Foster Care Awareness Month

Bolingbrook resident Charlene Hicks began fostering kids 23 years ago when she adopted two boys. After they left home as adults, Hicks wanted to return to foster care. Since 2004, she’s given more than 20 kids a place to call home and then some.

“I just wanted to give back to somebody that needed,” said Hicks. “I feel these kids need my love, my care and everything I can offer them to help them succeed through life.”

Hicks’ two teenagers currently under her care are among the 185 total kids and teens in foster homes right now thanks to the agency Our Children’s Homestead. But staff say they’re still constantly having to turn kids away.

“That’s one big thing that for foster care awareness month that we try to recruit new people are willing to open up their hearts and their homes for some of our foster kids,” said Kirstin Samp, Vice President of Marketing and Development for Our Children’s Homestead.

More than 16,000 children and teens have become fostered in Illinois alone over the last year, along with thousands of others across the country. While that’s down from 50,000 15 years ago, many kids in the area are still awaiting a place to call home.

Many children enter foster care because of abuse from parents or drug-addicted parents, or behavioral problems the family couldn’t handle. Our Children’s Homestead works with the toughest of these cases and provides therapists, mentors, caseworkers, and foster parent training all to give kids a fair chance at life.

“I think with our kids it’s really important that they understand that where here to support them and they’re just like any other child just with a couple other issues that can be fixed,” said Samp.

As for hicks, she’s taken in many kids who haven’t worked in other homes.

“It’s just a challenge cause all of them is different, trying to raise them and see a different lifestyle than where they came from,” she said. “So far it’s done good. I’ve been very successful with a lot of them that came through here.

“She’s unwavering with her love and her support and she believes in these kids,” said Samp. “She’s willing to work with them and the situations that come into her home with them and she listens to them and she treats them like they are her children.”

When Hicks sees a change in her children and they grow to be independent adults, it’s a bittersweet moment.

“It’s sad when they leave but when they leave and they succeed out there it makes me happy,” she said.

To be a foster parent you do have to be licensed through the state of Illinois, about a couple-month process. For more information visit www.ourchildrenshomestead.org.

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