Foster Parent Testimonial

We received this heartwarming testimonial from Ms. Debra Bridges, one of Apelah’s longest-running foster parents. Ms. Bridges is the adoptive mother of 8-year-old Dominique Bridges, who came to Apelah at the age of three and was bedridden, had severe brain damage, and was unable to talk, walk, or speak due to shaken baby syndrome that occurred at age 2. We will share Dominique’s story very soon, but we wanted to showcase Ms. Bridges’ amazing testimony because it speaks so loudly and clearly about the love and dedication it takes to be an Apelah foster parent. We hope you enjoy Ms. Bridges’ touching words as much as we did!

My name is Debra Bridges. I have been an adoptive parent for 15 years. My passion to help others and provide guidance ignited the fire in me to open my heart and my home to children in foster care. I’m a respite provider with the Partners in Permanency (PIP) post-adoption program. I strongly believe that God placed children in my life so I could help them. I have two boys of my own, and am the adoptive parent of three others. I am so proud of myself and believe that, with God on my side, I will continue caring for and loving these precious children.

Why I foster...

Kerry Connors

Kerry Connors

Home. That’s really what we are talking about in foster parenting. A place to rest. A place of calm. Consistency. A place where you can know love. A place of safety and security.

Thinking about foster parenting is hard. It’s difficult to think about kids who are without these very basic things we take for granted. Why would you take on someone else’s problems? There are going to be all these things, all these appointments, all this everything.

But it’s not about any of that. It’s about real, actual children. This isn’t a hypothetical anymore. There are children, right here in our community who are in need. Their parents are not currently able or perhaps not even capable of taking care of them. Parents may need a hand to learn skills in parenting, managing their time, anger management, life skills like keeping a clean house, making sure there are groceries in the house, or managing their money. The foster care system provides the space and time for a parent to do the work they need to do, and a child to be cared for in a loving, supportive home.

Do you think “I’m sure there’s somewhere kids go in a situation like that?” Well guess what? There’s not. There’s no such thing as some nice big happy place where kids all get together in a big school type setting and have a wonderful caring older woman who lovingly tends to her charges. This is it, foster care is the system. Individuals, like you, are who make this work. Kids don’t need an institution, they need real people. An actual foster parent to open their home and their heart, to let them know that there are adults who will care. Who can provide. Who will be there. Who won’t let them go hungry. It’s you. You are the person who can fill in the piece missing in their hearts where they know that all these things are supposed to happen, but they haven’t experienced it yet. They know other kids who seem to have these things, but for some reason it hasn’t been true for them.

Hopefully, their parent or family member will receive the training and support that they need to be able and willing to parent. The goal is to keep families together. Your role as a foster is to help during this transitional time. To model appropriate behavior. Show the child that adults can be counted on. That you will make promises and keep them. Food will always be available. That education and working hard at school are of the highest priority and you will help them to pursue their best.

When you’ve done your job you’ve shared your heart. You have to give it freely, and you send a little piece of you away with your foster child when they return to their family. In the time they spend with you, you can create believers. Believers who know that they are safe, that they are loved, that home is a real concept. You can change something in a child who might have believed that they weren’t worth all the things they deserve, that maybe they were the reason things were unstable at home.

You can do this. It is scary to take the leap, but you won’t be alone. Your agency will be there to help. There will be appointments, but they are by providers who are part of your network of supporters who also want great things for your foster child. You may have extra meetings at school to set up accommodation for a child who might have fallen behind or need extra support. If you do this for them now, they can sustain these positive changes when they return home and will have an added safety net of professionals who care about them.

Be the one who notices and does what needs to be done. Make children believe in goodness. Build community. Be better and more than you thought you could be. The most simple things you provide are the things these children need to most. You can’t regret sharing your heart. You can make a home.

Markitta's Story - My Life: Transcendence through Foster Care

My name is Markitta Washington, and I'm a former ward of the state of Mississippi. I am currently majoring in the field of social work at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. In my eyes, I have made tremendous strides to become something more than just another statistic. I wanted to be more than that. I made it my mission to graduate high school and I will do the same for college. I did not want to use the excuse of being a "foster kid" to hinder my success. I didn’t use the fact that I was in foster care as a crutch. Instead, I used it as a stair step. I took advantage of each and everything that the foster care system gave me.

My placement in foster care was not an easy one. I did not show it on the outside, but on the inside I was battling with my emotions. I came from an abusive home and put all the blame on myself. I am the oldest of three children, and it was my job to take care of my younger brothers. My birth mother had hallucinations where she did not know where she was or who we were. This resulted in bruises and battered behinds. I was the shield for my siblings, and it broke my heart when I was separated from them during the process of being placed in state custody. I thought that if I didn't tell the authorities about the physical and sexual abuse, I would’ve still been able to protect them. But if I hadn’t notified the proper people about my situation, I would not be where I am today.

Foster care gave me a chance to discover myself. I did not have a chance to be a child in my mother's household. I was too busy taking care of my brothers to ever focus on myself. In foster care, I was given a chance to love myself and to think about me. I was surrounded by love in this new environment. From my foster parents to my social workers, I was spoiled with attention. I never had this kind of attention growing up. I blossomed under this special devotion, and I went from being shy and meek to being outgoing and bubbly. I am happy, and you can tell this by the glow on my skin. I have never had this much love envelope me. It was foreign to me at first, but I’ve gotten used to it.

When I was younger, I used to hear all kinds of horror stories about foster homes. Luckily, I was placed into a loving home, a home that dispelled all the rumors I had heard. I was treated like family. My foster parents welcomed me with open arms, and I thank God every single day to have been blessed with this wonderful family. I have been with my foster family for seven years, and I’ve joked with them that they haven’t kicked me out yet! Even after my emancipation from the state, my foster parents still hold me near and dear. Eight years ago I would have never dreamed of this outcome.

Eight years ago, when I entered the foster care system, I did not see a bright future for myself. Eight years ago, I also could not have seen myself graduating from high school or attending college. Eight years ago, I could not have envisioned myself as the young lady I am today. Because of foster care, I thank my lucky stars for the chance to restart my life for the better.