WAYNESBORO — Sonya Payne remembers her best birthday ever.
It was in 2010, the day she legally adopted her foster daughter Ariel Simone Payne, 16.
Ariel wasn’t the first child that Payne has fostered. In fact, Payne estimates that she’s legally fostered 40 children since 1993, and taken in over 70, even if only temporarily.
“That’s why we call her superwoman,” said Ariel’s adoptive sister Taimonique Payne, 15 and a half years old.
Payne decided to become a foster parent while working with battered women, and seeing the effect it had on both the women and children.
“It was too much,” Payne said. “I told my husband, we have to do something to help these kids.”
She read about her first foster child in the newspaper in 1993 and the rest is history.
Even with families like the Paynes, there are still local children in the foster care system that do not currently have homes and are at risk of aging out of the system, which severely affects their chances of success once they become adults, said Jennifer Eccles, foster parent and member of the mission team at First Baptist Church in Waynesboro. There are 163 kids in foster homes locally, but 14 that don’t have somewhere to call home.
That’s why the church decided to hold a summit about foster care, with a panel of foster care workers, parents and adopted teenagers, to inform the community about the need for more participation in the foster care system.
The summit was Sunday afternoon and about 25 people attended, Eccles said.
“The church feels very strongly that we have a calling to help these kids in our community,” said the mom of six. “They need families.”
One of the main focuses of the summit was on the need for care for older children and children with siblings, specifically, Eccles said. Removing the stigma that older children come with more problems is key.
“This is not about bad behavior,” Eccles said of why children end up in the foster care system. “It’s because of abuse or neglect.”
Both Ariel and Taimonique spoke about being adopted and what they would tell other foster parents if they could.
“Never give up on your adopted kids,” Taimonique said. They may have difficult behavior and difficulty adjusting, but never to give up.
For more information about foster parenting call Jennifer Edson or Heather Hudnall at Shenandoah Valley Social Services at 540-245-5800.
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