Foster families enjoy Christmas party

Thursday, December 4, 2003

More than 100 foster and adopted children, parents, and their biological children spent time reuniting with friends, eating pizza and bowling at a Christmas party held Saturday at Jackson Bowling Lanes.

Having a Christmas party is a tradition for the 32nd Judicial Circuit of the Missouri Children's Division which serves Bollinger, Perry and Cape Girardeau counties.

"It's a fun day when they can just be kids," said Lynne Cairns, circuit manager. In her 18 years at the division she's seen a lot of changes, but the Christmas party has been a constant.

Cairns, who has seen the increase of drug, alcohol, poverty, incarceration and mental health issues as the catalyst for the need of foster homes, called foster parents "jewels of the world."

Marilyn Brewer, a career foster parent, brought her foster children to the party. When she paused to think about the number of children she and her husband, Porter, have fostered in seven years, the tally came to about 30.

Brewer, who came from a family of 13, said she'd received encouragement to become a foster parent from a co-worker at a day care.

"I've always loved kids. While we were growing up there was always kids around. My siblings' friends even came to stay with us as needed while they were attending college," she said.

So when her only child, Sam, was 23, Brewer decided to sign up for foster parenting classes.

"There were two little boys we had for 21 months, ages 7 and 8, who I got attached to because of the amount of time we had them. But they got adopted. We got to see them in July so that makes it better," Brewer said. "I feel I've accomplished something when my kids say I'm fair or that they feel loved."

Brittany Lee, 16, has been in foster care since she became a teenager.

"It always starts out rough in an unfamiliar situation," she said. "You're afraid to open up and trust the people you're staying with."

But her foster parents have always made her feel comfortable, she said.

Lee, a junior at Central High School, will graduate ahead of her class because of her commitment to extra work and good grades. She misses her mother, a methamphetamine addict, but she also feels she has an advantage in knowing about the dangers of addiction and has planned a life of learning for herself. She intends to graduate from college with a master's degree in computer technology while participating in the ROTC program.

Of the 123 children in foster care in the three-county area, there are only 63 licensed foster homes.

For more information on how to become a foster parent, call Linda Hodges at 290-5357.

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