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A good home always has room for a few more

April 30, 2011

Tina and Faith stand behind the rest of the family. Robert, DJ with dog Ricky Bobby, Blake with dog Sierra, and father Darryl join them.

As Tina discusses a school English paper with one child, another stands at the kitchen sink washing dishes from the evening meal. Another sibling deals with one of several dogs that live in the home, while Darryl and a third child inspect a coin collection.

There is a lot going on in this big family; and the family just got a little bigger. For Blake and Robert, two teens shuffled through the foster care system over the past few years, Tina and Darryl’s home has become a permanent one — the first one either of them has ever known. Blake and Robert are the newest additions to the family, having been recently adopted with the help of Youth Villages.

Darryl and Tina know the importance of good foster homes, each having spent part of their childhood in one. Tina was put into state custody following problems with her father at age 16 and was eventually in a juvenile detention center. Darryl’s mother became ill in Arizona and was declared unable to raise her seven children when he was only 9. Perhaps it was these experiences that led them to better understand how foster children should be treated.

“We don’t treat a foster kid any different than we do our own,” Darryl said. “We talk to them the same, get onto them the same and we expect the same out of them.”

In addition to the two teenage boys, Darryl and Tina have three biological children: two who still reside in the home and a third in the Air Force in Texas. But it’s difficult to tell which are the biological children if you don’t already know.

“They brought me in and treated me like their own,” said Robert, 15. “In the seven months since I’ve been here, I have never once considered this a foster home.”

Blake has similar feelings.

“When I came here it didn’t necessarily feel like a foster family,” he said. “I realized they were going to treat us all the same whether it was a foster kid or a biological. I saw that as soon as I got here, and I thought, ‘I’m going to be here for awhile.”

This is a welcome change for both children. Blake never felt like part of the family at all in his previous foster home, Darryl said.

“When we first got Blake on respite, they [the previous foster family] were going on vacation,” Darryl said.

“And it wasn’t just the vacation,” Blake said. “If they went to town or something, they left me at the house. It’s never been that way here.”

Amy Hawkins, the two boys’ Youth Villages counselor, says they were an easy match for Tina and Darryl.

“I had worked with Blake previously in another foster home, and when they began having some problems I immediately thought of this family,” Amy said. “And one day after we returned him from respite here they called and said if he was available they would like him to stay. And it was the same with Robert.”

Robert liked being with the family so much that he requested to be adopted by the family after a brief respite visit last fall.

“I never felt set apart from the family here,” Robert said.

Today the two boys are enjoying their new lives. Blake is outgoing and energetic, is filled with school spirit and plays in the defensive backfield for the local high school football team.

Robert is also getting into football as a defensive lineman for his middle school team, although sports is a new experience for him.

He enjoys working out and has put on 30 pounds of muscle since arriving in the home. He is also fond of cars, which plays right into Darryl’s favor.

“If you look out in the yard, you’ll notice it looks like a car lot out there,” he said, laughing.

Darryl and Tina are now considering adopting a third child. But this time they think it’s time to bring in a girl to balance out the family’s 5-2 male majority.

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Dozens of kids in Tennessee are seeking forever homes through Youth Villages. View profiles of some of the boys and girls who need adoptive parents at www.youthvillages.org.

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