Elaine Taylor is proud to have adopted 10 boys and fostered many more in addition to her six biological children. Ms. Taylor wants every one of those kids in her care to call her "Mom."
Ms. Taylor, herself, is one of a family with 13 children. Many of her siblings and relations in her extended family also have fostered children.
“I just love kids,” she said. That could seem to be an understatement, were it not so true.
What Kids Need to Succeed
Ms. Taylor believes that children need to have a childhood. Many are missing that experience today. Children need time to be free to play and learn and share experiences and toys with friends today. It’s how they grow and develop the skills they will need for success in school.
However, she adds, children need guidance and oversight, too. For her kids- school is a priority.
“I tell them to give it your all for 12 years,” Ms. Taylor said. “Dedicate your life early to learning, then you can have a productive and happy life as an adult.”
Research by the U.S. Department of Education has shown that children in foster care are at high-risk of dropping out of school and are unlikely to attend or graduate from college.
All those who stayed in her care (some were reunited with their families of origin) graduated from high school. Three have graduated from college.
Part of the success, she said, is finding the right school for each child. Whether is an “alternative school” or requires moving into a new community, as she has done twice, she has done whatever is needed to get the school services required to serve the special needs kids in her care.
When asked why she thought so few foster kids complete school, Ms. Taylor replied: “They don't believe in themselves.”
To help her children develop social skills, and to encourage their development as thinking beings in a world that too often is confusing, she makes sure her kids attend church regularly. She also goes with them to school functions and she takes part in their social events. She also watches over the activities of each child most carefully.
“Yes, I go through their backpacks,” she said.
What It Means to Parent
“A parent's job is to love, nurture and guide – not to judge,” Ms. Taylor said.
In her service as a foster parent, Ms. Taylor said she will take any child. Many in her care have had major challenges. Several have had special needs, due to physical or emotional challenges.
“The streets are especially dangerous for children with social needs,” Ms. Tayor said. “These vulnerable youth will be grabbed by criminals.”
Personally, Ms. Taylor has experienced great tragedy, losing two sons, a sister, and a grandson to murder.
“The streets will grab your kids quick,” she said. So, she gives her children work they can do at home to earn money.
Ms. Taylor participates in Spaulding's orientation for parents, where she and another foster parent give the prospective parents “The Real Deal” about foster care during orientation.
“Look in their eyes, these kids do not want to be in foster care,” Ms. Taylor said. They did not ask for it. But peel away the negatives they may display and you see that each child has talents. What’s more: Every child deserves a chance.”