by Winona Post Editor-in-chief Sarah Squires
I remember it vividly. I was at Baby Angel’s funeral, the infant found in the Mississippi River several years ago, and I was overcome with emotion. My heart felt enormous in my chest with the need to do something to counter all that was lost in her death, and I wondered what little old me could do to make a difference.
Then, one of the eloquent speakers said something I will never forget. “Make a promise,” he said, “to do something to help a child.”
I went home that night and stood in the kitchen, telling this to my husband, and cried. That night we promised that, even if we never found a point in our lives when adoption would work well, we would do everything in our power to be foster parents to a child or children who needed us.
I am not sure when that day will be for me now, but it’s certainly something that will be a part of my future. And I can’t help but encourage other people to join me.
On the front page of today’s paper, you will read that Winona County’s property taxes are going to climb for the first time since 2009. Why? A variety of reasons, one being what they call “out of home placements.” Sometimes that is short-term, emergency care, sometimes longer-term help and housing, what you think of when you imagine foster care to be. Over the last few years our community has grappled with a rise in synthetic drug use, a topic we have written about time and time again, the stories absolutely horrific — children abandoned, children not fed, children abused. Children alone.
And we don’t have enough foster families to help them. We have to send them farther and farther away — apparently, to communities that have more families who are willing to help children in need — and then we have to pay our county workers to drive miles and miles to do required welfare checks and visits.
I really want to be positive here, but I honestly cannot wrap my mind around this. How can the Winona area, with all of the wonderful things that we have, not have enough loving families willing to help these children? How can that possibly be?
I don’t have the answer, but I am going to find out — for your sake, for my sake, and for the sake of all of the children in Winona County who really need us to change. In the next few weeks, we are going to be exploring the issue. We will find answers, and we’ll help bring everyone the information that they need to pitch in and make a change. We’ll also tell you more about an upcoming program on adoption, for those of you whose hearts are big enough to truly commit to the kids who need us.
If you have a story about fostering, or something you’d like to make sure we know about as we explore this issue, please give us a call and let us know. If there is a foster family out there that we should be celebrating, let’s do that too.
It is my wish that next December, when the County Board is cutting its budget and eyeballing property taxes, that we will find that Winona County has changed. We’ll find that more families have stepped up to the plate to help a child in need, that we have decided as a community that we’ll never turn our backs on the kids who need us most.
Please join me.