May is National Foster Care Month, a time to acknowledge and celebrate all those involved in helping children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections.
Over the last four years, the Haynes family of Beauregard has worked with the Lee County Department of Human Resources to provide foster care for more than a dozen children.
“We just felt like this is what God wanted us to do,” Brandy Haynes said.
Foster parents provide temporary safe and caring homes, as well as stability and consistency for children who are in foster care. Children are placed in foster care when they are abused, neglected or cannot safely be cared for in their own home.
In 2020, the Lee County Department of Human Resources provided foster care for 143 children. Of those, 18 were adopted by their foster parents.
The Haynes received their fostering license in 2017, the same year they began fostering two biological siblings, Alex and Maria.
Haynes had a feeling Alex and Maria would one day be hers as soon as she saw them.
She and her husband, Jason, adopted the duo in November 2019.
“I know it sounds corny, but I just knew,” Haynes said. “We all clicked, and they felt like home.”
Haynes stressed that you don’t have to be “perfect” to be a foster parent.
If you’re unsure about something or just need a shoulder to cry on, members of the foster parent community are always there to help.
“It’s always scary taking the first step, always. But it’s worth it,” Haynes said. “These children need us.”
Before families can foster or adopt children, they must first complete a 10-week class that covers many areas critical to fostering, said Lisa Kelley, director of the Lee County Department of Human Resources.
The class, “Trauma Informed Partnering for Safety” also helps families determine whether fostering or adopting children is right for them.
“Each person who becomes a licensed foster/adoptive parent has an assigned resource worker who guides them through the licensure process and provides support as they care for children in their home,” Kelley said. “We want our foster parents to know they are not in this journey alone. We are here to provide support through the process.”
Kelley said some foster parents are afraid to become too attached to their foster children because they worry they’ll be heartbroken if a child returns to his or her birth family. However, most find the experience to be extremely rewarding and will often open their home to more foster children.
The Haynes know that feeling of attachment all too well. One child they fostered, Noah, remains close to them to this day.
The Haynes fostered Noah from January 2019 to May 2020 while his mom, Erin Tyra, was in rehab for a drug and alcohol addiction.
“It was an absolute blessing,” said Tyra of Phenix City. “I can never repay them for it.”
Noah went home just before Mother’s Day. While the Haynes were happy mother and son were reunited, they also were sad because Noah wasn’t living with them anymore.
“We all still think about him all the time,” Haynes said. “Your heart grows. It’s such a hard thing to describe — it really is — because you never know how you’re going to react emotionally until you’re there in that part of it.”
Noah enjoyed spending time with the Haynes because they have children who are around his age. In addition to Alex and Maria, Brandy and Jason have four biological sons, Alex, Chris, Ethan and Benji.
“I had somebody to hang out with 24/7,” said Noah, 14. “I liked it a lot over there.”
Haynes said her children are understanding and supportive of their mission, but sometimes miss having alone time with mom and dad.
Haynes said it’s important for foster parents to do little things with their children, like go on a short drive to the store to get a soda, to make sure they’re still connecting.
“I think this is one of the greatest ministries that we’ve been able to teach our children because it has shown them compassion,” Haynes said. “It’s shown them, ‘Hey, this is what we are supposed to do for other people.’”
Tyra said the Haynes will forever be a part of her and her son’s lives.
“I love them wholeheartedly,” Tyra said.
To find out more about fostering or adopting children in Lee County call 334-737-7778.