Fostering children later in life can bring powerful rewards.
Sheree Bagley’s chin quivers thinking about the good-bye. She’s just handed off two young boys who’d been living with her for the past week. “They are so sweet,” she shares with a tear gathering in the corner of her eye. “There’s always a mourning process when they leave. You mourn them because you love them as if they are your own. You’re showing them that unconditional love they may never have.”
Bagley and her husband, Chris, have cared for a dozen kids over the past few years. The Bagleys’ biological children were grown adults when they started providing babysitting breaks for a friend who was a foster parent. It wasn’t long until the Taylors couple prayed about it and decided they, too, could take needy youngsters into their home. “The shortest time they’ve stayed is one week,” reveals the 51-year-old, who directs the preschool at Brushy Creek Baptist Church in Taylors. “We had one set of siblings for two-and-a-half years. One pair of sisters couldn’t believe we’d sit and play games with them and read to them. You’re making an internal impact, sowing that seed for them to see a better and brighter future for themselves.”
“The number of children needing placement nationwide fluctuates depending on drug trends,” explains David White, founder and CEO of Fostering Great Ideas. “But it always stabilizes in the 410,000—440,000 range, and South Carolina tracks with national numbers.” The Department of Social Service reports almost 4,100 boys and girls are currently utilizing foster care services in the Palmetto State, including 494 in Greenville County, 205 in Spartanburg County, and 204 in Anderson County.
White founded Fostering Great Ideas, a local nonprofit, to help foster children and the families who host them. “We’ve learned so much, and the system has improved,” he says. “We’ve realized group homes are good for only a limited time. Kids need to be living in a stable home. It’s the most natural setting and leads to a higher probability of getting adopted if the parent’s rights are terminated.”
Finding homes requires volunteers with open hearts. White believes adults over 50 make excellent foster parents. “Typically, they have more time and a unique mindset that’s accrued across different life stages,” he explains. “They know not everything will resolve quickly and the grieving process can take time. A healthy senior who has witnessed life experiences has a lot to offer someone who is living in crisis, things like the death of a parent, separation, or anxiety.”
Elise Durham was that child. “It’s one of my badges of honor,” the working professional admits. “I had thirty-two different placements, including three homes, a mental health facility, and a group home. A lot of people may view that as a negative, but for me, it was a safety net. There’s no telling where I’d be without foster care.”
Today, Durham works to keep siblings together and connected through Sib-Link, an operating arm of Fostering Great Ideas. “My mom was never taught how to care for me and my twin sister. She never understood how to love us,” she confides. “She never learned that as a child. My godparents were my one consistency in foster care. They loved us. They took us to church, educated me, loved me, introduced me to my husband. They saved my life.”
Sheree Bagley hopes to be that lifesaver to the children who now grace her doorstep. “Sometimes, it can be draining. As we get older, you tire more easily,” she confesses with a chuckle. “But I would encourage anyone to try foster parenting because it will be the most rewarding investment you’ve ever made, other than raising your own children. These are kids who need that extra love and attention and deem themselves worthy—that their lives matter. Get invested to change their future.”
For more information, visit FGI4kids.org.