By Lauren Hollon Sturdy
Kathy Hagler beamed with pride watching her 7-year-old foster daughter, Hannah*, on stage at the school production. Hannah wore a rainbow costume and sang her song and acted out the hand motions, just like the other kids.
“For most parents, that wouldn’t be such a big deal,” Hagler said. “But for my foster daughter, I really wasn’t sure she would be allowed to participate. She doesn’t like following directions and had been kicked out of rehearsal at least once. Seeing her do her part, do it correctly and fit right in with the other kids made me really proud.”
Hagler said God called her to become a foster parent. Never mind that she’s 52, has an adult son and preteen daughter through adoption, works full-time… and is doing it all as a single parent. When God spoke, she listened and obeyed – but that doesn’t mean it’s been easy.
Today, she’s foster parenting two elementary-aged girls with developmental delays and reactive attachment disorder, a condition marked by an inability to appropriately relate to others. They have to work on emotional and behavioral issues daily. Hagler said she clings to her faith to get her through and rejoices in the victories.
“We have seen so much change and progress with the girls who are placed with Kathy right now,” said Alejandra Ramos-Smith, caseworker for Buckner Children and Family Services in Midland.
Hannah used to be aggressive. She was constantly throwing tantrums and telling Hagler she hated her and wanted to go home. Her older sister, Camille*, was reserved, wouldn’t make eye contact and didn’t want others to come near her. At 7 and 8 when they were placed, they didn’t know how to eat with utensils and couldn’t bathe themselves.
“Now, Camille runs up to you, hugs you and is always talking,” Ramos-Smith said. “Hannah is able to be redirected, says ‘yes, ma’am’ and ‘no, ma’am,’ has learned manners, has even said to Kathy, ‘I love you. Thank you for what you’ve done for me.’
“These have been hard girls,” Ramos-Smith said. “The girls wouldn’t sleep, they had tantrums and nightmares. At the very beginning, Kathy would get up with them, rock them, hold them, sing them sweet songs and tell them God loves them. She’d do that with both girls. So the first couple of months, she was running on very little sleep. All of our foster parents are very good, but I think Kathy just goes above and beyond.”
Between her strong faith and a support network of friends, church members and child welfare staff, Hagler said they are making it through the tough moments.
There’s the couple that keeps Hagler’s children one weekend each month. “She was a single mom herself,” Hagler said. “If I don’t call for a month or two, she’ll call me, and she rearranges her schedule to help me out.”
There’s another woman who brings Hagler’s brood a three-course dinner each month, and a group from Stonegate Church that came over to take care of repair jobs around her house and replace the vanity in her bathroom.
Ramos-Smith and other Buckner caseworkers pitch in by taking the girls to dentist, doctor, optometrist, counseling and psychological appointments, and even coming over one night on a moment’s notice when Hagler’s dog had been attacked and needed to go to the emergency room.
“It’s amazing to watch the body of Christ come together and be the body of Christ and support me,” Hagler said. “I’m so blessed to be on the receiving end of it.”
It takes a team of people to make foster care successful, said Byron Smith, administrator at Buckner in Midland.
“I think about that old adage that says, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” Smith said. “Foster care is the village in action. I think it’s vital, but I don’t think it’s easy. You have to have a certain calling to help a child who is in crisis.”
“There are times when I wish that other people would understand how exhausting it is,” Hagler said. “A lot of people get it. At the end of the day, the kids are fed, they’re clothed, they’re in bed. And I know that God called me to do this. God placed these children in my home, and I’m just trusting in Him to work things out.”
*Children’s names have been changed to protect privacy
To learn more about ways you can be a family to a child, visit www.beafamily.org. Not called to foster or adopt? Click here for six practical ways you can help support a foster or adoptive family.
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