Arrow foster mom shares her story of “making it work” for 12 years

Arrow foster mom shares her story of “making it work” for 12 years

At 9 and 10 years-old, Kaillian and her older sister finally had what every foster child longs for…a forever family of their own. That was until their adoptive mom decided she just couldn’t do it anymore. She didn’t even want the girls to come back to her house after school that day, so she picked them up at school and took them straight to their next foster care placement, the home of Arrow foster parents Phyllis and Bruce Carr.

“I knew it was going to be really, really tough,” said Phyllis. “When the girls arrived, their adoptive mother said the girls had given her so much trouble. I told her, ‘They’re just kids, they’re still just kids.’ It was really tough for the first three or four months. They were angry, they were bitter, they were acting out. But finally, they settled down. They knew I loved them. They knew I was firm, but they knew I loved them.”

The girls had a history of running away, so the first night at the Carr’s house, Phyllis took the young girls outside to hear the sounds of all the critters that lived in the countryside all around them. Phyllis told them, “I don’t know what kind of animals we’re listening to, but if you get mad and upset and want to run away, just let me know and maybe I can take you where you want to go safely.” The entire time the girls were at the Carr’s home, not once did they ever attempt to run away.

After about a year and a half of being back in foster care with the Carrs, Killian and her sister were excited to be going back home to their biological father after he fulfilled the court’s requirements. But eventually it became clear the sisters were in trouble.

“The girls called me in the middle of the night, begging to come back to my home,” said Phyllis. “I called their caseworker and told them something is not right over there.”

Two weeks later, Arrow staff called Phyllis and asked if she would take Kaillian back. Of course Phyllis said yes, but because Kaillian’s sister had attempted suicide several times while living with their father, her sister was sent to a facility where she could get the help she needed.

After being reunited, Kaillian told Phyllis, “Mom, if you adopt me, I promise you I’ll be the best kid ever!”

“I told my husband, ‘We have no reason not to adopt her, ’” said Phyllis. “We had agreed at the beginning we were going to just foster and not adopt.”

Then in 2016, at 14 years-old, Kaillian officially became Phyllis and Bruce’s daughter. But like any family with a teenager, things weren’t always as smooth as the Carrs would have liked.

“I had a lot of issues with her,” said Phyllis. “I can remember vividly, like it was yesterday, she was yelling at me, and I just let her get it out of her system. Then I told her, ‘You know, you’re here for the long haul unless you don’t want to be. We’re going to make this thing work. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect…but you’re not going to yell and scream here. If we have issues, we’ll do our best to work them out.’

“The acting out went on for several months, but she eventually settled down. She loves me and I love her. To her, I’m mom. She’s very smart. She’s in honor roll. She just finished up drivers ed. She’s talking about going to college now. She told me, ‘Momma, I think I want to stay close for the first year.’ I told her I think that would be a great idea. We’re just moving along in life.”

Even though the Carrs had already raised their daughter (now 39 years-old) and their son (now 40), and Kaillian had been added to the family two years earlier, their family was about to grow by two more daughters.

Nine and 10 year-old Mekiya and Kaniya’s mother struggled with mental issues, and the sisters had been living with their grandmother before being placed with the Carrs. Then one day the girls asked Phyllis, “Are ya’ll going to adopt us too?”

Phyllis told her husband Bruce, “They’ve asked, they’re good kids, and we have no reason not to adopt them.” So last month, Mekiya and Kaniya officially became Carrs, and Phyllis said she’s never seen the girls so happy.

Now in their early to mid-sixties, Bruce and Phyllis have decided that after fostering 58 children over the past 12 years, their house is full and they have decided to retire from fostering. But they haven’t retired from the children they’ve fostered.

The Carrs still communicate with many of the children who came through their home. Phyllis received several phone calls on Mother’s Day from children she fostered over a decade ago, wishing her a happy Mother’s Day. One family who adopted a 6 year-old child the Carrs fostered, now lives in another state, but just about every year, they make sure they swing through Texas during their summer vacation so the now 16 year-old can visit with Phyllis and Bruce. And the Carrs still visit frequently with the very first group of kids they fostered. “I just talked to them this weekend,” said Phyllis. “Joshua was 4 years-old, and now he’s 16! We still do what we can, and they still call us mom and dad.”

During their 12 years of fostering, Phyllis and Bruce never gave up on a child. For the 58 kids that came through their home, they always found a way to make it work. “It’s a personal commitment,” said Phyllis. “You have to be determined that this is what you’re going to do and you’re going to hang in there no matter what. Patience and understanding are important, but love is the key.”