POSTED: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 10:55pm
UPDATED: Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 6:38pm
TYLER, TX (KETK) — Thousands of kids go through the foster care system every year and a lot of them are scarred with lifelong issues either from abuse, neglect or abandonment. But, the system is changing and more and more organizations are opening their doors to help.
Lisa Godfrey grew up in the foster care system in Houston.
"I was in a total of 13 different homes in like 12 years."
She was one of six kids. Her mom left for another man and her dad wasn't able to take care of seven kids.
"As a child you wonder does nobody want us."
In the 13 different homes she was in, she experienced a lot of unimaginable hurt.
"There were times that we might have gotten beaten, there was sexual abuse and of course like I said we were just there to clean their house. Some of them even admitted to me and my sister it was just for the check that was kind of sad."
Godfrey and her six other siblings were deemed "unadoptable" so she never really had parents to look up too.
"I know how you want to feel loved and if you're moved, you would like to know why to make sure you didn't do something bad again because that's kind of how we felt like at times."
But now, Godfrey learned how to put her childhood in the past and move on.
"You learn to overcome the hurt, you know through my faith as well, I am able to forgive those who I felt may have wronged me."
Godfrey wants to now help other foster girls, overcome their hardships and mentor at an organization in East Texas called Hope Haven.
"We have a duty to respond to and their is a definite need," said chairman of Hope Haven Paul Christman.
Hope Haven is a faith based organization started in 2012 that helps girls ages 13-17 in the Texas foster care system.
"Most of them have had abuse either sexually, emotionally, physically, sometimes all of it so they come with some difficulties, some challenges and a lot of foster care options for them are limited," said Christman.
Christman said a lot of these girls are moved to other areas like Houston or Dallas because there is no facility for them to stay here.
Hope Haven is now building a permanent home for these girls.
"We just gravitated that this is an area that really is under served and needed some attention."
With 16 beds they hope to change some of their lives.
"Our goal is to really provide for them a transition to adult living," said Christman.
"They're having to go to emergency shelters or group homes or that kind of thing, so it is difficult to find resources for teenagers," said Foster and Adoption Supervisor for Smith County Child Protective Services Brandi Smith.
More and more kids are entering into the foster care system, in some counties it's tripled from last year. Just in Smith County alone, 262 children are in the foster care system, but there are only 67 active foster homes.
"Our removals are increasing and we don't have enough homes," said Smith.
Smith said from 2013 to 2014, 108 kids were removed from their homes either because of abuse or neglect.
But some, really felt the push from God to open their homes for foster kids.
"It takes a pretty selfless person because you'll give up a lot of your personal stuff for it," said foster parent Ashly Turner.
Turner has been a foster parent for five years.
"There are plenty of children out there that are deserving of love that need a home and I believe that the foster parents are blessed more than the children, I'm living proof of it."
Her mom was adopted and she always knew she would have a household full of foster kids.
"I grew up with it and I always knew there were children out there that don't have families that need them and I always knew that my family would look like a coloring box and that was ok," said Turner.
She's fostered eight kids.
"I know that's something that God wants me to do to foster because when I'm out of it I'm miserable and when I'm in it I'm happy."
Turner has one biological son, Samuel. She foster then adopted Union, and then she fostered two more siblings a boy and a girl. Turner signed the papers to adopt the boy and the girl in August. As a single foster mom, she's only allowed to have five kids including her own.
"When they finally figure out they do have a family now and you actually see that come across their face and their eyes that makes it all worth while," said Turner.
Turner has given hopeful advice to potential foster parents like Maggie Fincher.
"There are so many children out there that are neglected and need love and I feel like I have enough to give I'm up for the challenge, I think it's the right thing to do and the right step to take," said Fincher.
Fincher was adopted when she was 9 days old, and always knew she wanted a child.
"I was 15, and found out I couldn't physically have a child, so always in the back of my mind I was like I'm going to adopt I'm going to do whatever it takes to have a child."
After praying for three years about it, she felt like God was leading her to become a foster parent instead.
"I just feel like I have so much love I am ready to give and when there are so many out there that need it that's what i want to do."
Parents like Turner and possible ones like Fincher shine a positive light on the foster care system.
Many East Texas kids need a loving home, and there will be hardships, but in the end, there is the ability to change a child's life.
"The children aren't damaged, there's a lot of stuff love will conquer," said Turner.