One-time East Providence foster child urges others to participate in program

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PROVIDENCE — A former state orphanage site on the Rhode Island College campus was the setting Monday, May 5, for a gathering of former foster children and others dedicated to finding loving homes for children in need, particularly older children.

“Because two Rhode Islanders cared enough to open their home and heart to me, I was given a chance and I took it,” said Michelle Saunders of Rumford, who has a master’s degree in adult education from the University of Rhode Island and a bachelor of science in marketing from Johnson & Wales University. “Give a child in need a chance.  That’s all he or she is asking for.  Please consider becoming a foster parent.”

The “Yellow Cottage” at Rhode Island College (RIC) in Providence, “is the last original building of the state orphanage complex that was in operation from 1885-1979,” according to documentation on the college’s website.  Research on the website published as part of the “State Home & School Project” at RIC states the complex “was one of America’s first post-Civil War public orphanages.”

Family Service of Rhode Island convened the press conference as part of the observance of Foster Care Month in Rhode Island, as proclaimed by Governor Lincoln D. Chafee as part of the National Foster Care Month observance. “Today, our focus is particularly on the need for Rhode Islanders to open their hearts and homes to older foster children,” said Sarah Kelly-Palmer, LICSW, senior clinical administrator at Family Service of Rhode Island.

Lynne Bates, of Tiverton, served as a foster mom to an older foster child, later adopting her.  “I ask Rhode Islanders to remember the older foster child.  He or she needs what has been termed a ‘forever family’ because parenting doesn’t stop at age 18.”  Her adopted daughter, Lana, thanked her adoptive mother for welcoming her into her home.

“They saw me through my high school years and adopted me when I turned 18,” said Lana, who was welcomed into the Bates home as a foster child when she was 12.  She called her adoptive mother “a true community hero.”  Lana works in the medical field and is pursuing a business degree at the Community College of Rhode Island.

Family Service of Rhode Island and other foster care agencies across the state have a waiting list of children needing foster homes.  “We have older children living in group homes when they should be in foster homes,” said Jen Etue, who runs Family Service of Rhode Island’s foster care program.  The children were removed from their homes due to physical abuse, parent drug and alcohol abuse and other reasons.

She pointed out that foster parents can be married, single, straight, gay and lesbian. More information about foster parenting is available at www.familyserviceri.org, by calling 401-331-1350 ext. 3305 or emailing wrightgr@familyserviceri.org.

Family Service of Rhode Island is holding an informational open house on Thursday, May 15 at 134 Thurbers Avenue in Providence starting at 5 p.m. for anyone thinking about become a foster parent.

Also, as part of Foster Care month, there will be the Rhode Island premiere of an award-winning documentary about foster care called “Ask Us Who We Are.”  Two free showing will take place: Saturday, May 17 at 2 p.m. at the Cable Car Cinema in Providence, and on Wednesday, May 21, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Cinema World in Lincoln.

Family Service of Rhode Island is a non-profit human service and educational agency.  More information is available at www.familyserviceri.org.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.