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I am not really sure how I feel about Foster Parents. Most of my life was spent in a Jacksonville, Florida orphanage. I did go to a foster home for about three months, when I was around twelve years old. There were four of us (all boys) who were sent to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Tanner. They lived in a small community outside of Jacksonville.

I remember Mrs. Tanner being a little mean toward us. I don't think she wanted us there. However, Mr. Tanner did his best to see that we boys had what we needed. He was a bit strict but he was also kind and considerate. In the end, the arrangement did not work out and we were sent back to the orphanage. Not sure exactly why. I remember several of the boys were caught smoking, me included.

When I was about forty years old I returned to Jacksonville, Florida for a vacation with my family. While there, I decided to see if I could find the Tanners. After several days, I located Mr. Tanner. My family and I were invited to his home. I was told that he and Mrs. Tanner had divorced many years earlier. I was also told that the reason that we boys were returned to the orphanage was because of Mrs. Tanner and her very cruel attitude toward us kids.

As we were about to leave, I thanked Mr. Tanner. I made sure he knew that even though we were only at his home for a few months, I very much appreciated what he tried to do for me and that his kindness and his concern for me was another small, but important stone upon which I built a life for myself.

How important is being a Foster Parent?

I really do not know. I have heard some rather horrible stories from children who have been place in foster homes. I do know that being a Foster Parent takes a very special type of individual. It takes someone who knows both sides of life. One who knows what it is like to be loved and also knows what it is like to be abused. I am not talking about "guessing" what abuse is like. You have to know the feelings of deep, dark despair that a child feels when he or she has been abused and has never been loved.

Many Foster Parents expect to receive the perfect little Johnny or the perfect little Kathy when they take in a child. There is no perfect little child by the time they reach foster care. The damage has already been done and it is very severe.

"But we will love him and everything will be ok," they think to themselves.

NO! Everything is not going to be alright.

I went from the orphanage, and foster care to the reform school. From there, I made my way to jail and then onto prison. It was too late to save me as a child. Too many years of physical and sexual abuse to save the likes of me.

If that is the case then what did save me?

"Foster Dad Tanner" and "Foster Mother Usher" saved me. They did not save me as a child but they did save me as a man. Not only did they save me, they also saved my children and my grandchildren.

Sometimes it takes years to see the results of your good deeds. You must always keep in mind, when taking in a foster child that you are working toward not just saving a child, but saving an adult later on down the road.

With only a seventh grade education I have stories published in seventeen books in five countries. Noted books like: Chicken Soup for the Grandparents Soul, Horse Lovers Soul, The Caregiver's Soul, Friends Soul, Heartwarmers and Heartwarmers of Love. Several of my stories have been credited with saving the lives of a few children who were being abused by their parents.

I wish I could take the credit. But the credit is not mine to take. The credit belongs to Foster Mother Usher and Foster Father Tanner. These are the real heroes. These are the people who will never get a medal or an award. These are a special type of people. People who looked into the future, rather than just what was happening "today".

If I were to give one piece of advice to Foster Parents it would be this: If you cannot save the child, you can save the adult. The tougher the battle, the more pride you will feel when the war is won. "Unconditional Love" will almost always win the battle.

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