The transition period from when a child is taken from a broken home to when they are placed in a foster home can be extremely traumatic.
This is where the Foster Love Home in Bell County comes in. A historic home in Belton is changing this transition period.
With the help of the community, the non-profit organization Foster Love has transformed an old home into a beacon of hope for children. They are getting ready to provide everything a child needs as they wait to be placed in a more permanent situation.
“Little by little, the needs began to grow,” says Candace Cartwright, Foster Love Bell County Executive Director. “We would hear that conference space was hard to come by, so we would put that on the list. And then we knew kids sometimes had to wait in offices for long periods of time, so we thought, ‘Oh, we can make a space for them to come and play and hang out,’ instead of being in an office setting. Everything just kind of grew and grew into what you see today. We thought this property would be perfect to meet all of those needs.”
Foster Love started this project in December 2018, and the home is nearly complete.
“To have a home instead of an office, to have a couch instead of a hard chair, a TV, a kitchen to go eat, these things are important to every family, and especially kids,” says Teoahnna Mayo, Region Seven faith-based point of contact for Foster Love.
The eight-bedroom, three-living room, three-bath home sits on Main Street – directly across from the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor. It has one goal:
“Just envisioning them coming into this place, that’s so happy and cheerful and designed with them in mind – to play and provide for their basic needs, and then some,” Cartwright says.
The building went into foreclosure in May 2017. This is when three men took action.
“My father, Mike Gunter, and one of my good friends, Ryan Hodge with First Texas Brokerage, decided that we should buy the house as an investment property,” says Matt Gunter, Gunter Financial Services Raymond-James part-owner.
They had several ideas in mind for what the future of the house would hold – but eventually decided to partner with Foster Love.
“When we heard the story about what they wanted to do and what their vision was for the house, it really just touched our hearts. And we decided that’s what we needed to do,” Gunter says.
The home has everything a child would need while going from a broken home to a foster home.
“They are not fun situations to be in. A lot of times, it’s very stressful and traumatic. And so, the whole mood of the house is meant to uplift and be cheerful and happy,” Cartwright explains.
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, 126 children are waiting for adoption in Bell County alone. This is an 18 percent increase from last year.
“We do have the need for foster parents in our community, and we are constantly looking for families for our children,” Mayo says.
“[After] the last studies were done, we run higher numbers per capita than Travis and Harris County. So the need is huge. There are so many gaps that need to be filled in so many different areas,” Cartwright says.
This is where the house comes in. As the only place of it’s kind in Bell County, it offers children everything from beds to sleep in, a kitchen to have a snack, showers and a spacious play area.
Cartwright says one of the most important rooms in the house is a place where a child can feel safe – they can read a book, play a game or just relax.
“That room will provide an area for them to just come have fun. And like I said, it’s so traumatic when they first come in – so having this space, just to be very kid friendly, relaxing, something fun that they will enjoy – I think will get used a lot and meet a big need,” Cartwright explains.
“Once it’s in a condition to where people are actually able to come in and use the facility like it’s going to be used and be able to make an impact on kids, I really can’t even describe what that’s going to do to me. But I think it’s going to be a really great thing,” Gunter says.
They say none of these things could have been done without contributions from the community.
“It’s been so wonderful to see people rally around families and children in their community to care for,” Cartwright says.
Although not everyone can become a foster parent, everyone can do something.
“[There are] literally probably a thousand different ways that people in the community can be involved. It’s really going to take all of us kind of coming together and working together to make a difference here in Bell County,” Cartwright says.