Deloris and Charles Dunn agreed to foster a teenage boy with a history of gang violence for only a weekend. But at the end of the stay, the couple realized the boy's desire to want to do better, and they reconsidered their time commitment.
"His eyes welled up with tears," said Mrs. Dunn of the boy's reaction when he was told he had to return to the group home. "Ever since then, there was that bond. I tried really hard. I don't let go."
The Dunns took a chance on the boy, trusted him, and let him stay in their home for three months. They treated him with respect and like a member of the family, said Deloris, and the attention paid off. He maintained a "B" average at school and participated in family activities and trips, like going to the Georgia Aquarium, without any trouble.
Though Charles and Deloris Dunn have served as foster parents for less than a year, their impact on the lives of children, especially at-risk teenagers, has prompted the Rockdale Department of Family and Children Services to name them Foster Parents of the Year for 2008.
"They're willing to meet the needs of some of our most difficult children, our teenage population, and have done so even in the middle of the night, at times," said Cherilyn Ransom, former resource developer for Rockdale DFCS.
"They are very dependable and ... very proactive as far as getting the children's educational needs taken care of, medical appointments and independent living skills, such as taking a job and getting a driver's license. The Dunns are right there and very interactive with the children."
The Dunns pondered being foster parents for a few years and decided to finally make the commitment when they moved to Rockdale from DeKalb County a little over a year ago.
"Finally, we were blessed with a nice home and there were so many kids who needed a home, so we thought let's open our home to the fostering program and just go from there," said Mrs. Dunn.
Mrs. Dunn, 51, a home delivery manager for Simmons Bedding, and Mr. Dunn, 59, who works from home in customer service for IBM, have fostered seven children short-term and one foster child, the first one for the Dunns, is still living with them. Mrs. Dunn said she encouraged him to get a job this summer.
"It builds character and there's nothing like making your own money. He's so happy he did it," said Mrs. Dunn, who added that the young man will most likely stay with them until he goes off to college.
Mrs. Dunn said she and her husband try to teach respect to their foster children and allow them to make an emotional investment. They also want the kids to see that hard work pays off.
"We feel very fulfilled," said Mrs. Dunn. "For me, it's a very rewarding experience"
For more information on becoming a foster parent, call 1-877-210-KIDS.
Contact Karen Rohr at firstname.lastname@example.org