A house full of kids is what Lisa Alvarez loves. It’s been her life for 13 years since she became a foster parent.
“It is nonstop, but we like it like that,” Alvarez said. “Sometimes when it's quiet my husband and I will look at each other like, ‘What's going on? Where is everybody?’ We don't know what to do. We don't know what to do with ourselves. We need to be here. We need to be taking care of the children. That's what we're here for.”
Since 2000, Alvarez has brought 97 kids into her home – all of them taken away from their parents for reason like abuse or neglect.
Donald Machacon works with Our Kids – the foster care agency that covers most of South Florida. He is the Foster Parent Mentor Program coordinator and works with the Department of Children and Families in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. According to DCF, last year more than 1,300 foster parents were recruited in the entire state – exceeding the expectations of DCF, but more are still needed.
“There's a lot of good people, not just in Miami-Dade County, but all of South Florida and they are there to assist the children,” Machacon said. “We are all here for the children.”
Changing the lives of children she fosters and working with their parents to help them get custody back is rewarding for Alvarez, but there are struggles. For the last six years, she has only taken in kids with medical conditions. She adopted one – Desi. He can't eat by himself, can't talk, and can't even walk. Lisa adopted him, and 13-year-old Natasha.
Three others are in her foster care now. She spends a lot of time in a van, taking them to and from school, doctor's appointments, and court visits. Even though the van has more than 150,000 miles with duct-taped seats, it doesn't slow down Alvarez or her always-growing family.
”I think God gives everyone a purpose in life and I believe this is my purpose,” Alvarez said. “This is what he put me on this Earth to do. Everyone says, ‘When you die, you're going to go straight to heaven,’ but I found heaven and I love it. Taking care of these children is heaven to me.”
If you want more information on how you can help kids in need of a loving home, call the Our Kids recruitment line at 855-786-KIDS or visit www.OurKids.us.
If you'd like to contact Lisa Alvarez, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.