‘They deserve every chance’

Unstable childhood inspires woman to foster, adopt
Tuesday, May 14, 2019

(Editor’s Note: Because the adoption process has yet to be completed for one of the children mentioned in this article, her name has been changed to protect her privacy.)

May is National Foster Care Month, a time to acknowledge foster parents, family members, child welfare professionals and other members of the community who help youth in foster care find loving homes and make a meaningful difference in children’s lives.

After growing up with parents who had substance abuse issues, Crowley resident Desiree Hebert said she depended on other adults to make sure she felt safe and loved.

“My parents struggled to be a stable role models for my siblings and I,” said Hebert. “I was always grateful of those who were there for me and I always knew I wanted to be that for someone else.”

Hebert said after she finished college and bought a home of her own, she felt the timing was right to become a foster parent.

“I have been a foster parent now for five years,” she said. “Oddly enough, the very first foster child placed with me, a wild little eight-year-old girl named Rachel, is now my daughter.”

Hebert said after a year, Rachel’s biological parents were unable to complete a mandatory case plan through the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). It was unlikely their circumstances would change.

“I had two options. I could foster to adopt her or she would be moved to an adoptive placement,” said Hebert. “I had never considered adoption but also knew I wasn’t sending her to anyone else.”

Rachel is now 13 years old and Hebert could not imagine her life without her.

Over the past five years, Hebert has fostered about 10 girls between the ages of 8-17.

“Right now I have Rachel and Kamryn, 14, who I hopefully will be adopting this year,” said Hebert.

“They are just kids who deserve every chance possible to make it in this world. If you can make a difference in the life of just one child, even if it is just for a short time in their life, it is worth it.”
- Desiree Hebert

“Both of the girls know their biological mothers and love them dearly but they also know that as much as their mothers love them, they just are not in a good place to care for them.”

She said the two girls in her home see her as their mother, and she sees them and loves them as her daughters. With this comes boundaries. Some children feel that because a foster parent is not the child’s biological mother or father, they do not have the right to enforce rules like going to school every day or following a curfew, Hebert said.

“I think they fight it but they eventually look back and realize that structure is not fun but it is a necessary part of life,” she said.

Each case varies, with some children staying just a couple of nights to staying over two years.

“It’s supposed to be temporary but the parents are given time to work through whatever the issue was that got them involved,” said Hebert. “Sometimes that takes longer than planned and other times it doesn’t happen at all, which moves the case over to adoptions.”

She said the ultimate goal for the child is to have a stable, permanent home.

“Ideally that would be with their biological family but as I’ve learned over the years, it is not always that simple,” said Hebert.

Welcoming a child into her home has been different with each child, she said.

“Rachel walked into my house, set her bag down, grabbed the remote and asked what channel was the Disney Channel,” said Hebert. “It was her third or fourth placement and her third time coming into foster care. She knew the drill and was not phased.”

Hebert said that was not the case with Kamryn.

“She literally did not speak to me for two weeks,” she said. “She was terrified and being her first placement, she had no clue what was happening around her. Her 17-yearold sister was with us at first but has now aged out of foster care.”

Kamryn is now 100 percent where she belongs and happy, said Hebert.

“Hopefully her case is closed within the next year and the adoption process will be complete,” said Hebert.

Other children she has fostered have fallen somewhere in the middle when it came to being placed in her home. Rachel has become a friend to each new placement, helping to welcome and comfort them.

Hebert, meanwhile, tries to make the first day of their arrival informal to help make matters easier for the children. She said in her experiences, most of the kids appreciate the comfort afforded in a foster home.

“They have their own space to think and feel safe,” she said. “I have fostered older teens and sometimes those aren’t the most appreciative in the moment, but that is due to their age and the trauma they have experienced.”

The foster mother said for those children who aren’t lucky enough to be adopted, they end up in group homes or become separated from their siblings.

“Growing up in a group home is not ideal but it can be difficult to find placements for youth with behavior or medical issues or even large sibling sets,” said Hebert. “My longterm goal is to eventually open a group home that is specifically for large sibling sets to stay together.”

Hebert said that for the time being she is taking a break from fostering until Kamryn’s case has been completed. She does plan to continue providing a home for others in the future.

Now that Hebert has experienced the process for herself, she offers advice to those who may be considering fostering children.

“Take the classes. Go through the process, learn about the system and become certified,” she said. “You are not obligated to take a child just because you have become certified.”

She said to wait until the time is right.

“When you feel you have a place in your home and in your life to help a child during the scariest time of their life, then you can say yes,” said Hebert.

She said DCFS workers will be there every step of the way. There are also foster support groups in the community and other foster parents who volunteer to babysit or lend a listening ear.

“Do what you can with what you have,” said Hebert. “Could I take in all the kids that come into care? No, but I can take in one and that makes a difference.”

She also had this to add about her own personal experience.

“Foster care isn’t perfect or easy or glamorous by any means. I can paint it as perfect but it is flawed. The system is broken and so many kids fall through the cracks,” she said. “They are just kids who deserve every chance possible to make it in this world. If you can make a difference in the life of just one child, even if it is just for a short time in their life, it is worth it.”

Hebert is the coordinator for the 15th Judicial District Court Juvenile Specialty Court and just received her master’s degree in business administration.

“During our spare time, we enjoy going to the beach and taking road trips,” she said of her and her two daughters. “The girls love to shop and go out to eat. They are typical teens who like to watch movies and talk on the phone constantly.”

Hebert said she personally enjoys reading and CrossFit.

For more information on becoming a certified foster or adoptive parent, view the full foster care section on the Department of Children and Family Services website at www.dcfs.louisiana.gov. or call

(888) 524-3578.

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