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The amazing work that foster families do is often under appreciated. They operate very much under the radar. That the Lincoln County Department of Social Services is able to pick up the phone, often in the wee hours of the night, and find a family that’s willing to take on a child or siblings is a testament to the dedication of these parents. Usually, this is a temporary situation, which adds to the complications because it can be hard not to get attached to a child. Especially if the stay is long-term.

Krystle and Bartley Bess, who are both teachers with Lincoln County Schools, have been active foster parents for several years now. Bartley teaches fifth grade at Love Memorial Elementary School and Krystle is an ESL teacher dividing her time between S. Ray Lowder, Love Memorial, West Lincoln Middle School and West Lincoln High School.

Both have been teachers for 14 years. They met when they were attending Appalachian State University.

Not long after they were married, Robin Diggs from DSS came to their church and did a talk on adoption and fostering. “We thought it sounded interesting, so we took the information, but never did anything with it,” Bartley said. “It took us a long time to get pregnant with Noel. We were on a mission trip in Peru and the pastor and his family came and prayed for Krystle. We got home and still nothing. She was getting discouraged.”

Krystle attended a bible study with another woman in church and the topic was on being broken. As it turned out, she was pregnant at that time.

“Then she decided she wanted to adopt, and I told her that was fine,” Bartley said. “We contacted DSS and went through the 10-week-long classes. Every time you go in, you have to write down, foster, adopt or both. Krystle said to just write adopt. I told her to write foster too, just in case. We didn’t know what was going to happen.”

The first children the Bess couple fostered were sisters that they knew through school. They stayed for about a year.

“They went back to their mother and they’re still with her,” Bartley said. “We still see them and keep in contact.”

Then they fostered an infant for two years before she went back to her home.

“That one was especially hard to let go,” Bartley said. “Toward the end of her stay here with us, we found out that Krystle was pregnant with Judah which helped, but it still was hard. Noel was confused. That was her sister. She asked us if Judah would have to go away after a while. We decided to take a break from fostering.”

Not long after the family moved to a bigger house in Vale, Sandy Kennedy from DSS called to ask if they’d take a little boy for a short period of time, which they did.

“After that one, I told Krystle we were done and she said, ‘you need to pray about that,’” Bartley said. “That’s what we say to each other before we make a rash decision.”

After every child leaves, that’s pretty much the feelings they both go through, Krystle said, but time heals the heart. 

“DSS does what they think is best at the time, but I’ve told them numerous times, they work it, but we live it,” Bartley said. “We’re the ones that live it. We hope that through having these kids we can make a difference, even if it’s for a short period of time, they’ll remember what we gave to them and that we loved them.”

Bartley is also an ordained Baptist minister, but he hasn’t left the classroom because he believes that’s his mission.

“Until God tells me that it’s time to stop teaching, that’s where I’ll stay,” he said.

In their living room, there’s a cross with pictures of the children that the Bess family have fostered over the years. There’s also a closet door that contains, on the inside, the names, handprints, birth dates, the day they came to the Bess family and the day the left. This door came with them from their old house.

“When we moved, we told the buyers that we had to take that door,” Bartley said. “It has all the kids that we fostered on it.”

Fostering is rewarding, though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it in the moment, Bartley said. 

“You both have to be in it,” he said. “You have to have a support group, which includes other foster parents because other people may not understand the dynamics of being foster parents.”

If Bartley and Krystle got a call tomorrow asking if they could take on a child, they would pray about it, and it would depend upon the age of the child.

“We have found that the same age as Noel doesn’t work,” Bartley said. “The last one we said no to, then felt strongly convicted about it and called Robin back, but she had already found a placement. It’s hard to say no though.”

Foster families are few and far between. For more information on fostering, call (704) 736-8831.

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