Monday, June 2, 2008

Parents honored for service

Parents honored for service

By John Lowman
The Facts
Published June 2, 2008
LAKE JACKSON — Rose Acuna wants to make Southeast Texas a better place, one child at a time.

The Angleton resident, 47, and her husband, Wenceslao, 52, have been taking in foster children for about four years. They currently have two — 7-year-old and 14-month-old girls — plus five children of their own ranging from 18 to 30 years old.

Rose Acuna’s own youth was troubled, coming from a home broken by divorce that she said was “dysfunctional to say the least.” Foster-parenting children is a way to keep others from basing their lives on something that doesn’t work, she said.

“I didn’t want to see other kids go through that,” she said. “We wanted to give them a little bit of normalcy and routine. When you’re in a miserable situation, you portray misery and tend to do that for your kids and that’s bad. We’re trying to break the cycle they’re in and give them a little bit of what normal life is.”

Acuna was among a half-dozen foster mothers honored this week at Dillard’s in Brazos Mall in celebration of Foster Parent Month. Caregivers received gift baskets with items from Dillard’s, Johnny Carino’s, El Toro, Ryan’s, Chili’s, Dido’s, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Valero, Mario’s Hair Salon, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, The Grape Taste, Sears and Samuel’s Jewelry.

Dillard’s is happy to help honor foster parents, Lake Jackson store manager Mary Kay Gutknecht said.

“It’s amazing people have the ability to do this,” Gutknecht said before presenting the gift baskets. “Kudos to everyone who does.”

Brazoria County Child Protective Services staff member Fannie Williams helped arrange for the thank-you baskets.

“We tried to come up with a way to do something just for them,” Williams said. “This gets the whole community involved.”

Family service officials are always looking for such involvement, especially from foster parents, Child Protective Services spokeswoman Gwen Carter said. Child-care professionals appreciate all current parents and there’s a need for others in the county. Anyone wishing to become a foster parent is encouraged to contact the service, Carter said.

Parents must meet some requirements to be considered, including age, financial stability and background checks, Carter said. Thanking those foster parents who qualify for all they do is the least those in the business of child welfare can do, she said.

“They answered the call of ‘Why not me?’ by taking the time to meet the requirements of becoming a licensed foster parent,” Carter said. “There is no gift or words which can thank these foster parents for their love and dedication to abused and neglected children in the community.”

Tanya Nichols of Freeport currently has two foster children and has hosted 27 over the past several years. Foster children create a deeper level of communication to family relationships since they usually bring with them another culture or set of circumstances, Nichols said.

“I enjoy taking care of kids,” she said. “If I don’t have any in the house, I feel lost. We teach them, but they teach us a lot. But when I have them, they’re mine. They just become part of your family.”

Lillie White of Freeport doesn’t currently have foster children in her home but is ready for more.

“I love children,” White said. “This is just something I really enjoy.”

Acuna and her husband have had 40 foster children over the years, ranging from babies to teenagers with babies. They’ve decided to stick with children 6 and younger as a personal preference, but letting go at any age is never easy, she said.

“We go through training, but it doesn’t train you how to feel when it’s time for them to go,” she said. “We’re told when you get a foster child, it’s a temporary situation. We know that, but it doesn’t dry up your tears.”

But the joy of having the children, for however long, always is worth the worry of their leaving — especially when a child is reunited with parents who might have lost their way for a little while, Acuna said.

Such faith is at the center of foster parenting, she said. Acuna and her husband attend Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Angleton and try to provide that structure for “their” children — while youths are in the home, and hopefully for their future.

“It teaches us to be compassionate and humble,” Acuna said. “We’re taught to be good stewards and we have to act in that manner. Faith is the foundation of the relationship, and of the home.”

John Lowman covers Brazoria County for The Facts. Contact him at (979) 849-8581.

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FOSTER A CHILD

• Must be at least 21 years of age, financially stable mature adult

• Complete an application

• Share information regarding background and lifestyle

• Provide relative and non-

relative references

• Show proof of marriage and/or divorce

• Agree to a home study which includes visits with all household members

• Allow staff to complete a criminal history background check and an abuse/neglect check on all adults in the household

• Attend free training

For information, call Gwen Carter at (713) 394-4010 or visit dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Protection/services.asp