Humor, affection, ties with families help foster mom succeed

Written by admin   // February 24, 2011   // 0 Comments

Sherrie Miller

Being a treatment foster mother, working with youth who have serious life concerns, can be a challenge, Sherrie Miller says. But she can’t seem to break the ties she forms with the kids she helps.

Sherrie, who works through St. Aemilian-Lakeside, a social services agency at 89th and Capitol, has cared for several challenged girls in the seven years she’s been a treatment foster mom. And she maintains contact with almost all of them.

Three have had babies, and she was there at their births. One didn’t have food one time and Sherrie collected food for the young woman. Her former foster kids call her for advice, such as how to fill out a tax form.

One former foster child, whose file initially made Sherrie think she would be really difficult, turned out to be one of the best placements she has had. The young woman is now in nursing school, Sherrie proudly recounts.

I teach them, ‘Don’t burn bridges; you never know when you’ll need someone,’ ” Sherrie said with a smile, talking about all the bridges she has maintained.

She now has two 16-year-old foster boys, along with her biological son, also 16. Her son “wasn’t crazy about the girls, but he’s getting along really well with the boys. They have fun together, rap together, do boys stuff.”

But things aren’t always smooth. As with any teens, these kids have their ups and downs. Sherrie handles the downs with affection and humor. For instance, one of the boys recently was suspended from school.

Rather than screaming and fussing, I just gave him a big hug and said, ‘You must be having a bad day, and you love me so much you wanted to be home with me to clean up the attic.’ ”

One of the boys faked a seizure. “I just said that for every minute he’s unconscious, I’m deducting from his allowance. He woke up and recovered very quickly!”

Sherrie ensures that the treatment foster boys maintain contact with their biological moms, who, for various reasons, can’t care for them.

I tell them (the moms), ‘There is nothing that can really replace a mother. That bond can’t be broken. Your being in their lives helps me, and it really helps them a lot.’ ”

It is unusual for a treatment foster parent to maintain ties like this, but the biological mothers really admire her parenting skills, Sherrie said, and they can see how happy their kids are.

There is a real need for treatment foster parents, Sherrie said. She tells people who are interested, “You’ll be doing a great service if you open up your home … These kids need to be with a family … And this is giving back to the community, helping boys and girls who have no role models, become parents at a younger and younger age, often get involved in drugs or alcohol and suffer abuse,” she said.

And the rewards are great. “When I get a hug or a kiss or a compliment, that’s reward enough,” she said, adding that she’ll continue to foster kids in needs “as long as I can do it.”

For more information on becoming a treatment foster parent, call St. Aemilian-Lakeside at 414-465-5700 or visit www.st-al.org.


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