Fostering Hope works to fill the needs of Wiregrass foster families

Fostering Hope is on a mission to assist Wiregrass foster families with resources, supplies, and training.
Updated: Feb. 9, 2023 at 3:52 PM CST
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - About 6,000 children are in foster care in the state, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources. The state has more than 2,300 foster homes, some of which being here in the Wiregrass. This is why Fostering Hope is on a mission to assist Wiregrass foster families with resources, supplies, and training.

“The state helps provide about $150 worth of items when they first come into care, as you know, in our economy that does not provide much and so we have to pick up the slack and help provide everything else they need,” Melissa Wilhoit, director of Fostering Hope, said.

Wilhoit founded this nonprofit nearly six years ago and understands being a foster parent firsthand.

“We’ve fostered for almost 10 years and our house was full,” Wilhoit said. “We adopted five children through foster care, but we knew we weren’t done helping in the foster system.”

This nonprofit’s mission of connecting foster families to share support and wisdom is personal for Wilhoit.

“We see what foster parents need, what children need, and so we wanted to help,” Wilhoit said.

Courtney Martin, who just began her fostering journey, agrees and wanted to join Wilhoit and the Fostering Hope mission.

“We see things from both ends,” Courtney Martin, assistant director of Fostering Hope, said. “We know what it means to get a child within a few hours and to need something and we know what it means to have other people to come in and just be able to pray with them and love on them.”

Fostering Hope is there to help fill that need by assisting foster children when they come into care.

“Most families have nine months to prepare when they’re awaiting a baby to come into their home, these foster families have a matter of hours to get everything they need,” Wilhoit said.

Fostering Hope offers numerous programs for licensed families.

One being their clothing closet which provides clothes and shoes for ages from newborns all the way up to teenagers.

“Many times, if they are in a drug situation they are not allowed to take the clothing they have there in their home and so we provide anything they need when they first come into foster care,” Wilhoit said.

Another program is their toiletry and baby care closet.

“We provide baby gear to crib to stroller, highchair, everything that you think a baby would need in a matter of hours,” Wilhoit said. “We have baby food and formula until the child can get enrolled in WIC. If they need more, we have those type of things that we give out.”

The freezer meal ministry is another program where the community can support and lend assistance to these families in need.

“When they get a new placement, a lot of times it’s hard to make a meal that night or if they’re sick, or even if just when they come in once a month, they can get a meal to help out,” Martin said.

Fostering Hope also has a birthday closet where a child can pick out brand new toys during their birthday month.

“A lot of times they don’t come with anything of their own and they want to create something new that’s their own and even though they are in a better situation, it doesn’t mean that they are happier because a lot of times they miss home,” Martin said. “So, it’s just a brightening of the day, a highlight for them, to come and pick out what they want for their birthday.”

All of these programs are possible through community donations and monthly drives.

Like last month’s “Loads of Love” drive.

“Every month when a foster family comes in, they are allowed to take home detergent because a lot of our foster families have big households with a lot people to keep up with,” Martin said. “I know some of them even have two washers and two dryers, because there is a shortage of foster families here in our area.”

Aside from tangible items, Fostering Hope provides training hour opportunities for parents.

“Foster families have to commit to so many training hours a year to keep their license active, so we provide opportunities to foster families to keep that active whether they show up and listen in a class or participate, or serve time here, anything like that, they can come and be a part of,” Martin said.

Wilhoit said this is not a government supported agency.

Fostering Hope is solely funded by fundraisers they execute. They ask you to join them.

“We want the best for foster children, they don’t always come from the best and they deserve the best,” Martin said.

Fostering Hope works closely with DHR referrals.

However, if you are a foster parent in need of assistance you can click here to view their website to see how they can help you or how you can donate.

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