Ledbetters maintain connection between foster kids, parents

Published 6:20 pm Monday, June 13, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Every day, Alabaster resident and Kingwood Christian School teacher Lisa Ledbetter and her husband, Todd, awake to a home filled with between three and six children, only one of whom is biologically related to them.

Apart from their 8-year-old son, a third-grader at Meadow View Elementary School, the Ledbetters do not know if the children in their care will be staying with them for a few weeks or several years.

But the lack of biological ties does not make the family’s bond any weaker.

“I love the foster children as if they were my own children,” Lisa Ledbetter said. “All the kids here squabble with each other just like brothers and sisters. The kids all get along really well.”

Currently, the Ledbetters are caring for their son, three 4-year-olds and a brother and sister who are 6 and 8, respectively.

Even though the foster children are treated like members of the Ledbetter family, the Ledbetters’ goal is not to keep the children in their care forever.

“Our number-one goal in this is to reunite the children with their families,” Ledbetter said. “I strongly feel that if a child can be with his or her parents, they should be.”

The Ledbetters have worked with the Shelby County Department of Human Resources to care for about 20 foster children over the past few years, and nearly all of the children they have cared for in the past are now reunited with their parents.

“I will say that there are some parents out there who do not deserve to have their kids. But we have been fortunate to work with parents who are willing to work to get their kids back,” Ledbetter said. “One thing I have seen is that every one of the parents we have worked with has truly loved their kids.”

Ledbetter said she makes every attempt to involve the foster kids’ biological parents in every major decision made while she and her husband are caring for the children. As a result, the Ledbetters still have close contact with several parents they have worked with in the past.

“It helps the kids to know that we are all on the same team. We are never adversarial with the parents, because we really care about the kids and we really care about the parents,” Ledbetter said.

The Ledbetters’ work over the years recently earned them the honor of being named the Shelby County DHR Foster Parents of the Year for 2011.

“We had several other social workers recommend the Ledbetters,” said Shelby County DHR interim Director Kim Mashego. “(The Ledbetters) have really supported the reunification process, and supervise visits between the foster kids and their parents.”

When the children do return to their natural parents, Ledbetter said the bond she forms with the foster children can make it difficult to give the children back.

“It is hard. But the relationship I form with the parents makes it a lot easier,” Ledbetter said. “We sort of act like co-parents.”