BAMBERG, S.C. (AP) - The doors of the home at 1390 Capernaum Road in Bamberg hang on welcome hinges, particularly for children needing love, encouragement and resources to help them better their lives.
The modest residence is where Michael and Rosa Verner have served as foster parents for more than 20 years. They have adopted six of the children they fostered and are now preparing to adopt four of Rosa’s nephews.
Fostering children is a calling for the couple, and one which helped them earn the designation as Foster Parents of the Year by the South Carolina Foster Parent Association. The Verners received a plaque in recognition of their dedicated services to the state’s children and youth during the association’s annual conference in 2016 in Greenville.
Rosa said she and her husband appreciate the honor.
“It was a good honor. Foster care is a passion of mine. I just love to see every child get a chance. It’s not that they didn’t have a chance where they were, but we can give them that extra push to go ahead and succeed with what they want to do,” she said.
Rosa works as a family support coordinator at the Orangeburg County Department of Social Services.
The couple has already adopted Lakevia, who will turn 29 on Dec. 26; Querockis, 27; Anthony, 25; Sharicka, 21; Justin, 20 and Anson, 8.
Referring to her nephews who will soon join that group, Rosa said, “Every day it gets a little difficult but I explained to those boys, ‘You’re going to help me adopt you by your attitude and what you do.’ They got some issues and they’re in counseling, but they’re workable issues,” she said.
Michael recalled the child he and his wife first tried to adopt, a tiny baby he said was “only a handful” to carry.
The couple grew attached to the little girl and while they had been approved to adopt her, the biological father returned wanting the child back.
“But we were still approved to adopt so I said, ‘Michael, somebody else will come along.’ It might have been a calling for us because some people don’t want to foster because they don’t want to give the child back. The only one I really had a problem giving back was the baby,” Rosa said.
“That hurt, but if you do the right thing, I’ve learned as a foster parent that you still got them because a lot of kids that have come through our house still have a relationship with us although they’re back with their parents or family members,” she said.
“As long as we know that we’ve done all that we can do for them while we have them, that satisfies us.”
Michael said he and his wife like being foster parents because they are no strangers to having a load of siblings around them. Rosa had six siblings, and he has 12.
“We both come from big families,” he said.
Rosa said she and her husband really began their journey in earnest while she was working at the Bamberg County DSS.
“I was seeing kids come in, and they didn’t have anywhere to put them. They had to put the little kids so far away, and that’s one reason, just to help my community,” she said. “I had taken a lot of my kids from our area.”
Michael said he and his wife support their children in whatever goals they set. Each one balances the responsibilities of raising their young children between each other, but also work in time for themselves.
“All of them love football and do some kind of sport, and that’s me,” Michael said, laughing. “I like spring and summer sports. I don’t deal with winter too good.”
Rosa said, “Sometimes we’ll have date nights. We’ll go somewhere just to have time for us. I was born and raised in Bamberg, but my husband’s from Hemingway, South Carolina. Last week he went home for five days just to have a break.”
Being a foster parent has its ups and downs, but commitment and a dedication to the welfare of a child, including those with special needs as their 8-year-old son has, is what is needed, she said.
“It’s not easy being a foster parent. Everybody thinks you get so much, or you’re doing it for the money, but they could not pay you to do what we do with these kids. We’ve seen kids make a 360-degree turnaround, and we have seen them leave here worse than when they came because they think, ‘We’re in foster care and can do whatever we want to do,’ but they can’t do that at 1390 Capernaum Road,” Rosa said.
“We’ll open our door to help you, but we got to have that understanding.”
Michael’s hopes for his children’s futures are simple and include providing needed encouragement.
“Most of them are going in different directions, but we’ll support anything they want to do,” he said.
Rosa said, “Most every child that came through here and is grown now is doing something with their life. In order for you to actually help them, sometimes we got to let them go and make their mistakes, but still be there for them. That’s why I don’t change my phone number.”
She recalled the story of a 15-year-old boy, one of the first foster kids she and Michael ever took care of. They had gone on vacation to Myrtle Beach, and it was an experience that he could not have imagined.
“When we got to Myrtle Beach, he had so many stories. Then he pulled me to the side and asked, ‘Do I have to pay to go in the water?’ I said, ‘No, baby. When I paid for this for room, all this came with it.’ He said, ‘Oh, thank you,’” Rosa said.
“Everybody needs somebody. We don’t look for a thank you, but we look for them to prove others wrong. If their family told them they weren’t going to be nothing, we want them to prove them wrong,” she said.
While she may provide respite care, Rosa said she and her husband are not planning to adopt any more children after her four nephews.
“By the time I get the youngest one through high school, I’ll be retired. I think I have done everything that the Lord has commanded me to do with these children. But if I can help somebody else along the way, I’d be glad to,” she said, smiling.
Information from: The Times & Democrat, https://www.timesanddemocrat.com
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