MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A mother’s love has inspired a nonprofit here in the Twin Cities.
With a sister nonprofit in Pennsylvania, Foster the Love Minnesota launched earlier this year. The mission is centered on this Maplewood mom’s own experience raising foster children and that’s what makes her a Minnesotan to Meet.
Theresa Saum said when she and her husband first met they didn’t plan on having a big family.
“When we got married we decided only two kids, then we decided well maybe not, then it snowballed from there,” Saum said.
After researching adoption agencies, the St. Paul couple decided foster care was the better fit.
“We have added four to our family, we’ve had many go home which has been wonderful,” Saum said.
She says her family of 10 feels just like the right size: four biological children and four children who were once under foster care in her home, she eventually adopted. They are, in descending order of age, Timmy (12), Tamar (10), Titus (9), Talia (9), Tobin (6), Tessa (5), Tommy (3), and Teddy (16 months). Talia, Tobin, Tommy and Teddy are all adopted.
“Tobin came when he was a year and half. We had him for eight months. He went to a kinship family and they decided it was too hard for them, he came back at 3 and a half and then we adopted him,” she said. “Some have gone back to their birth parents and we love that when it happens.”
When she isn’t homeschooling her elder children or getting ready for the next meal, she fills her free time spreading the word about Foster the Love Minnesota and the needs of foster children across the state.
WCCO met up with her in October at LifePoint Church in Maplewood. Ten churches from around Ramsey County were asked to supply books, socks, pajamas, and many other essential items. Then Theresa, along with her children and many other volunteers, stuffed backpacks for foster children.
“That way every night they can remember that someone cared enough to get them something new,” Saum said.
The idea came after her own experiences with her now 9-year-old daughter Talia and her biological 3-year-old brother Tommy.
“She came to us when she was 5 and she told us this story about how she was on a walk with her mom,” Saum said. “Social services came and took them to this house and said you’re going to have to leave your mom and go into foster care and Talia was so afraid she clung to her mom’s hand. They had to just pry their hands apart and they gave her a stuffed animal so she clung to the stuffed animal.”
Saum said events like that are very traumatic for the children, leaving them alone and confused. During the process, Saum said Talia was left with nothing but the clothes on her back; she couldn’t even keep the new toy.
“When they got there they took the stuffed animal away and said now go to your new home. She carried nothing with her,” Saum said.
Her hope is these backpacks will provide to foster families and children love, hope, and a smile during a time of change.
“We want to show them some dignity and be able to say you have wroth show that they are loved, they are cared for you,” said Saum.
According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, more than 7,000 children enter foster care each year. That’s average number over the last three years. Nearly 18 percent of those children were from Hennepin County last year. In Ramsey County, 814 children which is about 11 percent. The Minnesota DHS says the average length of time Minnesota children are under foster care is usually around 13 months.
Saum is the co-founder of Foster the Love Minnesota, along with Katie O’Niel. If you would like to help, they just launched their holiday bag drive. They are asking for a brand-new backpack or zippered duffel bag. In that you can include a pair of pajamas or one outfit, socks, underwear, stuffed animal, small blanket, book, toothbrush/toothpaste, or bath soap.
You can choose any age or gender you’d like. Saum said Minnesota is in need of bags from newborn to teens. Dropoff locations are listed here.