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Foster moms not forgotten on Mother's Day

Sara Kelley, of Hampstead, is the 2016 Carroll County Foster Parent of the Year.
Sara Kelley, of Hampstead, is the 2016 Carroll County Foster Parent of the Year. (DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

There are all types of moms out there, whether their kids are grown, infants or somewhere in between — or if they are nurturing someone else's child.

"I think, in my mind, a mom is a mom, no matter how you are doing it," said Jen Burdette, of Hampstead, who began fostering young children and infants a little over a year ago. "Whether you're a foster mom, an adoptive mom or a mom with biological children, whatever the case may be, you're a mom."

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Carrie Vincent, the administrator of foster care and adoptions with the Carroll County Department of Social Services, thinks foster parents, and foster moms in particular, are extraordinary. They will work with a child's biological family, who are often still in the picture, to provide mothering on the spot, at the drop of a hat, she said.

"A foster parent could get literally a call at any time saying: 'Hey, there's this placement. Would you be willing to foster them?' " Vincent said. "You don't know when you are going to get a call; you don't know when you get the call how long that child is living with you. … These moms do that. Whether they are caring for one day, a week, a month or a year, they are all in to this process. It's absolutely amazing to me."

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Burdette has no children of her own but loves to care for the young children that are placed with her — two thus far — nurturing them even as she realizes there might be no Mother's Day cards arriving in the mail from them in the distant future.

"Because I do take young children, there are going to be many times where they may never even remember that I existed," she said. "If they leave me at a young age, if they are still an infant, they may not have any memory of me at all."

It can be challenging at times, Burdette says, but also fun and rewarding, especially the way she can now appreciate Mother's Day in a new light.

"I lost my mom to breast cancer many years ago — I was 21 when she passed away — so for me, for years Mother's Day was not exactly a happy occasion that I would look forward to," she said. "Fostering has really changed Mother's Day into a much happier occasion than it has been for me in the past."

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Going from no children to two foster children while single has been quite the ride, Burdette said, and it has been possible because of the help she gets from her friends.

"I have a great group of friends and family in the area that support me and as a single person, I certainly couldn't do it without that good strong support system," she said. "They are just amazing."

Having support from extended family has been valuable for Sarah and Joe Kelley, who have been named Carroll County's Foster Parents of the Year by the Department of Social Services.

"I grew up with two brothers and a sister and my mom, and she has always been a big part of my life, and she is a big part of my foster children's lives," Sarah Kelley said. "She treats them as if they were her own grandkids; she is always helping out and doing things with them."

Kelley teaches kindergarten at Govans Elementary School in Baltimore City. It was there, about a year and a half ago, that she realized she would like to be a foster mom.

"We started it because I am a teacher in Baltimore City and was always seeing kids that needed homes and figured we could do that here and so started doing that ourselves," she said. "I don't have any of my own children — we just have two dogs — and now we have four kids. So we went from zero to four in less than a year."

It has been an interesting transition, learning on the fly with four children, but Kelley said her professional training has been a real help.

"I feel like how I am in the classroom kind of translates to at home — a lot of the same behaviors I see in the classroom I see at home and the same techniques work," she said, "Sticking with it and being able to go with the flow and just keeping in mind what's best of the kids at the end of the day."

There are all kinds of moms out there, and Kelley said it's a good day for them all.

"We're excited to be foster parents of the year, and happy Mother's Day to all moms of all different varieties out there," she said.

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