In pouring rain, I boarded the water ferry from downtown Seattle, to Bainbridge Island. Thirty minutes later, I was greeted by Brice, one of 18 For The Children Directors in the state of Washington.
Upon arrival, to greet me, he stood outside of his Chevy Suburban. Apologetically in tone, "I hope you don't mind. I have a little one that will be joining us today." In the back seat, I could hear the very soft coos of a baby.
Having never met him before, I asked Brice his background, his family, and his tenure as Director of Royal Family Kids Camp(RFK), one of For The Children's premier programs — a five day intervention camp for children in the foster care system. He explains that he has served as Director for six years. His wife, Lynn, is an executive with Boeing. They have four teenage boys.
I asked him about the baby in the backseat.
"Oh, we are fostering her. Her name is Tara."
I was not surprised. Though For The Children has hosted thousands of camps and yearlong mentoring programs for 30 years, "the work" undertaken by our 20,000 volunteers extends beyond these two transformative programs. Adoption, education, advocacy, supporting parents— this past summer, to provide care to children who had not been in school form on ths due to COVID-19, our chapter in Boise supplied care packages to every child in foster care in the state of Idaho.
And, of course, fostering.
Tara is 3 months old. Her mother gave birth to her in February but tested positive for an illegal substance. Brice and Lynn received a phone call a few days later. Tara will remain their foster daughter until the mother satisfies the state's sobriety requirements.
"So what prompted you to — with four children of your own, and a busy life — to become foster parents?" He answered, "When Lynn heard of the staggering number of homes needed to meet the local needs of these children, we began the process."
Brice added, "Lynn and I have a pretty simple motto: ‘If we can help, we should.'"
I've heard this exact sentiment from countless FTC volunteers: If we help, we should.
"Have you fostered other children?” I asked.
Since February 2020, Brice and Lynn have fostered 7 children — an 8-month-old girl, a one-year-old boy, a two-year-old boy, and an 8-year-old boy, and an 11-year-old boy.
Along with their four biological sons, they currently have two living in their home today — Tara and Steve (12).
My greatest honor as President and CEO of For The Children is visiting our chapters around the country, and world. I meet remarkable Directors, all volunteers. Each one devotes dozens, if not hundreds, of hours each year, caring for children who are victims of family induced trauma.
I can’t count how many chapters I've visited since I joined For The Children two years ago—at least a few dozen. During every visit, I listen to stories just like this — of sacrifice, of care, of love, of doing whatever it takes to bring physical, emotional, and spiritual care and safety to children who desperately need it.
Tara's mother is progressing. Visitations happen weekly. There will soon be a reunification. "It will be bitter sweet. You come to love these innocent children,” Brice explained.
With approximately 450,000 children living in the foster care system, complicated, given the effects of COVID-19, the needs are today are immense. Millions of children are not in school. Teachers are primary mandated reporters, who protect vulnerable children by reporting clear signs of abuse and neglect. Since the inception of Child Protective Services by the government in the 1960’s, this is the very first time such children have been kept from teachers.
Yet there are many solutions. Raising awareness, making a donation, and even fostering a child.
Like Lynn so aptly said, “If we can help, we should.”
You can help today by signing the For The Children Pledge to help raise awareness around the country, and world, of children in need.
***All names have been changed to protect the children