Alaska Faces Shortage of Foster Families
In Anchorage, one non-traditional family is an exemplary solution
ANCHORAGE - The State of Alaska needs more foster families. As of December, about 1,800 Alaska kids weren't living at home. The Office of Children’s Services has released a public service announcement asking people to consider opening their home to children in need.
Victoria Green and Terri Huebler demonstrate that a family can come in many forms. Eleven-year-old Mercedes explains: "Nine animals... 3 chinchillas, 3 dogs, 3 cats." They've got 3 adults -- Victoria Green adopted them; Terri Huebler is her partner; and while they're working, Tammy, who lives in the house as a nanny, helps with the kids.
Then there are the kids: Mercedes, 8-year-old Kelle, 7-year-old Allie, and the youngest, 6-year-old Leo.
"It's like going from zero to 60," Victoria said, explaining the difference between her previously quiet lifestyle and taking on foster children. She first started fostering when she was working in Bethel about 15 years ago. While she was volunteering at the Volunteer Fire Department, she realized she wanted to do something more. She started by taking kids who were in emergency situations for just a short amount of time.
She’s done it off and on ever since. Victoria works in Veterans Affairs. She's also part of the National Guard. Even with such a busy professional life, she's found the time to open her home to kids. Six years ago, she and her partner Terri decided to start fostering. They were told that getting called on to help would take a while, but once they took their classes, they were contacted days later to take in two little girls, Mercedes and Kelle. The couple immediately started calling friends trying to find toys and "kid things" to make it welcoming for the girls. Mercedes was only five at the time. She says she only vaguely remembers meeting them.
Huebler and Green provided temporary care for the kids. Their parents took custody of them again and Green was called to deploy to Qatar. While deployed, Green got a call telling her the kids were placed in a shelter. She kept in contact with them while she was gone.
When she returned, they took in all four kids. The decision to take on all four siblings sounds daunting. Green's father died shortly before the kids came up for adoption. She said the chance for the siblings to lean on each other made her realize the importance of keeping family together. "I thought, there's no way I can let the kids get separated," so she started going through the process of adopting all four.
Huebler wasn't a part of the adoption because Green and Huebler can't be legally bound as a couple in Alaska. Green adopts the kids and later Huebler can become a "co-parent." Republican U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski named the couple as "Angels in Adoption." That's a congressional program honors those that have made a contribution to children. All of the kids got to go to Washington, D.C. They each have a signed photo of themselves in front of the Capitol.
The kids all say when they grow up, they want to be foster parents too. Green says it can be exhausting and frustrating, but it's worth it. "The changes that are going to happen to and to the kids. There's nothing like it."
Those interested in fostering kids can call 1-800-478-7307 for information.