By Chelsea Quackenbush
BEAUMONT - Fifteen years of foster parenting paid off with a Region V Foster Parents of the Year award for Monica and Ivory Garrett, but that’s not why they do it.
For the Garretts, it’s a calling God placed on their hearts more than a decade ago.
“God mandates us to take care of our offerings, of our children,” Monica said. “God put me in my place and I just give my life away. It’s how I find my joy.”
Monica and Ivory were honored on April 16 at the Region V Foster and Adoptive Parent Conference. They currently parent nine children between ages five and 14 in a foster group home on the Beaumont Buckner Children’s Village campus. They also raised a combined five biological children, who are grown and out of the house.
“She understands what her role is, and knows how to work with the kids and figure them out,” said Samela Macon, program director of Buckner Child and Family Services of Beaumont. “She handles herself as a professional parent to provide a therapeutic environment but she’s still a mother to them.”
Monica Garrett started her journey in foster care as lead staff in a Buckner group home in 1997. Ivory soon joined her as they realized God’s calling for their lives. Their home was licensed for foster care in 1999, and for the next 10 years, they worked with about 25 children.
In 2009, they opened a group home for children with therapeutic needs. Since then, they’ve worked with 18 children, many of whom have had specialized needs, including significant development delays.
The Garretts take on “tough” kids, those who other people might shy away from, like their 14-year-old twin boys with autism. They take on the challenge because the kids are worth it. They are rarely willing to consider failure, Macon said.
The Garretts don’t let the challenge of having a lot of kids get in the way of having a normal life. They encourage each child to be themselves and provide ways for the kids to pursue their own interests.
Nontraditional but still a family
The clan of 11 does everything as a family. They cheer on their foster brothers and sisters at their baseball games. They go to the grocery store, to the mall and to school together. They go on fishing trips, road trips to Ivory’s country house, and even a trip to Disney World.
Ivory said he had to get used to dealing with so many kids at one time, but now he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I say I’m going to take a break and go fishing, but guess who’s coming with me?” he said.
“Everyone!” he and Monica answer in unison.
“You truly have to be equipped to be a foster parent,” Monica said. “God has to equip you. I always say that even if I had a billion dollars, I’d still be a foster parent for the rest of my life.”
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