Nevertheless, we were determined to make a difference one child at a time.

A year after we became licensed foster parents, we moved counties and needed to find a new foster care agency to work with. At that time we were introduced to OhioGuidestone and the world of medically fragile foster care. My husband and I both have our degrees in accounting and we had limited medical knowledge. Yet again, once we heard about the need we were determined to fill that need. We were quickly immersed in feeding tubes, genetic syndromes, every type of therapy imaginable, hospital stays, surgeries, and more medications than we could count. Over the past 6 years we have cared for 12 foster children and we are currently caring for baby number 13.

Along the way our two biological children have learned to love children who don’t look like them – babies who rely on medical devices to eat and equipment to help them stand. Our children have woken up to new breakfast guests and immediately welcomed them by sharing their toys, sharing their parents, and sharing their rooms with these new siblings. Our biological children have not suffered due to our decision to become foster parents. Their eyes have been opened to the huge need and the world that exists outside their comfortable suburban home.

Now, as I sit in the emergency room for the second time in five days with a baby who I can’t call my own, I am quickly reminded why I decided to become a foster parent. My phone rings and the caller ID shows the placement coordinator. I learn about a 5 year old boy, in the same hospital I’m currently at, who needs a safe place to call home. His diagnoses are listed off to me and it breaks my heart to have to say no. I became a medically fragile foster parent to stand in the gap for children just like him, but you also have to know your limits. The days are long, the sleep is scarce, the advocating is fierce, but the need is great so I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.

3 News: Hooper Scoring On & Off The Field

Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper is in first year with the Browns, but he is already making a huge impact in the community. Now, he’s sharing why is partnering with OhioGuidestone to support foster kids.

Click with to watch the interview with Jay Crawford from 3 News.

News 5: Austin Hooper on Football & Giving Back

Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper joined Jon Doss from News 5 Cleveland for his “Hangin’ with Hoop” segment. During this edition, Austin discussed the partnership his foundation has with OhioGuidestone, to benefit our foster care program.

Click here to watch “Hangin’ with Hoop.”

92.3 The Fan: Hooper on Foster Care Initiative

OhioGuidestone’s Arian May joined Browns tight end Austin Hooper on the Bull and Fox show on 92.3 The Fan to discuss the Austin Hooper Foundation’s online auction benefiting our foster kids.

Click here to listen to the entire interview.

Medina Gazette: Hooper Scores Touchdown for Foster Families

   

Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper helped treat more than a dozen OhioGuidestone foster families to a drive-in Browns watch party this past weekend. It was an afternoon of fun, food, and football!

Click here to read a recap of the event from Bob Finnan at The Medina Gazette

Spencer-Trueman Honored for Foster Care Work

Congratulations to our own Foster Parent Recruiter/Trainer Supervisor Holly Spencer-Trueman for being honored by Adoption Network Cleveland as the 2020 Triad Advocate of the Year!

Click here to read more about Holly’s amazing contributions!

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