Gates family increases to six
By By LYDIA GRIMES – Features Writer
The month of May is recognized as National Foster Parents Month and May 27 foster parents in Escambia County were honored at a dinner at David's Catfish House. Among those receiving awards were Rick and Michelle Gates who won an award for going from having no children to having four children.
The Gates moved to Brewton in 2002 when Rick became the Music Minister for First Baptist Church of Brewton. They did not wait very long before getting involved with the foster parent program.
Michelle Gates has been involved in the children and youth ministry for the past 14 years.
The foster parent program in Escambia County is always on the lookout for people who will be foster parents. There is a shortage of those wishing to devote their time and energy temporarily looking after children who are under the watchful eye of the Department of Human Resources. There is a special need for foster parents for older children or inter-racial children. The Gates were willing to help in both categories.
It isn't difficult to become a foster parent, but it does require commitment and some training. Prospects have to go through a ten week training period and have a background check done on them, much like adoptive parents would go through.
The Gates contacted Family Finders which put them together with the DHR. They applied to be foster parents and started the training process. During that time they were also having the background checks, learning first aid and CPR and filling out a lot of paperwork. DHR needs good prospects, but they also have to very careful as to who they let become parents. Even though the children are in the care of foster parents, they are also under the care of the department.
When the Gates were five weeks along in their training, they got their first opportunity to be foster parents. A young girl, age 12, needed to be placed. Michelle and Rick Gates opened their home and their hearts to the little girl and she became the first of the children to live with them. Since that time, three other children have come into their home, a two year old, a four year old and a little girl that is now five months old. The baby was only a few days old when she came to live with them. She and the oldest child are foster children and will remain so, but the two newest arrivals are siblings who are destined to become the adopted children of Rick and Michelle. The two are adoptable, which some foster children are not.
Michelle says that one of the biggest problems of going from no children to four children in such a short period of time is finding time to get everything done.
She has learned what every parent knows; that when children enter the home, everything else has to wait. The children and their needs come first.
Michelle Gates was born in San Marcos, Texas and grew up there. She graduated from Jack C. Hays High School in 1989. She entered Southwest Texas State College and studied child development while working at a day care.
At the age of 26, Michelle left the church job to go to work at a Christian summer camp in Jackson, Tennessee. She met Rick there in 1997 when he brought a group from his church where he was the youth minister. She left summer camp and went to Fort Worth to enter seminary and while there the two got engaged.
In the summer of 1999, Rick left the church to work at a camp and they later moved to Texas so that both of them could continue seminary. He got a job at a church as youth minister and the music director. It was while they were there that they got a call from the search committee from First Baptist Church of Brewton looking for a music director. Pastor Jack Fitts and Youth Minister Randy Winton are from Tennessee and were familiar with Rick. In 2002 the couple moved to Brewton so that Rick could begin his new duties where he is now the music director.
It was this move that made the couple realize that the time had to come to realize their dream to become a part of the foster parent program.
These days, Michelle spends most of her time with the children and being involved with church activities where she teaches a sixth grade Sunday school class. When she does have spare time she enjoys reality television shows and the "Golden Girls." She loves to read and collect antiques.