The choice to become a foster parent does not come easily, but for Lebanon foster parent’s Cynthia and Jerry Ashe, they wouldn’t trade it for the world.
About four years ago, the Ashes made the decision to open their home to foster children with the help of Youth Villages. The nonprofit organization partners with the Department of Children’s Services to reunite families.
“When people are getting in to foster care, they think there’s something huge they have to do for these kids. You don’t. You just have to be there and spend time with them. A normal family situation is all they want every day,” said Cynthia Ashe.
During their first year as foster parents, the Ashes had one 13-year-old girl who lived with them. She was since reunited with her family and still likes to spend time with her former foster parents from time to time.
“We went and had dinner with their family and went to church with them and stuff, and we still would. It is hard to part ways, but when you work with the biological family and the child, you get to know them, and you all become a family more than a separate unit,” Jerry Ashe said.
Now, the Ashes foster three siblings, 12, 6 and 4 years old. Those children have been with them for about two years. Youth Villages foster parent recruiter Jessica Volk said it’s difficult to know how long children will stay with foster parents.
“It’s really not up to the youth or the foster family to determine how long a placement will be going in. It depends on the permanency plan and the biological parents. There are too many variables so it’s hard to say. We want the first placement to be their last placement, because the more we move them around and move them away from their teachers and their peers and their resources, the further we’re delaying them developmentally and things like that. They just need somewhere they can get comfortable and everybody can get back on track and everybody can meet their next goals,” Volk said.
With no biological children of their own, fostering was something Cynthia and Jerry Ashe had wanted to do for a long time, but weren’t sure if it was right for them. They said Youth Villages offered the support system they needed to feel comfortable and capable of becoming foster parents.
“I chose Youth Villages because of their mission and what they do, and also to have the support that they give us in home is very valuable. I would say that support, especially starting out, is very important to have that support for any foster parent,” Cynthia Ashe said.
Each family is assigned a councilor who comes regularly to the home, and foster parents are able to work with them and the children.
“We have foster parent training, path classes the foster parents take to become certified. There is a huge need, specifically in Wilson County for foster families,” Volk said. “They are coming from pretty tough places, and we do need consistent places we can put them in to help them heal and grow and get to their next stage in life whether that be getting better grades or getting a driver’s license or whatever until we see permanency for them.
We have a partnership with DCS, and there’s a lot of people involved in the children’s lives until we find permanency for them. It takes some pretty spectacular people to be foster parents, so we are grateful for them. “
To find out more about Youth Villages, visit youthvillages.org.