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I’ve heard it said that if you can change one person’s life, you have changed the world. Carl and Mary Brown have taken their call to change lives very seriously. The couple have been foster parents for 44 years, opening up their homes to more than 200 children.

“It is incredible to see a child bloom and blossom,” said Carl Brown. “If children have what they need, they can become what they want.”

The Brown’s experience as foster parents led them to create Heartfelt Calling, an organization that works with the state to recruit and train people in foster parenting.

South Carolina needs more foster parents. According to Courtney Winn, a recruiter for SCMentor, an organization that finds placement for children with medical needs, the number of children in foster care has grown by one-third since 2012, but the number of available homes has decreased over the same time period. Across the state, 1,700 children need a place to call home and a family to love. The Upstate has the greatest need. In the Upstate alone, 600 homes are needed.

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While there are cases in which a foster child is adopted by a foster family, the goal of fostering is not always adoption. Placement is sometimes needed for a few weeks or months and sometimes for just a weekend or a day. Foster parents can choose whether they would like to be available as a long-term home or just want to open their homes for short-term emergency placement or respite care.

“The goal of fostering is reunification of the family,” said Karla Littleton, director of marketing and program development for Heartfelt Calling.

“You can make a difference, whether you have a child for just a day or two or for months,” said Littleton.

While reunification is the goal, according to Littleton, the idea of reunification is also the thing that scares prospective foster parents.

“They are concerned that it will be sad to watch a child leave,” she said.

For Brown, the experience has been sad at times, but he said that he would rather feel sad himself than see a child sad and hurting.

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, the most important requirement is a willing heart and patience through the process.

“It generally takes about 120 days for approval,” said Littleton.

During the process, you will receive training and be screened for suitability.

“You have to have a heartfelt calling,” said Brown.

For Brown, the experience of fostering enriched his entire family. Brown has three biological children and six adopted children.

“The process taught our biological children to live unselfishly,” he said. “We take so many things for granted. It really taught the kids what it means to open their hearts to others.”

At the age of 79, Brown continues to foster, currently caring for a 4-year-old boy.

“Children don't know how old you are, how big your house is or what car you drive,” Brown said. “Yesterday, Dalton looked at me and said, ‘I love you, Pop, Pop.’ The most important thing you can give to a child is yourself and your time.”

The legacy he has created will continue. The Brown’s oldest daughter was so impacted by her childhood experiences that she has chosen to be a foster parent herself.

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent or simply need more information, go to www.heartfeltcalling.org or www.sc-mentor.com.

 

3 Ways You Can Help Foster Children

If you are unable to be a foster parent, there are other ways to help children in need.

• Support a foster parent financially.

“Many people know families in their church or community who are foster parents,” said Littleton. “Give money for the family to go to McDonalds or Carowinds. Help them buy Christmas presents or school supplies. The stipend families receive doesn't cover all the care that children need, particularly for older children. Things are much more expensive as kids get older.”

• Give to PS I Love You Ministries in Spartanburg. At times, a foster child leaves their home with only the clothes on his or her back. P.S. I Love You provides a care bag for foster children that includes three outfits, a pair of pajamas, a pair of socks and shoes, underwear, a jacket, a toy or stuffed animal, two books, a Bible and a blanket. They also have a clothing closet available for children to receive clothing on a quarterly basis. You can give financially, or donate items for the bags or closet. For more information go to www.psiloveyouministries.com.

• Volunteer or donate to Grace Church Foster and Adopt Resource Center. Grace Church offers a clothing and supply closet for adoptive children. Volunteers are needed to sort supplies and distribute items to families who come to shop. For more information go to www.gracechurchsc.org.

 

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