07 May Bringing a Mother’s Love to Children in Foster Care
Valancia Abdullah considers it her calling to care for youth who some may think of as “challenged.” After working with special needs students at Atlanta Public Schools, in 2000, she joined CHRIS 180’s foster care program. She serves as a Resident Assistant. The kids affectionately refer to her as Ms. Val.
“The RA to me is just like being a mom in care: we have to make sure their needs are met,” Abdullah shared. “They look up to us. They’re learning from us. Kids who are grown now have come back to say thank you.”
The children in CHRIS 180’s foster homes are among the highest need children in foster care. Many are victims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect, and all have a mental health diagnosis. Before coming to the program, children have been in an average of seven foster homes and over half are academically behind.
Abdullah understands not every day will be a good one when taking care of children who have experienced such severe trauma and are dealing with mental health diagnoses. But like any true parent, her love for them is constant. On those difficult days, she brushes herself off and tries again.
“I see success. I don’t see the handicap,” she said. “Every time, they touch my heart. I love all the kids, even when they have behaviors that some say are too much – I say we’re going to work through this.”
CHRIS 180’s goal is for children in foster homes to experience as much of a normal childhood as possible while preparing for adulthood. This preparation comes in the form of specialized counseling, individual life and financial skills training, and higher education preparation. The organization is also focused on re-uniting siblings who have been separated in the foster care system, re-uniting children with relatives when possible, and establishing a family-like atmosphere that prepares them for success.
Maternal figures like Abdullah are dedicated to providing a safe home so the children can learn, grow, and move forward.
“I love walking in the park, doing things with them, laughing and playing. I love them calling me Auntie and Mama Bear,” shared Abdullah. “We’re here to make them feel like they have a home. It changes a child’s life. It gives them the sense of knowing that someone will take care of them no matter what they went through, and that they can change their lives for the better.”
May is National Foster Care Month. According to the Division of Family and Children Services, the State of Georgia has approximately 12,096 children in foster care as of February 1, 2021.
Visit our website to learn more about CHRIS 180’s foster care program.