Adoptive parents create space to aid foster kids, families
MONROE, La. (AP) — Most new moms get to go through the “nesting phase” — painting the nursery design and painstakingly picking the furniture and each tiny onesie.
It’s a luxury most foster parents don’t get.
When a child is going into foster care, the family sometimes only has a few days, or even a few hours, to get a bed or clothes for the newcomer.
And the kids might be coming as a group of siblings, so it can turn into a complete scramble.
Anthony and Ann Bartley have fostered five girls and adopted them all. They’re familiar with what goes into getting a home ready for new children quickly, and they started Project 2.5 Plus to help foster parents help the kids who need it most.
Ann was in the middle of rearranging the house and building a crib when one of their girls was dropped off. She and one of her daughters took turns holding the baby while the other finished the job.
As of June 6, there were 559 children in foster care in the Monroe Region, according to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.
“They provide an allowance when you first get kids in care, but if, say, for some reason they move those kids to a new foster home, they don’t provide a new allowance. A lot of times, they don’t have a lot of clothes or anything to go with them,” Ann said.
With additional kids, the prepwork gets more complicated. The new family might need a stroller, a crib and a twin bed to help a toddler and a six-year old.
Anthony said they’ve been involved in foster care for 14 years, and the state provides some things, but there’s always a gap between that and the family’s needs.
The hardline items, as Anthony calls them, are beds, mattresses, baby carriers or high chairs. They always need more of those.
Ann said they thought they’d just offer the pantry to new foster families, but they see a need to help families as kids outgrow clothes too. Right now, they actually have enough clothes that have been donated to fill needs, but they’re still accepting gently used items.
It took a few years, they said to find someone who supported the foster parent cause like they do. The Bartleys decided to call the ministry Project 2.5 Plus as a nod to the idea that the perfect family is 2.5 kids, fostering is the plus.
When he looked for a scriptural link, he found that Exodus 2.5 is when Pharoh’s daughter finds Moses in the reeds. It still gives him chills.
“It’s hard to convey the weight of being a foster parent to someone who has really never operated in that arena,” Anthony said.
Then University Church took up the mantle and gave Project 2.5 Plus a space upstairs on its campus, which quickly filled up.
Then Willie and Korie Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame donated a house at 110 Kings Lane, West Monroe for the mission to use as a base of operations. The couple have adopted children of their own and have advocated for adoption and foster services.
They held the open house at the new location in March.
The house is filled with donations. There are rooms of toys, shoes and clothes for babies and children.
The Bartleys also have created a Facebook group for WFR Project 2.5 Plus ???? to alert people of upcoming or urgent needs. Anthony said the more people who join the more people they could possibly help.
The goal is to get as much support outside the foster community as possible, Anthony said, because the goal is never to put more strain on those families.
It’s a way to help support the foster care system without fostering or adopting.
The Bartleys said if someone wants to help a foster family, they can offer respite care for the kids, mow the lawn, sit with someone when they go to court or bring a meal.
Anthony said it’s important to support the foster children just like you would any other kid in the family.
“If you’re an uncle, be an uncle,” he said.