In Apr. 5 issue, Russell County News
By Derek Aaron
Russell County News Editor
Russell County's "heroes" are all around us and another fine choice was presented to the News this week in the form of 2006 Russell County "foster parent of the year" Sharon York.
A foster parent for three years, York or "Nan to her children, was brought to our attention by Mary Foley, a member, along with York, of Clear Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Russell Springs.
York, who currently has three foster children in her custody as well as one godchild, has had 16 children live with her over the last three years beside her only biological daughter, Whitney, 20, and says she has treated all foster kids as is if they're actual members of her family.
She became part of the foster program when her friends, Steve and Becky Antle, spoke to her about the demand for homes within the county for displaced children.
York said she has had children for as little as a day or for as long as two years and said each child she comes in contact with has a different background and set of needs.
"Sometimes it's hard to see them go," she said. York said the bonds she develops with her children over such a short time are life-long and that she considers all the children she has harbored part of her family.
"To be honest, I seen there was a need also," she said. "There are a lot of kids being murdered and just done away with for no reason."
York said she wanted to combat that saying, "none of these kids are asked to be born into this world."
"After you have them for a little while it almost feels as if they're your own children," she said. "It doesn't take long to develop that bond because they are looking for someone to love them and care for them."
Whitney commended her mother's efforts as a foster parent as well as being a mother to her.
"My mom has been more than just a mother to me and all my foster siblings, she is my best friend," she said. "There aren't many mothers who will support any decision that their children make, however, my mom always does, no matter how stupid or brilliant it may be."
So, when Sharon decided that she wanted to have more children, Whitney said she supported her decision.
"And I must say there hasn't been a boring moment since," she said. "It takes a very special person to be a foster parent and my mother has assumed this role with an open mind and her complete heart."
York said she came from a large, close-knit family and that has helped shape the way she raises her children.
"My mom and dad never divorced and always showed us love and affection," she said. "They had strong morals for us and they wanted us to be good citizens and give us the best they possibly could in life."
York said coming from a big family, problems within the family were scarce because everyone loved and supported one another.
"That's what these kids see here," she said. "My whole family accepts these children so they know that they're going to be from a big family, too."
She said the Galilean Children's Home for displaced children in neighboring Casey County really stuck out in her mind as was instrumental in how she operates her household.
"I make sure they get up for school each day," she said. "I don't want truancy because that's part of what the problem is now."
She said she had to take care of each child's basic needs.
When cooking meals, she said she cooks enough for all her children as well as some of her neighbors to come join in and eat as well.
"It's just as easy to cook for eight or nine as it is for two or three because you're going to throw away that much," she said.
She said the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services notifies foster parents of a prospective child's age and gender and then the parent has the opportunity to decline a child, if needed. York said she had only declined four children in three years because of overcrowding.
Sharon praised her church, Clear Springs Missionary Baptist, for being so accommodating of her foster children
"I love my church family," she said. "They've accepted all my children and have taken them in and loved them just like I have." She said that she and the children rarely miss services at Clear Springs.
York said a typical day for her starts with being up several hours a night, tending to the smaller children, then she said she gets up and feeds the children and sees them off to school.
Then she takes care of the little ones who don't go to school during the day, then onto preparing an after school snack followed by supper time and baths and then, finally, bedtime.
"One thing I'm big on is I think we all have to be around the table at the same time," she said.
"I wait until Whitney gets off from work and then we all sit down as a family because that is how I was raised."
She said meal time also is the time that all of the day's issues are discussed and remedied, if needed.
"I've known (Sharon) ever since she was a baby," her friend, Mary Foley, said.
"She is just a good person, a working lady and she loves children, the best of any woman I've ever known to take care of them."
York said the two things she sees that the children need most are "structure" and "love."
"You can't give them enough love," she said.
"I've never seen anyone in my life that takes care of a child like she does," Foley said.
York has a message for the people of Russell County to act on.
“Spend every minute you can with your children, because when they are gone, it's too late.
"That's my main quote … sit down and listen to your kids because everybody needs somebody."