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Foster experience explained

Story by Tori Bedsole

Jena Turner, an advocate for The Forgotten Initiative in Escambia County and foster parent, said fostering is hard but it is also the most rewarding thing she has ever done.

Turner is one of the few families in Escambia County licensed to be a foster family. Department of Human Resources officials announced last month the growing need for more licensed foster families and its willingness to train those interested.

DHR currently has 49 children in its care, 27 of which have been placed in residential facilities, therapeutic foster homes or group homes in other counties. The remainder are housed within the county’s 13 licensed foster homes and the need continues to grow.

Turner has two biological children, two adopted children and one foster child.

“I was reserved about fostering at first because I was worried about bringing children into my home with my biological children,” Turner said. “It was very scary but my husband and I have always had a heart for it.”

Turner and her husband looked to adopt through private adoption agencies before turning to foster care.

“Every door closed in those agencies, which ended up being a blessing,” she said. “When you foster, you get to see growth in these children. You see the hurt; you see the baggage; you see the issues. But, you love them through it.”

Turner said the process of fostering and adopting has shaped her biological children by opening their eyes to what other children go through.

“They have learned to give and to share their parents,” Turner said. “It really is amazing to see the difference it has made in my family. It truly is a growing experience that is so rewarding.”

The Forgotten Initiative is a nonprofit organization that “fills the gaps” of fostering in communities.

“There is a massive chasm between people in the community and the issues surrounding foster care,” Turner said. “We are here to be a resource for the community.

“It is so much more than taking in children. There are teenagers aging out of the system who have no mentors, no way to know how to be citizens.”

Turner said The Forgotten Initiative strives to provide anything from meals to fun days for the children or nights off for the foster parents, along with performing service projects to educate the community.