This week I had the amazing opportunity to talk with Christi Sowell of the Fostering Collective in Smith County. I had so many questions about the needs in our community, what it was like to be a foster parent, and how we can support those who are selflessly taking in foster children to be a part of their family during times of need.
We talked for a while about her heart for supporting foster families here in East Texas and for adoption. She shared her heart and story and I KNEW that you, our sweet readers, would want to hear from her too!
She graciously granted us this interview so we could have our questions answered. In this interview you are about to read you will find out just how many children are currently in need in our community vs. how many foster families there are (I was SHOCKED at the answer) and how we can be a part of making a positive impact in our community for these children.
Brittany Jones: Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell them what is the Fostering Collective is?
Christi Sowell: My name is Christi Sowell and I am the proud mother to five amazing children, one son and four daughters. Six and a half years ago my husband and I adopted a sibling group of four girls through foster care. I must say it was by far one of the most eye opening, heart breaking, rewarding, blessings we have experienced.
As we walked the journey, our eyes were open to the crises our children were exposed to and the urgency to do more. I knew I was called to do more, but not necessarily bring more children into our home. I have spend the last six years ministering and loving on families as they walk the journey of fostering and adopting.
I am now the Program director for The Fostering Collective. We exist to recruit and shepherd Christ centered families to help children in foster care. Not everyone is called to be foster parents, but there is something everyone can do in a supportive role, from meeting tangible needs to babysitting.
BJ: What are the current needs right now for our local Smith County foster children?
CS: Currently in Smith County, we are responsible for 251 children in foster care, and have 140 foster homes. We desperately need more families to foster these children in our community. Of those 251, 29 are free for adoption, as their parental rights have been terminated.
What if I told you there was a way to end sex trafficking, empty our prison systems, decrease homelessness and cut back teen pregnancies by addressing one thing? Would you be all in???
80% of death row inmates were in foster care, 74% of prison inmates were once in foster care, 50% of those who age out of the system are incarcerated, 88% of trafficked teens were once in foster care, 1 in 5 become homeless after aging out and 50% of girls in care are pregnant by the age of 19.
We HAVE to do something.
Providing loving homes for these children, even if it’s just for a season, can significantly change the course of their lives and impact our community.
BJ: What are some assumptions people have about the foster system that are incorrect?
CS: One of the biggest problems and greatest blessings of Fostering is that we become too attached. They are placed into our homes and we connect, attach and love them dearly. We don’t want them to leave our homes, however, the ultimate goal of fostering is for reunification, going back to those very parents that put them in harm.
As foster parents, we have to love them with all our hearts and then let them go when and if it’s time. Should reunification not happen, we must consider them becoming forever a part of our families. It’s a roller coaster of emotions inundated with grief and loss.
Another assumption is that all kids from foster care are bad kids. They have just had some bad experiences that don’t define or limit them. If they do act out, it’s typically because they are trying to tell you something and just need connection. They just want for someone to care for them.
We also hear that working with the state and caseworkers are horrible. Some of the most amazing and fearless people I have gotten to know are caseworkers who have the very best interest of these children and their families at heart, they just have a lot to work through.
The whole system working together is a balancing act and roller coaster ride.
BJ: What are the biggest joys you have from being a foster mom and a from being a part of the Fostering Collective?
CS: One of the biggest joys we have experienced is seeing our girls begin to heal from the trauma they were exposed to. They start to trust and gain confidence, self worth and value.
We have spent the last two years building a community of foster, adoptive and kinship families, and relatives who have taken in children in care. Connecting with other families and specifically other mothers standing in the gap has been so rewarding.
I’m so thankful we can do life together, meet tangible needs, cry on each other’s shoulders, pray for each other, and share tools to help each other through the hard times.
BJ: For our readers that read this and want to help out, what can they do? What’s the next step they can take?
CS: Our website is a great tool to help find your fit in foster care. If you are feeling called to foster or adopt, we have a frequently asked questions page. We would also love to meet with you and answer any questions you have.
We have The Collective Closet, which is a resource for families as they receive placements, to meet immediate needs. You can donate items to the closet or your time to serve at the closet.
One of the biggest ways you can support families is by babysitting, which requires training.
We also have opportunities to serve at events we host.
Another vital role you can take is by providing financially so we are able to continue to have resources available to our families.
You can call (903) 253-9144, email [email protected] or visit our website at thefosteringcollective.org. Go like us on Facebook, The Fostering Collective, and watch for great opportunities to connect.