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Happy Mother's Day, foster mother

If every one of Carol Springer's children sent her a Mother's Day card, she'd get just under 660 cards. Foster children that is. Springer, 69, and her husband, Frank, 79, residents of Orchards, Washington, have been parenting foster children, especially medically fragile or special needs children, since 1975.

In a story in The Columbian newspaper dated April 27, it is reported that Springer started as the champion babysitter of her neighborhood. Then she married Frank. They had three children of their own and she started a daycare business. Once she was licensed, the local Department of Social and Health Services called her about the desperate need for foster homes for very needy little children.

Some of the kids had been removed from abusive homes by police or social workers and showed up half-naked and with broken bones. Some needed surgery or were just recovering from it.

Carol had ambitions of becoming a nurse, but she never got there. She learned her nursing skills as a foster mother. She was astonished to learn that some children were placed in her home because of parents who simply walked away from a handicapped newborn in the hospital. Many of the children stayed for just weeks or months, while others stayed for years.

In addition to their own three children, the Springers adopted three foster children and helped facilitate adoptions for many other loving families. One of the foster children adopted by the Springers was Tiffany. Tiffany was three months premature at birth and was so tiny she could be held in the palm of Carol's hand. Her prognosis was poor, but she was a fighter and she thrived. The Springers adopted her when she was one, and she developed into her mother's right-hand assistant, helping tend to the foster children as they came into the home.

Tiffany is now 27, married and expecting her own first child. She says she learned how to be a mother from Carol. She has always been a hard worker, holding down more than one job. She too aims to be a nurse.

There are six children in the Springer home today, ages nine months to 24 years. Carol's day starts at 6:00 a.m. getting kids ready for school where some are in special education. She sometimes drives up to 100 miles a day for school destinations, medical and therapeutic appointments. She says, "the laundry situation is ridiculous. If I let it go for one day, I'd be buried." At 69, how can she survive this mad scramble? Her answer is, "If you're in it for the money, forget it. But I can't imagine not doing it. I don't know what I'd do."

Carol Springer is being recognized with a leadership award in her community as one who, "makes a difference in the lives of local children who are disabled or disadvantaged, or who defines service to local children." Mild praise for her gigantic devotion and efforts.

We are familiar with a foster home near here. Two foster children we'll call Abby, 17, and Ross, 12, live there. Abby has been there almost a year because she suffered abuse at the hands of her father and neglect by her mother. Ross arrived just about a month ago and is there short-term because his mother can't seem to break away from alcohol to take care of him. At Christmas time, Abby announced in a roomful of foster parents, foster brothers, foster sisters and foster grandparents, "This Christmas is the best gift of my life. I love you." Just a week ago after the family had watched a movie together, Ross said, "We need to do this more often and tonight our whole family should just sleep together on this couch." The group-sleep didn't happen, but two children, miserable in their own homes are happily surrounded by the love and support of this foster family.

So this year, without forgetting to express the love and thanks to the four mothers in my family, we say Happy Mother's Day to foster mothers all across our land. Your love, devotion, patience, counsel, hard work, selfless dedication and that special something their own mothers lack, are a huge blessing to these children and God bless you.