George and his wife Sherry have been getting ready for the Easter weekend visit of their sons. There has been shopping for small gifts that the young men can take back to college and extra cooking. This is no ordinary Easter. This year Easter falls on the anniversary of the first foster youth the couple welcomed into their home. This year is also a new anniversary – the first time that all three of their foster “sons” will be home together.
“I feel so blessed,” said Sherry. “My girls, who both now have families of their own, are my heart and soul. I never would have imagined that I could find additional fulfillment in raising three foster sons after the girls left home.”
Nine years ago, George was at the community center and found himself watching teens play a pick-up basketball game. Having coached a little league team many years before, he was particularly interested in the dynamics between the boys and the sometimes anger or disrespect that was directed to teammates. Although this wasn’t a formal team, George was taken aback by some of the attitudes and lack of self-awareness.
Over the next several weeks, George returned to the community center, slowly inserting himself in the basketball games as coach, teacher and mentor. His interactions with the boys found him in a position of wanting to do more.
After attending an informational meeting at Bellefaire JCB and hearing about the ongoing need for foster homes in Cuyahoga County, the couple decided to go through the process to become licensed foster parents. “It seemed a bit overwhelming at first,” remembers Sherry. “Especially during the section on trauma-focused parental training. George and I would wonder what were we getting ourselves into.”
“I remember when we received the call about our first placement,” George recalls. “J.T. was 8 years old. He lived with his mother when he was placed in county custody, was often truant in school, and had aggressive behaviors.” George was convinced that if he could make an impact on the boys at the community center, he certainly could make headway with J.T.
The couple agreed to bring J.T. into their home. Initially, there were many challenges. J.T. didn’t trust his foster parents, hadn’t been accountable to anyone, and was used to doing things on his own. With the help of their case manager and the additional support provided by Bellefaire JCB, George and Sherry slowly gained the trust of J.T. He was assigned chores, held accountable for his actions, and expected to attend school daily. Over time, J.T. began to respect his foster parents and the house rules. He was learning what it meant to be in a loving home and part of a community.
Sherry will always cherish the first time she felt a real connection with her foster son. It was that emotional moment when she knew the power that being a foster parent can have on an at-risk youth. Over the next several years, Sherry and George were called upon to open their home to other young men; calls that they happily accepted.
When J.T. and his two foster brothers come home for Easter this year, the home will be overflowing with love, pride and a sense of accomplishment. Not only from George and Sherry, but from these strong, wonderful young adults as well.