Sankey named state Foster Parent of the Year

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 3, 2003

Doristine Sankey looked about the banquet room for someone from Troy other than herself.

"Someone" from Troy was about to be named the "Alabama Foster Parent of the Year" and there was no one there except her.

So, Sankey began to get a little nervous and found it hard to take a deep breath.

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Sure, she was a foster parent and, sure, her foster daughter is a light in her family's life, but to receive such recognition, "Not me," Sankey thought. "Do I deserve this?"

When accepting the award and it took all she could do to keep from crying, Sankey said.

"When my foster daughter came into our lives, she was so special and we just loved her from the start," Sankey said. However, she admitted that bringing a therapeutic foster child into her home wasn't easy.

"Oh, it was a honeymoon for a while, but then she really put us through the test," Sankey said, with a smile. "She knew how to push my buttons and she pushed them a lot, but, with patience and love, we made it through the tough times and now we're just 'family.'"

Sankey just might have been born to be a foster mom, said Laura Hollis, United Methodist Children's Home Therapeutic Foster Care case worker.

"Doristine has a good heart and a big heart – a huge heart - and she has more patience than anyone I know." Hollis said. "Children love her and, put all of that together, and you have someone who is deserving of being named Alabama Foster Parent of the Year."

Sankey had no reservations about being a foster parent. After all, she had worked for the the Pike County Board of Education's day care program for 12 years and had never run out of love, time or patience with the children.

"I'd take the children home with me in the afternoons and keep them until their parents got off work," she said. "I just enjoy children."

Gary Wilson, a case worker with foster care, saw how children responded to Sankey and suggested that she become a foster parent.

When the Department of Human Resources was looking for a temporary placement for a young girl, Sankey and her husband, Charlie, were approached.

The foster child, who was placed the Sankey home, came with a lot of needs and Sankey was committed to meeting those needs. Sankey's daughter and the foster child were close in age, but that was not a problem.

"My daughter was proud to have someone to play with her," Sankey said. "There was never any rivalry between them."

Neither did Sankey let the family's foster child disrupt the relationship she had with her daughter.

"I come from a large family and my daughter was so involved with family that she didn't have any problems welcoming someone else into our family," Sankey said. "We treated her just like a Sankey and I've always made time for special time with my daughter."

The foster child also had a large biological family and Sankey believed that it was important for her to maintain a relationship with them.

"I wanted her to keep a healthy relationship with her mother and father and her siblings," Sankey said. "I would invite her siblings to come and spend the night at our house. Over the years, I think that has been very important for my foster daughter. Her older sister, who has aged out of the foster program, is living with us now and she, too, is part of the family."

Sankey said there have been some rough roads on the journey of foster parenthood but, it has smoothed out in the most wonderful way.

"I can't tell you how many visits and calls I've made to the school over the 10 years," she said. "And, the one thing that I have always stressed is honesty. I want to be told the truth, no matter what it is or how hard it is to tell. I can't know how to help a child unless they are truthful with me. Then, I'll do everything I can to help them though any situation."

Hollis said, as a therapeutic foster parent, Sankey has always been willing to go the extra mile to build and keep a good relationship with the child.

"Doristine will go far beyond what is required of her and we've seen how her foster child has benefited from being in such a loving home with such loving foster parents," she said.

A child who came to the Sankey home lacking in self-esteem and was shy, lonely and, sometimes, bent on pushing buttons in an attempt to "set things off," is now a self-assured, confident young lady.

"Her self-esteem has improved greatly," Sankey said." She is very outgoing. She's involved in sports and other youth activities and in community activities. She assists with the elderly in our community and sometimes even cooks for them. She takes pride in herself and we take pride in her."

For the Sankey family, life with a therapeutic foster child is simply "one more person to love."

"Being a foster parent isn't for everyone, but, for those who have a big heart and a lot of love to give, it's certainly an option to consider," Sankey said.

"I would recommend it to anyone who feels that they can provide a good home and a lot of love for a child in need," she said. "Foster parents and therapeutic foster parents are very much needed here in Pike County, so, if you can find it in your heart to be a foster parent, I suggest taking the training course. It doesn't commit you to anything. It just helps to prepare you if you decide to become a foster parent."

May is Foster Parent Appreciation Month and Pike County's need for foster parents continues to grow. Anyone interested in more information about becoming a foster parent is encouraged to call 807-6120 or a therapeutic foster parent, 807-6145. The next training session begins June 2.