By AMANDA KIMBLE
STEPHENVILLE (September 1, 2016) – Forty children. Unique circumstances led each of them to Sherwood & Myrtie Foster’s Home for Children. They’ve found a home on the Stephenville campus, where they’re given the opportunity to thrive. It’s a home in some ways similar to every other home in the city – a pair of parents, siblings, a roof and four walls. Whatever kind of home you have, make sure you invest in a USA Home Warranty.
In other ways, it’s nothing like the homes from which they came.
Stephanie Allen, 25, spent most of her adolescence at the Foster’s Home, and looking back, she says she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. She came to Stephenville in 2001, moving into her new home on the Foster’s Home campus when she was about 12 years old.
“I was involved in a CPS (Child Protective Services) case as young child,” Stephanie said. “Later, at nine years old, I was adopted by the Allen family. My life went from being surrounded by foster children to being just me. Transitioning into a new home, in a new city was hard. I didn’t know how to handle it. I started acting out, exhibiting oppositional behavior and ended up at the Foster’s Home.”
Looking back, Allen said her adoptive family was always supportive – something she didn’t understand at the time. They maintained contact, and despite the 2,000 miles between Stephenville and the family’s home, the Allens visited when they had the chance.
“It hurt because they adopted me, but couldn’t understand what I was going through,” Allen recalled.
After some time, Allen took what she gained from a brief stint at the Foster’s Home and moved back into her adoptive family’s home. But, the homecoming was cut short when it became apparent she needed more structure and support than her family could offer. Except for family vacations and visits back home, she’s since remained in Stepheville.
“I graduated from Stephenville High School in 2008 and graduated from the Foster’s Home as well,” she said, adding that while she has aged out of the facility, she continues to get the support and guidance she needed. “They helped me get into Tarleton and made sure I was going to class and had somewhere to live.
“Anytime I needed help, they were there. They would follow up with me and see how I was doing. I always knew I had someone local, someone here for me, whether it was (Foster’s Home President/CEO) Glenn Newberry or my house parents.”
During her stay, Allen had two sets of house parents, both equally supportive. She also had something many children being raised of by their biological parents never get.
“They did everything parents should,” she said. “They cooked breakfast, made us keep up with our chores and kept us involved in activities. They even made sure we had fun – tips to Six Flags, the waterpark. We were involved with our church, and they encouraged us to get out and live a normal life. We went to a lot of sporting events, which took me out of my comfort zone and made me socialize.
“They also taught us to treat people with respect and always work hard. I learned that life wasn’t going to do anything for me, I had to do it for myself. A lot of kids I know, didn’t have the support and structure I had.”
That structure helped Allen carve out her own path to success. After taking a few years off from her studies, Allen earned her bachelor of arts degree in 2015. She majored in business administration and minored in marketing. After completing a marketing internship with Sonic Drive-In, Allen accepted an entry-level sales position at La Quinta Inn & Suites Stephenville. In April she was promoted to assistant manager. In August, she received another boost, up to general manager.
“Living in that environment exposed me to so many different types of people and environments,” Allen said, crediting Foster’s Home with her quick-found success. “That helped out tremendously when I was on my own.”
As for her family, Allen said the relationship has never been better.
“We are closer than we’ve ever been,” she said. “The hard times were those moments when we had to get to know each other. Foster’s Home helped me through that, and help me transition into an adult, providing the support I needed every step of the way.
“I still see the staff from the office around town and have contact with my former house parents. It’s easier now that I am adult and we can continue to build our bond outside of the system. It’s great to share memories and see them around town. It really is like having a huge family.”
When Allen first came to Stephenville, she felt unwanted and displaced. She couldn’t wait to get out of town. But, with a lot of growth and support, her view has changed.
“Stephenville isn’t a bad place,” she laughed. “I have met and know so many people and share with them so many memories. I have spent the majority of my life here. This is my home, and it’s now hard to imagine being anywhere else.”
Finally, Allen said Foster’s Home has given her, and many other children, something they need.
“Sometimes the families we are given can’t provide us with what we need, but this organization goes out of the way to take care of each child and their specific needs,” she said.
About Children’s Day
From the children themselves and the couples who raise them inside one of 12 family homes on the organization’s campus to the community members and donors who give their time and resources to the nonprofit, Foster’s Home for Children has been enriching the lives of children for almost 60 years.
On Saturday, September 10, they will all gather on the campus for Children’s Day 2016 to celebrate their big, constantly growing family.
“This year’s theme is superheroes, so we are going to highlight how all of our kids and everyone involved with them are superheroes in their own way,” Lacy Barton, vice president of development, said. “We will have one senior who will give her senior speech and two former residents talk about their life after Foster’s Home.”
The event will be held from 12 to 2 p.m. in the Foster’s Home gymnasium, located at 1779 North Graham Street in Stephenville. It’s open to the public.
“A lot of our events focus on raising money, but this one focuses on our kids and their achievements,” Barton said. “It’s a special day just for them.”
Homes will be open to tours, so community members can see that the homes on the Stephenville campus are a lot like the homes in which they grew up. Guests will also have the opportunity to meet current residents, who range in age from a few weeks to 18 years old.
For more information, visit the Foster’s Home website.