Angie Speer is a house mother at Texas Baptist Home for Children.
In addition, she has a husband and son who have also been affected by this job. It’s really not even a job, it’s more a life, a life the Speer family knows has been the right choice since they arrived at Texas Baptist Home 13 years ago.
In fact, it was only luck that even brought them there as Speer explains, “My husband, David, had been a youth pastor in churches for 21 years and we were in between churches and were not sure where we would go next. We had accepted a church in Spring, Texas, but we were not as excited about the move as we thought we should be.
“We were in Oklahoma and my brother-in-law called and asked if we had ever thought about being foster parents and told us about the position,” she said. “When we accepted the position we knew that this was where we were supposed to be. I will admit that during the first year and off and on since then, I have asked God if he was sure this is what we were supposed to be doing.”
Since her time as a house mother at the girl’s cottage on the campus of Texas Baptist Home, Speer has found out that it is what she is supposed to be doing. The family has had more than 100 girls in and out. Currently there are six girls living in the cottage between 12 and 17 years of age.
This age group does not come without its challenges. The girls are enrolled amongst four different schools with one girl - who has been with the Speers for 15 months - graduating this year.
The amount of time that each girl stays at the cottage varies and often the girls are reunited with families. “
We are a temporary stopover,” Speer explains. “However, sometimes the girls are here long term. We currently have two girls who have been here for over five years each, two who have been here over a year and then two who have just been here less than a month each.”
No matter how many girls are living in the cottage and no matter the ages, the one thing that is certain is that a day in the life of a foster mother starts early.
“I get up at 5 a.m. on schooldays and shower and get ready to prepare breakfast for the girls,” Speer said. “Breakfast is between 6:30-7 a.m. and then the girls get ready for school and do their chores. They leave for school at 8 a.m., but every day has a different schedule.”
While the girls are at school, Speer attends training, meetings, checks chores, grocery shops, creates meal menus, cleans, takes phone calls with teachers and caseworkers and squeezes in doctor appointments. The girls get home from school at around 4 p.m. and then study time begins followed by a rundown of the day’s events. Speer’s husband, David, cooks supper and then the evening is spent with David running girls around town to various activities and Speer supervising the activities in the house.
Speer says she tries to keep the girls busy by doing chores such as laundry and they all have to take turns on the computer.
“There is usually a lot of one-on-one counseling to do most nights because we have a houseful of girls with major problems in their lives and they are having to get used to living together, which causes friction,” she said.
When the girls are finally ready for bed at around 9:30 p.m. Speer makes sure everything is quiet before sitting down to do her own paperwork.
“I try to get in bed no later than midnight, but that’s not always possible,” she said.
Extracurricular activities in the cottage are also important and involve church activities, driver’s training, band, sports, drill team, work and the many other things that girls at that age find interesting. With so many schedules it can easily become a challenge and summers are even less flexible.
Speer, her husband and her son, who is 15 years old, don’t mind the fact that their house is constantly full of females. In fact, Speer says she thinks her son likes having a bunch of sisters because “maybe he likes that the focus is usually on them instead of him.”
As for her role as house mother, Speer says, “These girls are usually victims of abuse or neglect. We just try to fill in for Mom and Dad to the girls in our home and provide some structure and stability during a very trying time in their lives. We try to be good role models and show them how things should be in a home.”
When the Speer family does need some down time, there is a respite couple that comes in and stays in the house with the girls, otherwise they are there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The respite couple has a bedroom and a bathroom in the house and they often stay with the girls from two to three days at a time.
“We are still at the house while they are helping out, but we have a small apartment that has an outside entrance so we try to be invisible during this time,” Speer said.
However, still there is very little time alone.
“My husband and I watch each other for signs of fatigue and give each other a break when we need to rest. When we are off for a few days, we try to spend some time with our son and sleep. We also have grandkids that we like to keep up with as often as we can,” she said.
Since most of the girls who come to the cottage have been abused or neglected, Speer reiterates what a satisfying job it is to be able to provide them with a safe place to live. “We can gradually see them begin to trust people again and start the process of being normal teenagers,” she said. “I love to be able to listen to them as they talk about their hurts and to try to comfort them and show them that there are people who care about them. I could go on and on about the rewards for doing this job.”
Texas Baptist Home family recruiter/developer Amy Erwin, family recruiter/developer at Texas Baptist Home for Children there are more than 70 foster children in homes on campus and throughout the community.
“In a year, approximately 200 to 225 children are being placed in our homes based on 18 kids last month (April). Approximately 25 kids per year are adopted in our homes as well,” Erwin said.
Unfortunately, not all children in the foster homes find new homes and Speer doesn’t think they have had any teenagers adopted from her home in the last 13 years.
“Since we have mostly teenagers, we don’t see many being adopted because most people are looking for younger children. This is so unfortunate because these girls leave our care at 18 or when they graduate and don’t have that family support that most of us enjoy as we try our wings,” she said, saying that while Texas Baptist Home is a wonderful support, as the girls struggle to get on their feet, it’s not the same as having a family.
However, the Speer family will continue to foster and nurture its girls as best it can while offering a loving family environment. The family is a good role model for the job since the couple has been married for almost 34 years and, in addition to their youngest son, the Speers have two other children and three grandsons. Both grew up as preacher’s kids in strong and supportive families and Speer says, “Our families loved us and taught us to love God and that’s what we want to give back to these girls.”
The greatest thing she believes she gives the girls is much-needed and unconditional love.
“It breaks my heart to know that our girls have been through so much pain and rejection when all they wanted and should have had was love,” she said. “To be a part of the process that can give them love, acceptance and nurturing to help them overcome the hurts from the past and the hurdles that they face as they grow up is a phenomenal blessing.
“This is the hardest job I’ve ever done, but it is definitely the most rewarding,”
For more information about foster care or the foster-to-adopt program, contact Erwin at Texas Baptist Home for Children at (972) 937-7078, ext. 22.