MILFORD — Adrian Williams-Conde wasn’t sure how long she would be a foster parent for, but decided to give it a shot because one of her friends suggested it.
Ten years later, she’s still doing it.
Ms. Williams-Conde was one of several foster parents honored Monday by the Delaware Division of Family Services foster care team during a drive-thru celebration in recognition of National Foster Care Month. Sussex County families were celebrated Monday at the DFS’ Riverwalk Office in Milford while Kent County families will have a ceremony today at DFS’ Barratt Building Office in Dover.
“I just like helping kids,” said Ms. Williams-Conde. “A lot just seem like they need help and want someone to care for them. I just had one come by my house the other day, he’s engaged now and going into the service. He aged out three years ago, but he always comes back and sees me all the time.”
Foster families received certificates, flowers and gift bags from the DFS staff members who were positioned by the facility entrance, cheering and waving signs of appreciation to the families who drove by in their vehicles. The celebration was for foster parents hitting a milestone of five, 10, 15 and 20 years of participation.
Duane and Jennifer Smith were honored for their fifth year of service. Mr. Smith, a pastor at Sussex County Bible Church, said since he first became involved as a foster parent five years ago, six more families in his church also have become foster families.
“We wanted to be a resource to help kids,” Mr. Smith said. “Our faith is integral to all of that, wanting to care for children and at-risk people. That was a big motivator for us for sure. It’s really great when the kids are in the home — you have an opportunity to pour into them and love them however long they are there.”
The first foster child the Smiths met was 3 months old. She is now 6 and they still maintain a relationship with her to this day.
“We built a connection with her mom which doesn’t always happen with bio-parents,” Ms. Smith said. “But we did and so we kind of co-parent this little girl. She lives 15 minutes from us now, they moved closer, so we get her three days a week.”
DFS director Trenee Parker said there are about 400 foster parents throughout the state fostering through the division and its partners.
“It makes my heart feel good,” she said about celebrating milestones with these families. “I know these families are in this for the long haul and they want to help children and youth. I think there is hardly a more selfless thing a person can do than to help a child.”
There are approximately 488 youth in Delaware who don’t have the ability to live with their family so they are in substitute care, Ms. Parker said.
“Our foster parents do such an amazing job providing for their needs,” Ms. Parker said. “Providing a loving home, safety, support, stability, connecting them to services and just making sure they do have a connection when they can’t be with their family.”