Mother leads dozens through foster care
Sunday is the day for mothers of all walks of life to bask in the recognition and appreciation for countless sacrifices made and unconditional love given for their children. Hart County native Bobbie Freeman has a lot to be celebrated for this Mother’s Day. She may be the embodiment of “a mother’s love.”
Though Freeman and her husband, James, have seven birth children, one adopted child and 25 grand and great grandchildren, their home has also welcomed approximately 60 foster children over the span of nearly 30 years.
During that time, Freeman has selflessly extended the same love and sense of security she provided for her own children to dozens of youngsters from precarious living situations.
In the early 1990s, with her husband at work during the day and the youngest of her children about to leave the nest, something sparked in Freeman during a conversation with her sister-in-law one day.
“I always loved children,” Freeman said. “My sister-in-law was a foster parent, and my children were getting out of school. The youngest was about to get ready to graduate and she said, ‘Bobbie, if you don’t want to be at home by yourself, why don’t you become a foster parent? You would like that. You’ll have somebody at home with you.’ So we gave it a try and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Though Freeman, who also takes care of her 101-year-old mother, admits there have been quite a few challenges over the years, being a “mother to the motherless,” no matter the length of time, has undoubtedly enriched her life.
“Some of them didn’t stay a whole long time,” she said. “Maybe some overnight, some weeks, some months, some years. There were a lot of challenges but we were able to work it out. It’s something in me. I would do it all over again. I’m still doing it, but to start off young, I would do it again. It has been such a pleasure.”
Freeman remembers her very first foster experience when a 13-year-old boy came to stay with the family.
“I was scared but ready, too,” she said. “But it turned out well. He stayed for years, from 13 until he turned 18.”
Freeman knew it wouldn’t always go as smoothly as the first experience, but she also knew it was a crucial role she needed to continue. She and James have done just that over the years with the utmost patience and gentle determination.
“We saw all kinds of children, different personalities, just everything,” she said. “And you have to understand that these children come from broken homes, and they’re not going to be like your children. They’ve got to get adjusted to you. Sometimes it’s kind of hard for them to adjust, but believe it or not, before they leave here, they get adjusted.”
Some children became so adjusted that, when it came time to leave, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
“I’ve had several that didn’t want to even leave,” Freeman said. “I remember we had two twin boys. Their aunt got them. It was just like a funeral when they had to leave here. Everybody was crying.”
From toddlers to teenagers, Freeman has pretty much seen it all over the years, but she has always been willing to put in the extra work. She remembered one situation in which she had to spend hours in training at a hospital to learn how to take care of a newborn baby with special needs.
“It was terrible,” she said about the baby’s condition. “He was on oxygen and had a heart monitor. But I stayed in the hospital with him then brought him home and kept him for about three years. I think he went back to his parents when he was 3 years old.”
But no matter the circumstances that bring a child to her door, Freeman makes sure each one feels as much a part of the family as her own children, even if the outcomes are uncertain.
“My family always gets attached to them. Really, they’re just like your own children,” she said. “I don’t worry about it. I expect whatever happens, because I don’t know what’s going on with the child. You never know what the child is going to be like, so you just have to take that chance.”
That doesn’t mean every foster situation is a success. Freeman has had to face the cold, hard facts a couple of times over the years. But like any good mother, she always has the child’s best interest at heart, even if it means going to another home for a better fit.
“Even if you bring a child into your home and see where you can’t do the best for them to make a change in their life, I don’t think you should keep them there,” she said. “If there’s no change and they’re not bonding with you at all, it’s like punishing the child to stay somewhere if they’re not bonding.”
The ultimate hope for any child that steps across Freeman’s threshold, however, remains paramount.
“I want them to be loved, to learn how to love when they go back home,” she said. “I just want them to be able to prosper in life, to be independent.”
Freeman and her family keep up with several former fosters to this day. She delights in their successes into adulthood just as any mother would.
“We got one preacher out of fostering,” Freeman said, smiling with pride. “Yes, one we had went on to be a preacher. I keep up with a lot of them.”
And when it comes to the love of a mother, Freeman said race plays absolutely no role in the equation. A child is a child, and a mother is a mother, she said.
“You can’t tell if it’s a white child, black child, Hispanic child, whatever,” Freeman said. “It makes no difference. It doesn’t matter. If it’s a white child, he or she may not be comfortable in a black home, but I never ran into one like that yet. The children these days don’t pay that any attention.”
At 75 years old, Freeman said continuing to have a child around is what she considers the secret to longevity, and she has no plans to hang up her apron any time soon.
“I really, really enjoy it,” she said. “It helps you to stay young. It really helps to have a child around. I thank God that He has kept me able enough to do this for so long.”
Freeman has an important tip for anyone thinking about entering the rewarding world of fostering.
“If you’re going to be a foster parent, make sure you’re going into it for the right reason, for the love of the child and the betterment of the child’s life,” she said. “Just be a mother. A mother to the motherless, that’s my job. I think that must be my calling. I love to do it and I want to do it. I love to see the children come through here. It’s a joy to see them come through that door. Of course, if they’re sad then it’s a tough situation. But you have to be there for them, and I know what kind of treatment they’ll get when they’re here.”