The goal in any foster program is permanency for the children. Lethia Evans has achieved it for four children in two ways: she adopted one child she had fostered for a year and half, and she helped three others return to their biological mother.
“Kids are my passion,” said Lethia, who is a treatment foster mother through St. Aemilian-Lakeside, a social services agency at 89th and Capitol. She takes in children who have suffered abuse and neglect and have serious behavioral challenges.
Lethia adopted her 10-year-old daughter last November. She has two grown children, always wanted more, and got into treatment foster care with a goal of adopting. When the girl came to her home, she suffered from ADHD, had physical disabilities and emotional concerns. Since then, she has seen tremendous progress and her grades at school have greatly improved.
The biggest problems arose, surprisingly, when she got close to adopting. The girl had been in at least four homes before.
“A lot of these kids go from home to home and they get used to that,” Lethia said. “They fear a new home …. But then she saw I was strong and gave her unconditional love. She realized I was sticking it out till the end.”
Lethia now calls it a perfect match. “With our closeness, you’d think she was my (biological) child. She said to me, ‘Mama, I wish you would have birthed me!” I told her, ‘I didn’t but no one has to know unless you tell them. We changed her name and we left her past past. We focus on the future … We have a new kid now, and she’s a happy kid.”
Before the adoption, Lethia was a treatment foster mother to twin girls and a younger sibling. They were supposed to be an emergency placement but ended up with her for a year and a half.
Their mother was homeless, could not care for them, and had surrendered them to the foster system. One child was very angry, and things were not easy for Lethia. The girls kept in contact with their mom as she put her life back together, and Lethia stressed that reunification was the goal.
“But in the meantime, I told them, I’ll be a mother to you while your mom is not able to support you… I reinforced ‘Your mom is working on this … but it takes time.” ”
When the family was reunified, it was hard for Lethia. “You feel the pain, but it makes you feel good…. If you can keep kids with their parents, it’s a wonderful thing.”
Lethia now has two additional treatment foster kids, one she has had for just over a year and who she may be able to adopt, and another on an emergency placement.
“If I had the house, I’d adopt 10 kids!” Lethia said with a laugh, adding that she gravitates to kids others might not want. The training she receives through St. Aemilian-Lakeside have been very helpful in understanding and working with her foster kids, she said.
“It’s giving a child a chance … It’s being able to give a child a stable home. They didn’t ask to be in the situations they are in.”
For more information on treatment foster care, call 414-465-5700 or visit www.st-al.org.