FEATURED STORY

In Their Words...

Many Bobcats have opened their homes to foster in-need children in our community; read their stories.

BY TY DEMARTINO ’90

Profile asked a few FSU alumni to share their personal stories of the challenges and rewards of being a foster parent. Many of these experiences have led to adoption, welcoming the child into a forever home.

Jason VanSickle ’98 and Kym Newmann

VanSickle family

What year did you become a foster parent: 2017

How many children have you fostered to date:
One long-term and several short-term and respite care.

Why I foster:
We knew we wanted a second child and had always discussed the possibility of fostering and possibly adopting. After completing the training, we had a few kids in need of emergency placement and a few for respite care. About four months into the program, Madi (our daughter) was placed with us. It was one of the best experiences of our lives. Madi was with us for a little over a year and then we were able to finalize adoption in July of 2019. It was a very special day for our family. Every moment with foster children has been memorable. Every child is different with a different need and personality. It is very rewarding watching them play in the park, go to the family farm or just relax and not worry about all that is going on around them. Each child holds a special memory for our family.

(Editor’s Note: Jason is the president of the FSU Alumni Association.)


Caitlin Blough ’15

Jessica and Caitlin

What year did you become a foster parent: 2018

How many children have you fostered to date:
22 (short-term, long-term and respite)

Why I foster:
My husband was killed in a work accident in 2017. We had planned on having children but hadn’t been able to before he passed away. I had a big empty house and all this love with no one to give it to. My best friend has been a foster parent for over 10 years, so I followed in her footsteps to become a foster parent. My second foster child, Jessica, came to live with me at the age of 15. I was told she got into quite a bit of trouble for a teenager and that I would have problems. I was told I was “in for it” and that if I wouldn’t keep her, she would go to a group home. She moved in with me on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, and never left. My now 18-year-old adopted daughter is about to graduate high school. This “problem child” is the best thing to ever happen to me. She is the most kindhearted, loving person I have ever met. Jessica may have had a rough childhood, but if you met her now, you would never know it. She is a smart and beautiful young woman. She is my best friend. If not for fostering, I would have never met her.


Robin Summerfield ’90 and Paula “PJ” Davis Summerfield

Summerfield Family

What year did you become a foster parent: 2017

How many children have you fostered to date:
One and respite care to others

Why I foster:
While I was working as a social worker with foster children, we became aware of the great need for families to foster/adopt children and decided that when our biological children reached their teens, we would consider adopting. We have also been inspired by PJ's parents, who have been foster care providers for many children. One of the greatest blessings of fostering and working with foster children has been the opportunity to introduce them to new experiences and activities – from things as simple as a hike in a state park to visiting museums and attending major sporting events.


Angela Forbeck ’03 and Travis Forbeck

Forbecks

What year did you become a foster parent: 2014

How many children have you fostered to date:
Six placements and numerous respite cases.

Why I foster:
Helping is a very basic instinct for me. I always knew I wanted to foster and care for children who were not my own since I was very young. Being a child of the 1980 and ’90s, I remember hearing a lot about refugee families fleeing war zones, and I wanted to be someone out there helping them. I even begged my parents to take in a refugee family and foster children during most of my childhood. As a young adult, I noticed the need was much closer to my doorstep than Cambodia. The need is all around us. I volunteered as a Big Sister for about five years, and then I decided to take a big leap forward and become a Resource Parent for Allegany County. Often children come into my home far behind in academics. One child struggled with first-grade spelling words. It became evident that he did not even know what sound his letters made. We had a lot of problems with the word “the” being pronounced as “va.” One night we were practicing our “th” sounds and this light bulb clicked in this child's head. The child looked right at me and said, “Oh, THE!” and then proceeded to pronounce every word perfectly that had caused so much crying for weeks. Once the reading began, it didn't stop. Every time I walked by and saw a tiny head going through books, my heart would leap.


Deborah ’12/M’16 and William Devlin ’76/M’79

Devlin familyPhoto by Roger Vogel

What year did you become a foster parent: 2019

How many children have you fostered to date:
Just one (and we adopted him)

Why I foster:

We became foster parents because we wanted to make a positive difference in the life of a child. There are about 400,000 youth in foster care in the U.S. These are kids who, through no fault of their own, lacked even basic needs like safety or food when they came into care. They are resilient, adaptable and just really need to be loved by people who want the best for them. We knew we could provide that. We wanted to be foster parents as a means to being just the right parents for a child who needed us. We found our son nine months after we were certified. A teen, he was our first and only placement, and it was love at first sight. This is our path through the foster care system. We have a family that's just big enough and a lifetime of love to give one amazing child. He's the apple of our eye. He told us, as we were nearing adoption day, that when he grows up, he wants to have one kid of his own and one adopted, because “if everybody adopted just one, there wouldn't be any kids without a home.” He's so right!

The most memorable experience, by far, was the day at the Allegany County Courthouse when our foster son officially became our son. He has three older siblings who were adopted by two other nearby families. They all joined us for the occasion. In fact, we make sure that he gets lots of time with them, so we often have a house full of teenagers. It was a festive day, with all his siblings and our families present. His new grandparents, aunt and uncles beamed with pride. We even hired a photographer to capture it all. Afterwards, we, his sibs, grandparents, uncle and dogpiled into two cars and drove to Canaan Valley for a week of togetherness and memory building.

(Editor's Note: Deborah and William Devlin were named 2020 Allegany County Department of Social Services Adoptive Parents of the Year.)


Kara Lankford ’03 and Albert Lankford

Lankford family

What year did you become a foster parent: 2018

How many children have you fostered to date:
One

Why I foster:

Albert and I are not formal foster parents through the Department of Social Services. We wanted to and have intentions of finishing the training in the near future. Our decision to foster was to share our home and family love with children that might need a bit of extra attention during a difficult period of their lives. We started to take classes but found out the training didn't fit with our work schedule. My friend then introduced us to hosting through Open Hearts and Homes for Orphans. Hosting is like a reverse mission trip. A family brings an orphan from Ukraine or Latvia during the winter or summer to learn about family life and God. The training was only one day but required some intensive background checks. We prayed and felt the nudge to jump in feet first. This really lined up with our family dynamics and beliefs.

At Christmas 2018, we hosted our son for the first time, thinking we would be advocating for his forever family. Honestly, we never thought we would adopt internationally. God had very different plans for our family. That four-week hosting was ground-shaking and life-changing for all of us. When our son got back on the plane in January, we knew we had to ask about the possibility of adoption. We continued to host him in the summer and winter of 2019. When he left in January of 2020, we thought we would be spending summer in the Ukraine. Unfortunately, COVID closures rocked our world. Fortunately, we had a village of people cheering us along. On Jan. 7, 2021, we flew home from Ukraine becoming #LankfordPartyof4. We learned so much from this process, including patience, peace and an unending love that parents endure for their children, whether they are born to them or someone else. Our lives have forever been changed and enriched by just saying “yes” to sharing our hearts with another human.


Dan Lindner ’02/M’04 and Heather Marconi Lindner M’10

VanSickle family Photo by Terrie Hall

What year did you become a foster parent:
2019

How many children have you fostered to date:
One

Why I foster:
We want to provide children with a safe and loving environment. We hope to make a difference in the lives of children that are in our home. We want to build positive family relationships for children that are in our care. Positive and memorable experiences for us are the family connections that we have built. We enjoy spending time with our foster child's family at birthday celebrations, farm visits, indoor playgrounds, holiday celebrations, as well as virtual visits and phone calls.