With just over a month until our V-Soft Cares Annual Charity Golf Scramble on June 27th, we wanted to highlight some of the great work our charity recipient, Home of the Innocents, is doing. Today we spotlight a foster family, the Staleys, and their experience with Home of the Innocents.
Anne Staley, 48, and Jeff Staley, 50, are both educators in the Jefferson County Public School system. Anne is an Associate Principal of Early Childhood Programs and Jeff is an Exceptional Child Education Teacher and teaches special education science at Eastern High School. Jeff and Anne have three biological children, Joseph, 18, Ava, 17 and Dillon, 15. Five years ago, the family decided to open their home to children in need through foster care from Home of the Innocents. Since then, the family has fostered 8 children.
What events led you to get involved with fostering?
"We got involved with the Home of the Innocents after a student at the elementary school where I was serving as Assistant Principal, was placed in the Home of the Innocents Emergency Shelter," Anne said.
One day at school, a child had an asthma attack that sent him to the hospital. Anne rode in the ambulance with him and tried to reach his mother who was, ultimately, unable to get to the hospital. It became clear there were signs of neglect. Officials deemed it unsafe for the child to go back to his home and he was then taken to the emergency shelter.
"I didn't know him well at the time but my heart just broke for him," Anne said. "The more time he was at the shelter the worse his behavior became. He was just a kindergartner dealing with really adult issues."
Anne was not able to foster the boy, however, they stayed in touch with his foster parents until the boy moved in with family out of state. This event was the catalyst for Anne and Jeff to get certified as foster parents. After talking with their biological children, the couple decided to complete the coursework.
"We are fortunate, we are comfortable, we have steady employment, and have space to take on more kids," Anne said. "My kids opened up their home, and shared their toys and their parents."
What has been the most rewarding part of being foster parents?
"The most rewarding part of being a foster parent is witnessing positive growth in the child," Anne said.
She shared the story of her two current foster daughters, both flourishing under the Staley family's care.
One child is 12-years-old, attending 5th grade, and is medically complex - she has Spina Bifida. She came to the Staley family's home in November of 2020. They attend semi-annual appointments at the Spina Bifida clinic where her specialist says she is the healthiest she has ever been. Unfortunately, the child, having a complex court case, has been in the foster system for 5 years and has a sister in the system that she keeps in touch with through other foster parents. The family hopes to adopt this child, should parental rights be terminated.
The second child is 17-years-old. She came to Home of the Innocents from Our Lady of Peace after a severe emergency situation.
"When she came to us, she was highly anxious and withdrawn," Anne said. "Looking at her now, she is everything you want in a foster child. She wants to learn; she has goals."
She currently works part-time at Kroger while attending high school and plans to go to continue her education, already attending college visits and taking the ACTs. At 17-years-old, the foster child is considered "independent living" and doesn't have to stay with the Staley family or go back with her biological family. Whatever she chooses to do, the Staley’s will be there for her.
"She knows we are here for her for the rest of her life," Anne said.
What has been the most challenging?
"The most challenging part of foster care has been working with children with attachment disorders," Anne said. "Our experience has been that children with attachment disorders will find a way to push you away and sabotage the emotional connections that they are making with you. That has been heartbreaking at times."
Foster children often fear they cannot get too close and use distance from others as a defense mechanism. Behavioral issues like these have caused some placements to be short-lived.
What is something you think is misunderstood about fostering?
Anne stated that she believes many people fear fostering because they do not want the heartache of becoming bonded with a child, only for them to be taken back in by their biological families. In the Staley family's experience, however, few children are able to be reunited with their families. Of the 8 children the Staley family has fostered in the last 5 years, only 1 has been reunited with their family.
"I wish that more people would be willing and able to open their homes to the many children in Kentucky who are in need of a stable, nurturing home," Anne said.
What is something you wish you could tell the public about HOTI that they might not know?
"What I'd like the public to know about Home of the Innocents is that it is a mission-driven organization,' Anne said. "We have been fortunate to work with the same core staff members over the years and the support that they provide to Teaching Parents is wonderful."
Marissa Hourigan, the Staley’s Family Consultant, visits the family twice a month. Additionally, the family has access to both private therapy or family/group therapy with licensed professionals.
"We go way back with all of these people and if we ever get in a situation if we need help or guidance, there are so many people in Home of the Innocents that will do whatever it tasks to support us," Anne said. "They would drop what they are doing to help these kids. They are just good people. They are very dedicated to the families and the kids."