53 foster children and their families had the time of their life at Heartland Conference and Retreat Center near Marengo recently. After a scrumptious dinner of roast beef or chicken and all the Christmas trimmings, the children and their families enjoyed a comical show of the “Partridge in a Pear Tree” song by the Heartland staff.
Then everyone went into the Heartland Activity Center to enjoy climbing a rock wall, dodge ball, “a paper snowball fight”, antler ring toss and other games. The evening concluded with Santa Claus, played by Dale Baker, presenting gifts to each child. The gifts were provided by the staff at Morrow County Hospital.
Foster mom, Jenny Gray has enjoyed the annual Christmas parties with her children Allen and Brody for the past three years. This year was special because she was able to adopt Brody this year. Brody is one of eight foster children in Morrow County who had the good fortune to be adopted this year.
Gray said that Brody came into their home as a foster child. It took about two and a half years for the adoption to be official. Gray said that being a foster parent is “challenging, but very rewarding.” She said that Morrow County Children’s Services is very supportive to foster parents and children. She has compared notes with foster parents in other counties and finds that there is much more follow up and support in Morrow County.
“Don’t be scared. Try it (being a foster parent.) You will have a lot of support here and have a lot of faith too,” Gray concluded.
The person to see for those who have an interest in being a foster parent is Amanda Kotomin at Children’s Services in Morrow County. Kotomin says the need is great here. There are presently 79 children to be placed in the county and only four foster parents. They are now relying on foster parents in neighboring counties, but would like to see more children be able to stay in the county.
Children’s Services Administrator, Sharla O’Keefe appreciates the generosity of Heartland for sharing their conference center and providing meals and entertainment for the children and their families. She notes that their facility and gift in entertaining the children is a perfect fit for those families. They host camps all year there, so they are great at providing recreation.
O’Keefe also thanked Dale Baker who has played Santa for 9 or 10 years at their Christmas parties. Baker said many children are convinced he’s the real Santa. He’s seen the children grow up from year to year and knows their parents and families.
Heartland Director, Sue Nigh, said that the Heartland staff enjoys helping with the activities and providing the meals for the families.
“We see it as a way to give back to the community and a mission for the children at Christmas,” said Nigh.
Families interested in welcoming a foster child in their home can contact Amanda Kotomin at Morrow County Children’s Services at 419-949-2614.