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Kids to Love: “We’re Not Throwaway Kids”

Sacred Huff moved around a lot as a kid. After being abused as a child, she entered the foster care system with a body full of physical scars and a mind full of spiritual scars. She was a little wild — a self-described problem child — and went through several foster homes and group homes. Every move took a toll on her. In bed at night, she pleaded with God to make a deal with her, something she could exchange that would make her circumstances better.

With each placement, she had to put all of her belongings into a trash bag and take it with her. The bags were efficient, but slowly Sacred began to feel like everything she had and everything she was, was garbage. The holidays were the hardest. Staff at the group homes had their own lives to attend to.

“(The staff) would rather be home with their family,” Sacred said. “And it’s nothing personal against you, but you feel like it is. You feel so disposable.”

Soon enough, Sacred started to believe she was unloveable.

Then, one day, the people at Kids to Love, a Huntsville nonprofit devoted to helping foster kids, gave her a backpack — something permanent she could use to help her move.

“I remember when my sister and I came into care, we were given trash bags,” Sacred said. “But when we moved one time, I remember getting a backpack … and I didn’t know who it was from. I just knew that this time when I moved that I wasn’t going to have to put my stuff in a trash bag. I was going to be able to move with dignity … We’re not throwaway kids.”

Those backpacks Sacred and her sister got that day set off a chain of events that led Sacred to becoming the woman she is today — a student at the George Washington School of Law in Washington DC who has custody of her little sister.

Kids to Love

If you’ve been in Huntsville for very long, you probably remember the Kids to Love segments on WHNT — photos and videos of kids smiling back at you while they wait on families to fall in love and adopt them. That’s only part of it, though. The scope of Kids to Love goes much deeper than the vignettes and free publicity. They cover everything from the backpack program to running a group home.

Lee Marshall, former news anchor at WHNT, started Kids to Love in 2004 because she was also once a foster kid. Born at a Baptist group home in Tennessee to a mother who was not prepared to parent, Lee was turned over to foster care and adopted when she was a toddler.

Kids to Love’s first project was packing backpacks —like the ones Sacred got when she was a child. Lee and her father set up in her garage and started making backpack care packages to deliver to 100 foster kids. Kids to Love grew, and in the 14 years since it began, the program has touched the lives of more than 215,000 foster kids.

Kids to Love has also handed out more than 14,000 Bibles to foster children, a reminder of an unshakable God, said Meredith Payne, development director for Kids to Love.

“Although their earthly father has pretty much abandoned them or not done what they should have done … they have a heavenly father that loves them and wants them to know that they’re worthy,” said Meredith.

In 2017 alone, Kids to Love staff and volunteers were able to provide Christmas for more than 1,500 children. We’re not talking about a single present, either. They gave these foster kids everything from clothing to electronics to stocking stuffers.

More than 70 percent of kids in foster care have a sibling. Families who agree to take one child may not be equipped to take in a family of four or five young children, so almost all of the families are separated in order to keep the children out of group homes. Meredith has even met twins who were separated in foster care.

That’s why Kids to Love started Camp Hope, a weekend getaway designed to reunite siblings for a long weekend, camp-style getaway.

Then there’s Davidson Farms — a girls’ group home — and KTECH, a job-skills program that helps foster children prepare for careers after they get out of high school. They even have a warehouse stocked with everything a foster family could possibly need to take care of a child — like when parents of all sons get a foster daughter. They’ll be needing some Barbies and glitter ASAP.

The list of programs goes on and on.

How to Help

Here’s some sad math: There are 6,000 kids in foster care in Alabama and only 1,200 foster families. That leaves a big number of children in group homes or lock-down facilities. A lot of these children in lock-down facilities — basically detention homes for minors — didn’t do anything wrong. They are only there because there is no other place to put them.

The meth epidemic is growing in America, leaving more and more children pulled into the foster system after their parents can’t take care of them. Even the Kids to Love staff have a hard time believing the numbers.

“These kids are coming into care at a massively faster rate than we’ve seen in the past,” Meredith said.

The Kids to Love programs are working, though. They have a long list of success stories, even having foster care graduates speaking on behalf of the Kids to Love program and trying to encourage other kids within the foster care system. Sacred is one of those speakers.

“Don’t get discouraged,” Sacred said. “There (were) plenty of times I wanted to give up … I just felt like everything was unfair.”

Are you ready to help kids like Sacred? The number one need for foster children is to have families ready to open their hearts and homes to these children. A lot of people are concerned they won’t know what to do with a foster child, but Meredith reminds them that no baby comes with an instruction manual, even the biological ones.

Please consider fostering a child; you’ll have plenty of help from Kids to Love.

You can find out more about fostering a child on the Kids to Love website.

If you aren’t ready to foster, that’s okay, too. There are other ways you can help Kids to Love as they help our community’s kids. There is a list of easy-to-come-by items needed to support Davidson Farms. Check it out here. You can also donate money online through their website.

Kids to Love also needs volunteers to work with the children. Find out more here.


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