FEATURED STORY

Bobcats Who Foster

BY SHANNON GRIBBLE ’98,
DIRECTOR OF ALUMNI AND DONOR RELATIONS

When I became a foster parent six years ago this spring, I quickly discovered how many Frostburg State University alums are involved in the foster care system. There are so many foster parents and social workers in the Frostburg area who are working behind the scenes to help children with challenging backgrounds (and I was only dealing with a few of these special people; I know there are so many across the state and the nation). These alumni and their colleagues are changing the lives of in-need children. We usually don't talk about these issues. I didn't learn about them until I started down that road. I was blind to it.

Sam, Shannon and Jacob Gribble

For me, my journey started when I decided it was time to focus on something other than my job and look toward my goal of becoming a mom. I was 40 years old, single and knew it wasn't going to happen without fostering or adopting a child. I thought about private and international adoption, but those options weren't for me because of their time and expense. Then I saw a Facebook post about the need for foster parents from my friend Brian Miller ’98, who works at the Allegany County Department of Social Services. I contacted him and said, "I want to do this, but I work full-time, and I'm single." Brian told me that Social Services didn't care about that. They need people who love kids and can provide a stable, loving environment. That was all I needed to hear, because this was a calling for me. I was finally going to be able to adopt a child and be a mom.

Since every potential adoptive child in the state of Maryland has to be in your home for six months, I participated in the foster care parent training program. I didn't have my certificate yet when DSS told me about Samantha, an 8-year-old little girl who had some challenges and had been in three failed foster care placements. I told them, "If she comes home with me – no matter what the challenges are – I'm not giving her back."

For me, it wasn't about trying it on to see how it fits. It was about making it fit. And with Sam, there were (and still are) challenges. She has visited therapists and needs help in our education system. I've had to advocate for her. I've had to have discussions with an 8-year-old that no one should have with a child, no matter what their age. But I was determined that we were going to find ways, together, to make sure this wouldn't fail. I've told her, "No matter what you do, you're not going back."

We cried a lot. We still do. We're probably going to be crying together forever, but I come from a strong family and have the support of great friends who get us through it – even though advice from “traditional” parents sometimes doesn't work with foster children. I had to forget what the child handbooks say about meltdowns. When a foster child has a meltdown, it looks very different and comes from a different place. When I was in the system, I joined a foster care support group where we could share our stories.

Then Jacob came to live with us in October of 2017. He was 3 years old when I adopted him. He is a biological relative to Sam and now completes us as a family.

To anyone who is thinking about fostering, my advice would be – don't be afraid. Don't believe the negative things you hear about it, even though some of them are true. You can definitely do this, and the payoff is so much more than you can imagine.

Sam Gribble

We've asked a few Bobcats from the Western Maryland area to share their stories of why they foster, with many placements turning into adoption and forever homes, like mine. We know this is only a small sample of our alumni who have opened their homes. But it's no surprise that Frostburg graduates are foster and adoptive parents. FSU alumni have really big hearts and often think about putting others first. They're a special breed of people who really want to make a difference in the world in everything they do. Thank you.

(Editor's Note: Shannon and Sam were selected as the Allegany County Department of Social Services Adoptive Family of the Year in 2016.)