Edit: The Parker’s story was originally published in 2014. We updated it to reflect FamilyForward’s current agency name.
Today, looking into the eyes of Zachary, Maya, Peter, Brayden and Liam, one would never guess the neglect they experienced or the abuse they endured.
The children arrived beaten and bruised on Jim and Bobbie Jo Parkers’ doorstep. Their eyes held more pain than anyone should ever endure and begged for a new life – a life of love, hope and future. It was these five children who latched onto the hearts of their new foster parents and never let go.
After having fostered 25 children over the course of two years, Jim and Bobbie Jo knew there was something different about these kids – they needed a safe, loving place to call home, or they might not survive. That’s all it took for the Parkers to say yes.
Jim and Bobbie Jo had always wanted children and had planned for years to have a big family.
“It was about getting married, being husband and wife, and the same thing with having kids,” Bobbie Jo said. “It was about being in the kitchen cooking and hearing Jim in the living room playing with the kids – all those little moments during the day that make having kids so wonderful.”
When the couple found they couldn’t have children of their own, they were devastated. They began to look for a solution and discovered fostering through FamilyForward (formerly Family Resource Center), a United Way funded agency that is dedicated to helping children find the loving families and safe havens they need. For the Parkers, it was “a labor of love.”
And it wasn’t until these little ones came along that the two considered adoption. The children arrived with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, and it was apparent that more than love was going to be needed.
FamilyForward equipped the new parents with basic needs such as clothing and food for the five, but they also provided them with therapy, to help determine the children’s story and what they had been through. This helped the children overcome many of their hardships and provided Jim and Bobbie Jo the necessary tools to ensure a bright future full of love, support and happiness for their new family.
Jim and Bobbie Jo’s main goal as parents is simple: “to raise children who are happy, healthy, loved, and can grow up to love a family of their own.”
For Jim and Bobbie Jo, looking into the eyes of their five children is much different today than it was the day they met. Instead of fear, they see trust. Smiles have replaced frowns; laughs have washed away tears.
“To me, seeing that is the most rewarding,” Jim said. “While we know that that probably will never totally be gone, we’re so happy to see that all of the smiles are there. And all of the love we can provide helps to make it that way.”
Without the intervention of FamilyForward and the love and support of Jim and Bobbie Jo, the Parker family would simply not exist.
“I can’t imagine how I would feel not having these kiddos,” Bobbie Jo said. “If it wasn’t for United Way supporting FamilyForward, our lives would not be the same. We would not have a family to love and care for the way we do today.”
The Parker family is a powerful example of what can happen when the love of foster parents, the skills and passion of FamilyForward, and the generous support of the community and United Way come together to provide the help and support children deserve.
FamilyForward moves vulnerable children in the direction of hope by delivering comprehensive therapeutic and educational services to support biological, foster, and adoptive families. Since 1978, FamilyForward has been a United Way partner agency.