Foster parenting: A labor of love

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Lillian Harmon has been caring for and raising children most of her life. Just one look at her smile and it’s easy to tell why children respond so well to her.

Harmon, the eldest of six surviving children, lost her own mother at a young age. From then on, she felt a need to make sure other children did not grow up without a mother&8217;s love in their life.

Harmon has two children of her own, daughter Bobbie Batie and son Billy Harmon, but for more than 20 years, she has opened her home to at least 21 foster children and raised them as if they were her own.

Charlotte Webb of Marengo County DHR has worked closely with Harmon during her time as a foster parent. Harmon and her husband, Calvin, were certified in 1991 as foster parents. When her husband died in 1999, Harmon continued to keep foster children in his absence.

One thing Webb said she remembers about Harmon is she was very involved in her children&8217;s lives, wanting to dress them the best and send them to school prepared. Webb described her as caring, giving, unselfish, patient, dependable, sincere and loving.

As part of being a foster parent, Harmon said she was often on-call at all hours of the night, awaiting the arrival of a child who had been taken from a bad situation. But the long nights up with troubled babies and late night phone calls were just part of the job, Harmon said.

One thing Harmon agreed to do, which is uncommon amongst many foster parents according to Webb, is to take care of children coming from home situations involving drug use.

In most foster care situations, the child protection agency will try to keep siblings together in one home. But according to Harmon, she has learned that is not always the best option.

For Harmon, the most important aspect of being a foster parent is the ability to provide a better life for children who weren&8217;t always given the best chance at life.

After undergoing open-heart surgery just a few weeks ago, Harmon is recovering before moving up to Cleveland, Ohio to live with family members. Included in her belongings is a photo album for each of the children who have been in her life.

Due to her health, Harmon said she would probably not take up foster care again.

Although she is moving from the area, Harmon said she would not soon forget her foster children. She will remember 16-year-old Tavia, who passed her summer school class and eventually got accepted to college.

She will always have a soft spot for Madison, who was only nine months old when she came to live with Harmon.

For each of her children, whether they are related by blood or by love, Harmon said she would always have a special place for them in her heart.

Kelli Wright is a staff writer for The Demopolis Times. She can be reached at kelli.wright@demopolistimes.com.