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Too hard to say goodbye to a foster child? One foster mom’s surprising answer

Date: 05/13/2016

Sheryl Carter and her family decided three years ago to open their home to Arkansas foster children. They live in Sebastian County, where there are more than three foster children for every available foster home bed.

She and her husband of 16 years, Craig, attended a meeting at their church held by The CALL, an organization that works with churches statewide to help the Arkansas Department of Human Services recruit foster parents.

They watched a video of a family service worker trying to find a foster home for a child. “She dialed number after number after number and could not find a home to take this child,” Sheryl said.

And with that, the Carters knew they had to become foster parents. Two weeks after opening their home in 2013, a family service worker called looking for a home for a 6-month-old baby girl.  

The little girl was with the Carters almost a year. She changed their lives..

“We went into this strictly to provide foster care, and we just fell in love with her,” Sheryl said. “I said to myself, ‘Can I really let her go?’” But the Carters had gotten to know the little girl’s biological family and had formed a very strong bond with them. “When it was time to say goodbye, we felt that being back with her family was where she needed to be.”  

Everyone in the Carter family, including Sheryl and Craig’s four daughters, cried the day the little girl returned home. It seemed like a test – could the Carter children stand the emotion of letting another child go who’d become part of the family?

“The kids all said, ‘We hope you get a call right after this to take another child.’”

Since that first child, the Carters have shared their home with about 20 foster children, with as many as four at a time. They currently are sharing their lives with two sisters, ages 18 months and 8 years old. 

People often tell Sheryl they could never foster because they could “never say goodbye.”

“I almost take that as an insult. It’s not easy for me to say goodbye, either. It’s both happy and it’s sad and it’s hard for us every time. We cry every time a child leaves. Saying that is like saying, ‘I would love you too much, so I can’t take care of you at all,’ which doesn’t make sense.”   

Currently there are over 4,900 children in the Arkansas foster care system. Want to help them by becoming a foster parent? Go to www.fosterarkansas.org and click on “inquire.”

Arkansas Department
of Human Services
(501) 682-1001

TTY: 1-800-285-1131 or dial 711 for Arkansas Relay Service

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