FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 20, 2005) – With four children, the Louisville home of Kerry Rice and his wife, Cindy Cushman, “is not a quiet one,” Rice said.
The couple have two birth daughters, ages 7 and 5, and knew they were interested in having more children a few years ago, Rice said.
“We thought it was too selfish to expand our family through birth,” Rice said. “Cindy and I consider ourselves to be child advocates, and part of our calling is to reach out to children.” In 2002, the couple decided one way to reach out was to become approved foster parents through the state.
Twin boys who were in transition from another foster home were soon placed with Rice and Cushman. After a month of visits and short stays with the family, “they were very comfortable with us,” father Rice said. Once their placement began, “we knew from day one we wanted to adopt.”
And last year, their adoption of the couple’s now 3 1/2-year-old boys became final.
Rice and Cushman were one of 16 couples and parents from across the state honored with an Excellence in Service Award today at a reception for Kentucky’s foster parents.
Governor Ernie Fletcher has proclaimed May Foster Care Month in Kentucky, and at the reception, the parents were commended for their dedication and commitment in caring for children in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ public foster care system. The parents represent each of the Cabinet’s 16 service regions.
Cabinet Secretary James W. Holsinger, M.D., called foster parents “critical partners” in caring for children in out-of-home care.
“We are grateful to citizens like you who have opened their hearts and homes to children,” he said. “We have much to celebrate, but understand that we must continue to focus our efforts to promote the well-being of children and families in Kentucky.”
More than 80 percent of public state adoptions are foster parent adoptions, Holsinger said.
“Many of you began your journey as foster parents and ended up being a permanent home for a child,” he said. “We appreciate your efforts and commitment in taking the next step to provide a lifetime home for these children.”
Rice, who is director of admissions at the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, said when his sons arrived, they were “below the charts developmentally.” After consistent occupational and speech therapy, both boys now function at normal levels and will be attending the same school as their sisters next year.
“They’ve gotten help in the areas where they were deficient, and they are normal, rambunctious, curious little boys,” Rice said.
The boys maintain a strong relationship with their paternal grandmother and siblings. “She has been very gracious to us and the boys,” Rice said. “We have been very intentional about keeping up the relationship and making sure she has been able to spend time with them.”
Rice said it’s important to keep foster children connected to home as much as is appropriate and try to maintain some family connection regardless of the circumstances.
The couple accepted placement of the twins’ older sister and worked to keep her in therapy and in school. She later went home to her father and still visits with her twin brothers.
Another girl lived with the Rice-Cushman family for four months while her mother completed drug court. The two spent most weekends together while the mother got counseling, and the two have been reunited.
Rice credited his wife, Cindy, for coordinating the children’s visits and appointments while working full time as pastor at Louisvillle’s Faith Presbyterian Church.
“She is a saint,” Rice said. “She goes above and beyond getting the kids to the places where they need to be.”
The couple has seen the greatest benefit of fostering in watching the growth of their daughters, Rice said.
“What an education they are getting about the parts of life that they may not ever experience directly, let alone at this point in their lives,” he said. “They are attuned to the needs and circumstances that get beyond people’s control. They are much better about seeing beyond culture and race.”
The twins and both of the couples’ former foster children are African-American.
The Cabinet’s Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) created the Excellence in Service Awards in 1999 to honor foster parents in each DCBS region. Honored parents are selected based on their initiative, advocacy, self-sufficiency, interest, flexibility and creativity.
Families interested in becoming foster parents within DCBS must pass several background checks, complete 30 hours of training and undergo home visits to ensure their home and lifestyle are safe and suitable for children. Homes are concurrently approved for foster care and adoption, though many families choose one or the other.
There are about 2,300 approved DCBS foster/adoptive homes, including 530 that were approved in 2004. DCBS regions have made diligent recruitment a priority to be able to provide homes for foster children close to their own communities for the least possible disruption.
More than 6,800 Kentucky children are in out-of-home care because of abandonment, abuse or neglect, substance abuse or many other reasons that make their homes unsafe. Foster homes provide a safe haven for these children until they can safely return home or become adopted.
Learn more about foster parenting by calling (800) 232-KIDS or logging onto http://chfs.ky.gov/dcbs/dpp/out_of_home_care.htm.
A list of honored parents follows.
2005 Excellence in Service Award Winners
Barren River Service Region, Barren County: Marla and Darrell Chapman
Big Sandy Service Region, Pike County: Sandy and George Colley
Bluegrass Fayette Service Region, Fayette County: Nancy Newby
Bluegrass Rural Service Region, Franklin County: Kelly Helton and Jonathan Mays
Cumberland Valley Service Region, Knox County: Sheila Butcher
FIVCO Region Service Region, Boyd County: Leo and Michelle Ranjo
Gateway/Buffalo Trace Service Region, Bath County: Elbert and Vickie Griffith
Green River Service Region, McLean County: Keith and Dawna Price
Kentucky River Service Region, Perry County: Wilmer and Verma Williams
KIPDA Jefferson Service Region, Jefferson County: Kerry Rice and Cindy Cushman
KIPDA Rural Service Region, Shelby County: Marty and Laura Griffin
Lake Cumberland Service Region, McCreary County: Charolette and Dwayne Taylor
Lincoln Trail Service Region, Hardin County: Terry Curtis “TC” Embry
Northern Kentucky Service Region, Campbell County: Melissa and John Giltz
Pennyrile Service Region, Christian County: Roger and Mary Robinson
Purchase Service Region, Calloway County: Harvey and Karen Puckett
-- 30 –