by T. LaShaun Wallace, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
Foster parent and adoptive mom Sabrina Powe is poised and ready for a Mother’s Day she never will forget.
Powe, a Memphis accountant, will celebrate this coming Mother’s Day with two new additions to her family of three, with one of those additions being Isaac, who was her first foster child four years ago.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Powe about her adoption of Isaac. “I’m grateful for it. Isaac always had a special place in my heart and even when he left (the first time), I knew it wasn’t time for him to leave.”
Powe’s story of fostering and adopting is one of many highlighted during the month of May, which is National Foster Care Month.
The backstory of Powe’s journey to adopting Isaac is a typical one for those familiar with foster care. Powe brought Isaac home from the hospital in 2014 but four months into his stay with her, he was placed back with his biological family.
While Powe accepted the decision, she never stopped thinking about Isaac. She continued to raise her four-year-old son Brenden and began fostering another child, Jasmine, who also stole her heart. She was able to adopt Jasmine in 2016 and continued to foster with no plans to adopt again.
But then a difficult foster care placement left her discouraged and she considered closing her home. Powe talked to her mom who had one question for her. “I will never forget this. I was driving past Shelby Farms and I was talking to my mom about closing my home. She said, ‘What if they call you about Isaac?’” That question led Powe to keep her home open for foster placements a little while, just long enough for her to see an email seeking placement for a large sibling group.
“I saw that email and I saw Isaac’s birth mom on the list. I said, ’That’s my Isaac.’ I immediately picked up the phone and called the caseworker and said, ‘That’s my baby Isaac.’”
The caseworker asked if Powe would be willing to take in a sibling of Isaac’s as well. “I said yes because I wanted Isaac. He never left my mind and I said, ‘God, I know you didn’t give him back to me for me to give him to anybody else.’”
In May 2018, Isaac — along with his sister Chloe — was reunited with Powe, who was now the mother of two. And in April of this year, the two siblings officially became members of the Powe family.
According to the Tennessee Department of Children Services’ 2017-2018 annual report, there are 14,921 children in foster care in Tennessee. In Shelby County alone, there were 1,678 children in foster care — the second highest in the state — creating a tremendous need for more foster parents.
“The most pressing need is for foster parents of African-American males,” said Debra Kirkwood, manager of foster care at Goodwill Homes Community Services. The agency is one of seven contracted by the Tennessee DCS to train foster parents in Shelby County. “Due to negative media attention about African-American males in our current society, it makes it difficult to recruit foster parents for this population.”
In Tennessee, prospective foster parents can be single or married but they must be at least 21 years of age, be able to meet their own financial needs and must participate in a seven-week training program called PATH — Parents As Tender Healers.
Powe understands that it’s hard to recruit individuals to do what she’s done. “I get it. But if you have a heart for kids, you can do this. If I made it about the agency or the state, I wouldn’t have made it,” she said. “It’s a broken system so it has to be about the kids.”
Kirkwood believes that even if someone can’t foster, there is still a way to help the kids. “People can become involved by donating diapers, formula, clothing and school supplies to assist agencies and foster parents,” Kirkwood said. “They can also volunteer to sit with children who are sick in the hospital or children who just entered care or even become a mentor.”
While Powe has decided that she wants to take a break from fostering for the time being, she knows she will stay involved in foster care.
“I feel at peace. I feel like we are complete,” said Powe. “The journey to adoption is over but I still want to be a part of it somehow.”
May is National Foster Care Month and Shelby County Department of Children’s Services is hosting the following events for foster families:
- Foster Adoptive Families and Friends of Memphis Meeting, Church of Christ at White Station, May 9, 6 p.m.
- Parents Night Out, Golden Gate Cathedral Church, May 10, 6-9 p.m.
- Shelby County Families Rock, Memphis Rox May 30, 6-8 p.m.
- Super Saturday Training, Eagle Heights Community Church, June 8, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
(Contact Michael Nason at [email protected] for more information on these events.)
In need of more foster parents for Shelby County, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services is hosting these informational meetings:
- June 15: Houston Levee Community Center, 10 a.m. – noon
- July 1: Christ United Methodist Church, 6-9 p.m.
- Aug. 3: Hickory Hill Community Center, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
- Sept. 3: Methodist North Hospital, 6-8 p.m.
Call 844.728.4486 to register. Individuals can also call 877.DCS.KIDS or visit https://www.tn.gov/dcs/program-areas/fca/foster-care/become-a-fp.html for general information about foster care.