FMS recruiter shares her heart and home
Fifteen years and the grace of God. That’s what Shelly Morefield says it took to help her make the leap from single working professional to life as a foster mom of three young children who desperately needed a home. Shelly gave *Katie (6), Carter (5), and Zoey (4) (*not their real names) more than her home. She’s given them her heart.
Shelly, a recruiter at FMS, has always loved working with children. When she was younger, she dreamed of directing her own religious youth program. She graduated from college and then attended divinity school. She moved from Oklahoma to Florida to work as a missionary. While she was there, a colleague asked her to organize a mission trip to a Haitian orphanage. Shelly says it “shattered her heart” to see the conditions children lived in. She grew especially close to one little boy named Evans. She made three return trips to Haiti, trying to adopt Evans. But the Haitian government denied her request. Heartbroken, she arranged for Evans to move from the orphanage and be cared for by the leader of a local non-profit, where she knew he would receive better care. “I learned I could love someone not of my body or of my race,” Shelly says.
Foster parent process
Years later, a church friend told her about a foster agency. Shelly attended an orientation. “Something inside knew it was time,” she recalls. At the time, she was living in a one-bedroom apartment. It was all she could afford but it disqualified her from fostering. Shelly believes God had a different plan. She applied for a better job with FMS and got it. She got a bigger apartment. And she started the foster parent application process, including 30 hours of training. The process was daunting. “The day I got certified as a foster parent my case worker came over and my best friend to take pictures,” Shelly says with a laugh. She was officially trained and certified, but was she ready? “It’s scary because you don’t know what you’re getting,” Shelly says. She knew the children she fostered would have emotional and behavioral issues, but what kind and would she be able to handle them? Was she cut out for life as a foster mom? She got a one-week temporary assignment to shelter two young brothers. And then she met Katie.
I am so thankful for our PTO policy that let’s foster parents take time off too!
“Katie was in another foster home and they wanted her to leave. She was a chronic bedwetter and had speech issues,” she says. Shelly had just four hours to find clothes, furniture, and food for the five-year-old. She sent a frantic email to her FMS colleagues asking if anyone could help. Their response was immediate. Shelly had everything she needed by the time Katie and her caseworker arrived. Looking back on that day, Shelly remembers, “I made cookies to make the house smell good and make her feel at home. We were both very, very nervous.”
Gradually, the two built a relationship and Katie began making progress with her speech and learning. Her progress was so encouraging four months later her caseworker asked if Shelly would consider adding Katie’s two younger siblings to the family. Social workers were anxious to reunite the children, but Shelly wasn’t sure she could handle it. A single parent with three special needs children under six and a full-time job? She asked the caseworker if she could have some time to think about it. For a week she prayed and talked to family and friends and other foster parents. She hired a professional organizer to come into her home and help her figure out how to fit two more children. Finally, she called her caseworker and said she would do it. The youngest children moved in more than a year ago. “I am so thankful for our PTO policy that let’s foster parents take time off too!”
Life as a foster mom
“My life is not my own anymore!” Shelly says. She jokes that life as a foster mom is a revolving door through which caseworkers (hers and the children’s) doctors, speech therapists, and the children’s birth mother all pass. “It’s rough and it’s messy but it’s all worth it,” she says. Shelly admits there are times she feels tired and alone. On those occasions, she reaches out to her family, her colleagues, and other foster parents. “I am committed to these children,” she says. So committed, in fact, that she promised their birth mother the children would never go to another foster home again. If they couldn’t be with their mother, they would be with Shelly.
While the courts and the caseworkers and the custodial parent try to sort things out, Shelly keeps doing what she’s always done – looking for ways to help her foster children feel safe, successful, and loved. “I’m really hoping that they can live a happy life with their mom and that we can stay connected,” she says. “I would like, long term, to stay in these children’s lives.”