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Foster mom says, “It’s worth it”


Five-foot-tall Jordan Summers stepped up to the microphone, comically lowered it so she could better be seen and heard, and explained why being a foster mom is worth it.

She spoke at an event at the state Department of Human Services headquarters that marked May as National Foster Care Month in Arkansas.

Summers and her husband, Marty, first got involved in foster care about 10 years ago when she worked at a preschool that would have up to 20 foster kids among its 150 children. She found herself telling him the state and churches were failing the kids, and then they realized they were the state and the church.

She would pray that God would send His light into that darkness and then would remember the verse in Matthew where Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.”

They have since welcomed eight young people into their Conway home at various times over that 10-year span. Earlier this year, they began fostering a 15-year-old who has been in 21 placements since 2018. She joined the Summers’ two other children, one biological and the other their former foster child whom they adopted.

“I will not stand here in front of you and say it’s been easy,” she said of this latest placement. “I will stand here in front of you and say we have been wrecked. We have been exhausted and stretched and bruised and hopeful and hopeless and exhausted and angry and all of the things. But I can stand here and tell you that that girl is a different child than she was

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Steve Brawner Arkansas Commentary VIEWPOINT

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three months ago.”

Foster children are those whom the Department of Human Services removes from their homes after it determines they are abused, neglected and/or living in unsafe conditions. They are sent to a variety of places, including qualified homes like the Summers’. Arkansas had 3,632 foster children and 1,377 foster families as of the end of March.

For foster children, it’s an often long and always difficult journey. They have already experienced trauma in their biological homes. Then there’s the trauma of being placed in new environments — often a succession of them, and all of it managed by the foster care system.

The state’s goal is to reunite them with their biological families, and that does happen. But many other children spend years bouncing from home to home. Sometimes they eventually are adopted, which is wonderful but also challenging. Sometimes they age out of foster care. Already traumatized and lacking a family support system, many struggle badly as young adults.

The Department of Human Services is involved in an umbrella organization, Every Child Arkansas, that also includes a couple of dozen charitable agencies. In addition to supporting foster children, Every Child Arkansas also re-


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also recruits foster families.

DHS has had success finding families in recent years through churches and faithbased organizations such as The Call. This year, the Every Child Arkansas effort is urging health care providers, businesses, and schools to get involved. Those groups can highlight their foster parent employees and give them the same benefits and flexibilities afforded other parents. Gov.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders noted that Arkansas state government has added foster families to its parental leave policies.

Summers said that people often say the foster care system is flawed, and they are right. It is. But that’s because it’s trying to do what no system should have to do — raise children.

The day before she made the comments, she was on the front porch trying to have a quiet cup of coffee when two of her young people joined her. She noted that their skin tones don’t match hers, and they don’t share her genetic makeup. One of the two doesn’t share her last name.

Not for a second did she question if they were worth fighting for, regardless of the system’s imperfections. Summers now consults with schools about dealing with trauma. She said she works in a faulty education system because children are there. Her husband, an ICU nurse, works in a flawed health care system because patients are there.

Arkansas, she said, must look past its imperfect foster care system and see the children who are there.

“Is fostering hard? It’s so dadgum hard,” she said. “But do you know what’s harder?

Being a kid in foster care. Is the system broken? Sure. You know what’s more broken?

Those kids’ hearts.”

Want to help heal those hearts? Go to everychildarkansas. org, or call (501) 214–


Steve Brawner is a syndicated columnist published in 17 outlets in Arkansas. Email him at brawnersteve@ mac. com. Follow him on Twitter at @ steve-brawner.

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