“I’ve fallen in love with all these kids I have cared for,” says foster mother Renell Grant. And for Renell, after 27 years of foster parenting, that’s a lot of children. She’s taken in little ones and teenagers. Some have been HIV-positive or had medical special needs that resulted in them being especially fragile. Some of the children who have lived with Renell have mental retardation and other developmental disabilities and delays. Currently, Renell is fostering two siblings, ages 14 months and 2 ½ years old. She also cares for 10-year old Paige, whom she adopted several years ago. “I have been entrusted to do something good. My faith guides me and helps me nurture and take care of these kids. These are those forgotten kids. You can help bring out the beauty in them.”
Not only committed to working with children with special challenges, Renell steps up in emergency situations, taking children in the middle of the night or during extraordinarily stressful times. In the last month alone, three other youth have stayed with her for several nights while a more permanent foster home placement was found. For youth bounced around from place to place, making a connection is that much harder. “Some of these kids are tough kids to crack, but I win them over.”
Renell has a special ability to identify with the kids she takes in. At age 10, Renell was placed into foster care herself. In fact, she lived at the Leake & Watts Yonkers campus for nearly 10 years. “I was very well taken care of. I got good guidance from my social workers. I try to give back to these kids in the way that I was raised. I encourage them to go to and stay in school. I help them stay on track.” She also guides birth parents. It’s hard for many while their child is in foster care, and their interaction with their children is often monitored or strained. Children can be uncertain and may act out during visits. Renell talks to the parents and lets them know what is going on with their child and how to make the visit as smooth and rewarding as possible. “I think of myself as a role model to birth parents.”
“Caring doesn’t end when a child that I have known turns 18 or 21. I’m in the lives of these kids forever.” Despite her many years as a foster parent and the challenges it brings as she gets older, Renell has no plans to stop fostering any time soon. “I have the largest and most extended family that anyone could ever have. My life is full.” She looks forward to seeing her family grow ever larger.