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Heather Richardson and her husband, Billy, were at the Shelby County Courthouse to offer their support and celebrate a few adoptions that were taking place there Tuesday. It was easy to spot them, if you just looked for the adults under the mass of kids.
No, Heather wasn’t in court to adopt a child Tuesday. She already has nine – five adopted and four other foster kids with adoption pending, not to mention her own grown son.
With November being National Adoption Month, she was in downtown Shelbyville to support an important problem she has seen first hand – the many children in need of fostering and adoption.
“All children deserve a home, but they need parents who know themselves. They need stable homes. You’ve got to be willing to meet them where they are and work with their potential,” she said.
She speaks from experience. Richardson has fostered around 300 children in her Bagdad home during the past 25 years – children from all different backgrounds of abuse and neglect.
She says it isn’t easy, but the reward is seeing a troubled youth progress in life.
“You see them when they first come in, they’re beat down, and their self esteem is low,” she said. “Then we’ve seen them work through to independent living. We’ve had some who are now married or are in college. We take them from one spot in life and progress them to another.”
And many of those 300 kids haven’t forgotten the Richardsons for being their family in times of need.
“They call. They come back. They’re faithful. Most of them still keep contact,” she said.
One child who was with the Richardsons as an 11-year-old and now in his 20s just recently after a decade away called them up to pay a visit.
That’s why Richardson was at the courthouse Tuesday. She wants people to understand the impact that they can have, and the good they can do by helping the many kids in need.
Trish Woods, Special Needs Adoption Program Coordinator for the Salt River Trail Region, said she hopes more families like the Richardsons will come forward.
“There’s a need for more adoptive and foster families, and it can be a very happy, rewarding thing,” she said. “There are 84 kids in Shelby County in foster care, so there’s always a need for more foster families as well as adoption families.”