Foster Family

Stephanie and Keith Campbell, long-time foster parents in Lincoln County, with their combination of foster and adopted children enjoy their pool on a hot Saturday.

There is a desperate need for foster families and support for foster children throughout Lincoln County. At this point in time, there are more than 110 children in the custody of the Lincoln County Department of Social Services due to abuse or neglect, according to foster care and adoptions program manager Sandy Kennedy. This number has increased by 30 percent over the past three years.

This increase can be attributed to the drug crisis in the community, but there’s another problem – the lack of foster families to care for these children. Some children are being placed outside of Lincoln County, which is not ideal because they are removed from their schools, friends and community.

“We currently have 63 children in foster homes, with the majority being outside of Lincoln County,” Kennedy said.

Foster families throughout the county often exist without common knowledge. Last Saturday morning found Stephanie and Keith Campbell at home with their five children. Two were in the house with them and the other three were outside playing in and around the pool. 

They didn’t just decide to foster or adopt. They talked about adoption while they were dating and, after they got married, Stephanie got pregnant but miscarried. That was hard on the couple.

“We decided that we would go through DSS and check into adoption,” said Stephanie Campbell as she kept a watchful eye on the three girls who were outside on the deck. “It’s a long process and there’s a lot of perseverance involved. There’s a lot of paperwork and interviews. As a husband and wife, you have an interview together and then you have interviews by yourself. They look at your finances. You don’t have to be rich but can you put food on the table and clothes on the backs? I think that’s important.”

Stephanie Campbell is a teacher at Love Memorial and Keith Campbell works as a custodian at Asbury Academy.

After the Campbells adopted a 3-year-old girl, they decided for sure that they didn’t want biological children.

“Then we decided to become foster parents,” Stephanie Campbell said. “There’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait and then all of a sudden you’re in it.”

The Campbells have fostered upward of 20 children over the years and have permanently adopted several of them. At this point, their home is full, as is their refrigerator, laundry basket and hearts.

“If you were going to go and look up how many foster families there are in Lincoln County right now, it might be misleading as to where you can put children because many of these families, like us, are at capacity,” Stephanie Campbell said. “Three of our good friends who are also foster parents are full.”

In order to be good foster parents, Stephanie Campbell said it requires patience, nurturing and having a good heart. 

“All children come with issues,” she said. “My first daughter was considered developmentally delayed, she had occupational therapy and she was considered defiant but she’s none of those things. It was environment. Foster care is very reactive. You can’t be proactive with it because it’s after the trauma has happened so the kids are coming out of a bad situation. By it’s nature, foster care can’t get ahead of it.”

Some of the issues, she said, are due to rampant poverty and drug use that is harmful to the children.

“It has to be pretty bad for the child to be taken out of the home so by the time they are removed, they’ve seen a lot,” Campbell said. “There’s a lot to be said for stability. Like just getting in here and, telling them, ‘we’re going to have supper together’ or ‘we’re going to go play outside together.’ Foster parenting is just offering lots of consistency, as much as you can, over and over again. Then they can see how the world can be.”

And then when that call comes about a child in need, often in the middle of the night, there are times the Campbells have had to say no.

“Like what we said about this one here,” said Stephanie Campbell, as she bounced a toddler on her lap. “’No, we have three children, we can’t take anymore,’ and then we did. Sometimes you have to say no, but in his case, we just told them to bring him on.”

As time has gone on and they have become more experienced foster parents, the Campbells keep some supplies on hand and just “hope for the best and just go on.”

“Sometimes when you say yes, it can be forever,” Campbell said. “We can’t take them all and there’s a big need for foster parents. It can be daunting and you have to give it a lot of thought.”

The decision to become foster parents rather than to have their own biological children is one both Stephanie and Keith Campbell said they’ll never regret.

“It’s bittersweet because there’s a lot of joy in serving children, especially your most needy population of children, but it’s hard too,” Stephanie Campbell said. “It’s not something that you can jump into lightly. There’s a huge commitment because you don’t know if the child’s going to come in and stay a week, or 10 months or years. When you say ‘yes’ it’s such a simple decision but there’s so much that goes along with it that’s unknown.”

Amazingly, Stephanie Campbell said she doesn’t feel anger at the situation but sometimes feels frustration. She’s frustrated with the poverty and drug use that has created the foster crisis. She gets frustrated when she hears of a child that had to move because there wasn’t a foster family in Lincoln County. 

For those people who are unable to become foster parents, there’s a lot that the community can do to help out DSS and those families who can foster. Basic needs include gift cards, writing  cards of encouragement to foster families, donating diapers/wipes for local children, purchasing car seats (any style) for agency and foster parent use, providing life skills training (cooking, financial, etc.) for teens in foster care, providing music lessons for foster children, babysitting for foster parent training, scholarships for foster children (dance, karate, YMCA, etc.), hosting an event for foster children and foster families (bowling, skating, movies, etc.), providing tutoring for foster children, donating a Carowinds ticket or season pass to a foster child/family, purchasing prom attire, class rings, field trips, band instruments, etc. for foster children, purchasing new duffle bags/suitcases for foster children, organizing a fundraiser, providing snacks for family visits, donating book bags filled with school supplies, hosting an awareness event at church, community or civic organization or using social media to engage and inform others about foster care.

For more information or to become a partner, please contact Haylee McLeymore at 704-736-8831 or hmcleymore@lincolncounty.org.  

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