Foster parents are ordinary people who do extraordinary things for children and families in crisis. They are people who have the capacity and commitment to handle tough situations while providing havens for children to heal and learn to thrive in.
Crystal Smith is loving wife and mother of seven with a heart for foster care. In the past 10 years, Smith and her husband Todd have fostered over 30 children from West Virginia and Tennessee. Out of those 30, they have personally adopted five.
Smith has even written a book, “Beautiful Chaos,” sharing her story about foster care, adoption, faith, and love. In her book Smith discusses how she met her husband Todd and what made them decide to become foster parents.
Smith, originally from Sissonville, has two biological children from a previous marriage. In her book she discusses it was not a good relationship and she decided to leave. She was not looking for another relationship to begin anytime soon.
After her divorce she joined the social networking site, MySpace, and stumbled upon a page for her old high school. The president of her graduating class had started the page to provide information on events of interest.
Upon reviewing the information and friend suggestions, she noticed a boy she grew up with, Todd Smith. They had never dated, but they had been friends. She sent him a message and he in fact remembered her. As they began to message each other back and forth, he eventually asked her out and she turned him down, not wanting to start anything new.
Smith’s daughter Sierra decided that she wanted to see her mother happy again and approached her about going out on a date with a gentleman her friend’s parents knew.
Smith explained that if she were to go out with anybody, it would be Todd. She then pulled up the picture of Todd from MySpace to show Sierra. Sierra began to laugh and Smith questioned why, to which her daughter stated, “it’s the same guy.”
“God has a funny way of playing things out,” Smith said. “When you get that kind of sign, you go for it.”
Needless to say, they started dating, fell in love, and got married.
Smith describes their decision to become foster parents as a, “God thing.”
She had gone back to school to finish up her associates degree. She had planned on continuing her education to obtain her masters degree with a goal of becoming a social worker.
“One night, in the middle of the night, I received a clear sign from God,” Smith said. “ He did not want me to take children out of homes, he wanted me to provide them with a home.”
At that point Smith says she woke up Todd and said, “We are going to become foster parents.”
The next morning they had a family meeting and agreed to “answer the call.” Smith had always wanted a large family, but was unable to physically have any more children. Fostering was a way to make her dream come true.
The Smiths are considered a foster-to-adopt home. Other foster homes are strictly fostering children until a permanent home can be found or a relative is able to care for the child.
“Kinship placement is great for kids because it gives them the opportunity to be with their biological family,” Smith said.
Five of the children the Smiths have fostered, they decided to adopt. All five are biological siblings and they wanted to keep them together. Three of the five have special needs which did not deter the Smith’s decision at all, they have embraced each child as their own.
Smith admits it has not been easy seeing so many children come and go, but admits it has been worth it. The children she has fostered have gone on to find loving homes with adoptive parents or they have been released back to their biological parents or relatives once they were ready. Smith says she does keep in contact with all of her kids through social media.
When asked if she plans to adopt any more children Smith says, “that is up to God,” but she shared that a few years ago her six-year-old at the time came up to her and asked when they were going to get her new baby sister, she said God had spoken with her about a beautiful little girl she called Eden Grace.
“I figured if God can talk to me, he can talk to her too,” Smith Said. “As for Eden Grace, we will just have to wait and see.”
Smith’s book, “Beautiful Chaos,” is available on Amazon and can be purchased locally at the Jackson County Public Library in Ravenswood.
“I wrote ‘Beautiful Chaos’ because I want our story to inspire others to open their hearts and homes to children in foster care,” Smith said. “If our story can inspire just one person it was worth it.”
The Smiths have started a Foster Care Kinship Support Group at Calvary Baptist in Ravenswood on the first Monday of every month. For more information call Crystal Smith at 304-767-0089 or go to Facebook under Foster Care/Kinship Support for Jackson County.
Smith has also participated in Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education
(PRIDE) classes. According to www.childwelfare.gov, this competency-based curriculum trains and supports families in five categories: protecting and nurturing children, meeting children’s developmental needs and addressing developmental delays, supporting children’s relationships with their birth families, connecting children to safe, nurturing relationships intended to last a lifetime, and working as a member of a professional team.
Smith believes children in foster care get a bad rap so she has written another book specifically for kids in foster care titled, “See me for me,” which is a book for kids in the system to let them know they are not alone.
By the end of this year there are expected to be over 700,000 kids to have spent some time in foster care. Currently there are 102,000 waiting to be adopted out of foster care.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 6, there will be a Foster Care Recruitment Event at Ripley Elementary School. The theme is “Let Children Blossom: Grow a Home of Love.” Learn about the foster care and adoption processes. There will be refreshments and door prizes as well as fun and family activities.
In her book, Smith describes the details of fostering and encourages others to become foster parents and to not let financial issues or anything sway their decision to help a child that needs a loving home, even if it is just temporary.
Smith now has a couple books under her belt, but she does not consider herself a writer, she simply states she is, “just a mom.”
For more information follow Smith on Facebook under Beautiful Chaos.