Jeff Eydmann sheepishly admitted that he had a role in picking out his 17-year-old daughter’s junior prom dress.
“She wanted a certain color — what was it, blue?” he guessed, unsure of whether to call it teal instead.
It also was the opportunity for their first family photo. Eydmann and Brianne Deckard are first-time foster parents, learning on the fly about teenagers. They drove from Ste. Genevieve to David’s Bridal in St. Louis to check out the dresses. “We really geeked out about prom,” Deckard said. “We just fed into it.”
They give credit to Stephanie Vinson and other staff of Good Shepherd Children and Family Services’ new office in Farmington for sharpening their skills as first-time parents. Credit also goes to the teen, who has shown responsibility such as following through on her foster parents’ suggestion to get a summer job. She’s taking classes to catch up on some missing high school credits.
The foster parents have helped in various ways, such as providing their daughter with a day planner and advice on using it. Good Shepherd provided tips on a driver’s education program for the foster daughter, who was soon to turn 18. The foster care program pays for the class.
Good Shepherd’s team initially is providing foster care support services in St. Francois County but plans to expand with adoption services, home visiting and pregnancy and parenting support. Good Shepherd operates under the umbrella of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which receives funding from the Annual Catholic Appeal.
A new role
Deckard and Eydmann, who live and work in Ste. Genevieve, searched online in January for foster care programs and were surprised to find Good Shepherd had an office so close — just a half-hour away. After submitting an application, one of the first steps was a home visit. Just the mention of it brought a chuckle from the Good Shepherd staff and the couple because Deckard and Eydmann nervously prepared for the visit, providing an array of hors d’oeuvres (yet forgetting to offer their guests something to drink). By the third home visit, the couple was much more relaxed.
They took a course through Good Shepherd to prepare them for the role and they were licensed in April. Deckard said they had plenty of support from Good Shepherd.
They soon received a call asking them to take four children in an emergency, temporary placement. “I really think someone up above had a role in that,” Deckard said, noting that they had just become eligible to take temporary placements. “That is out of our norm to answer that call, taking on four kids knowing we didn’t even have rooms set up.”
The new foster parents didn’t hesitate to drive the children an hour and a half each day to school. They followed the children’s routine and everything went smooth. “We just put the plan in motion the next morning,” Deckard said. “We were so surprised.”
It was nothing like the family scenes in the movies where everybody’s running around in the morning in chaos getting ready. Three of the children stayed from Sunday to Friday. The other one is the girl that is now their foster daughter. “It was meant to be. And now we can’t imagine our day-to-day without her,” Deckard said.
Their foster daughter, who has plans to attend college, is welcome to stay with them as long as she wants, with Good Shepherd providing support through age 21.
Led by God
Deckard said Good Shepherd is organized and professional yet informal. “We are really a team. I feel like somebody above is guiding us,” she said.
A lot of foster parents express that they felt led to it by God,” said Vinson, Good Shepherd’s licensing worker. “Something calls you to it.”
Amanda Landsness, manager of the office in Farmington, thanks donors to the Annual Catholic Appeal for their support. “We are serving Missouri’s most vulnerable children. These are not the state’s children. These are our children. They deserve to be cared for, supported and be heard,” Landsness said.
Good Shepherd Children and Family Services keeps troubled and traumatized children in its care safe and helps them heal. The Catholic Charities agency builds, stabilizes and strengthens families, particularly those in desperate need, and works to ensure that babies are born healthy and get the best possible start in life.
Good Shepherd offers maternity shelter and transitional living, foster care, expectant parent and pregnancy support, and a full range of adoption services for children and families in need.
Staff members see their work as a ministry, and more specifically, an extension of the ministry of Jesus Christ, who called all of us to serve those in need.
Good Shepherd has served as a foster care provider under contract with the State of Missouri Children’s Division since the mid 1990s. It operates within a consortium of agencies called St. Louis Partners. Good Shepherd began providing services to St. Francois County Oct. 1 and as of late spring was helping 30 children through its foster care services. They are recruiting foster parents in St. Francois and surrounding counties.
Foster parents sought
Children enter foster care for many reasons — poverty, abuse and neglect, for example — but never because of their own choice.
Good Shepherd Children and Family Services seeks families with room in their homes and their hearts to care for one or more children in foster care. The Catholic Charities agency provides foster parents with training, compensation to help with expenses, and round-the-clock support. A full array of supportive services also is provided for families looking to become a forever family for a child in foster care.
For information, call (314) 854-5700 or visit goodshepherdstl.org.