By Lauren Hollon Sturdy
Joran Rose had every reason not to trust.
Removed from a negligent and abusive mother’s care at age 4, he was in and out of foster homes. Some were nice. Others were a nightmare. When he was 12 years old, his mother regained custody of Joran and his younger brother. They were homeless and often went hungry. School was Joran’s escape, but his mother’s violence continued to escalate and her parental rights were terminated after she nearly killed his younger brother.
He entered foster care again, and in 2005, with eight homes behind him, Joran found himself in the home of Buckner foster parent Rosemary Ferlauto of Richardson, Texas.
Rosemary is the mother of four grown children and grandmother of six. She has a background in social services, having worked at Trinity Ministry to the Poor, Family Gateway and, until her retirement in 2005, as a program manager for the Richardson Workforce Center. Her days were filled with helping others. But something was missing.
“I missed the noise of family,” she said. “I wanted somebody to cook for. In 2000, I decided to start fostering because I had a four bedroom house and wanted to fill it.”
“When Cynthia Blake [foster care case manager for Buckner Children and Family Services] called to tell me about Joran, she said it was just a temporary placement,” Rosemary said. “She said to expect him to stay for a week or two. He really wanted to be with an African-American family and needed somewhere to stay while they looked for a more permanent home.”
But when Blake called a week later to say she had found an African-American family for Joran, he told her, “That’s OK. I’ll stay here.”
He liked living with Rosemary. She talked to him like an adult, asked him what he would like to do and gave him freedom to make decisions about how and where to spend his time. She believed strongly in choosing her battles, even if it meant letting a child dye his hair neon green, like Joran did around his eighteenth birthday.
But the one area where Rosemary doesn’t give her foster children any leeway is academics.
“I never told him he couldn’t do anything,” she said. “My rule was that he could join any activity or club as long as he kept his grades up.”
Their biggest fights happened when Joran would test the limits of this rule and the limits of his own endurance. Rosemary listed Joran’s collection of extracurricular activities at J.J. Pearce High School and in the community like a proud, albeit exasperated, mother.
“His senior year of high school, he was the editor-in-chief of the yearbook, which took up an enormous amount of time. He had an internship at Raytheon that he went to four days a week for 20 hours a week. He was in a spirit group, which meant he was at every football game in the fall, and he was working at Circuit City for 20 hours a week, working until 11:00 or 11:30 at night.
“And then he decides, ‘I think I want to be an actor and join the school play.’ I just lost it at that point,” she joked.
His senior year was hard on them both. For Rosemary, it meant shuttling Joran all over the place for his meetings and commitments. For Joran, it meant exhaustion from trying to do too much.
“She would often come wake me up in the morning with my face in a book and my Circuit City clothes still on from the night before,” he said.
They survived, and he left to start college at the University of Texas in Austin in the fall of 2007, but that didn’t mean he was out of Rosemary’s life.
He came home to stay with her during breaks and vacations. They also stayed connected through Facebook, e-mail and over the phone, discussing everything from politics to Joran’s social life. Rosemary said she’s his sounding board, and he often brings issues to her for perspective.
When he walked across the stage this May to receive his B.B.A. in Management Information Systems and his B.S. in Public Relations, Rosemary was there, supporting her child.
“I cried!” Rosemary said. “His graduation was overwhelming for me. Joran had worked so hard and had been through so very much in both his personal and public life.”
Joran never took her support for granted.
“I would say that I felt she was like a mother in the ways that she was invested in my personal, spiritual and professional growth,” Joran said. “Just as caring mother would, she wanted to make sure that I had success in all of those areas and that I took advantage of opportunities that would further my success in those areas.”
With so many successes behind him, Joran looks forward to the next big challenge. He plans to build a career in management consulting and get his M.B.A., too.
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