Jones lets us in to her family’s world of fostering
By Elizabeth Birkner
Audrey Jones is not only the interim director of the Middle School, but she is also a foster mom. Her family fosters children locally, but also fostered children from the Texas/Mexican border. Jones began fostering in 2020, after she heard about the crisis happening in the south. From here, her family’s fostering experience flourished.
By reaching out to the Office Refugio Resettlement, a governmental organization that has a program for fostering unaccompanied minors, their fostering journey began. “As a kid I imagined having a family blended of biological and adoptive children. The adoption process is so costly, it wasn’t really an option for us,” Jones said. “Foster-to-adopt is a potential through local fostering but that goal faded as our three children got older,” she continued.
They started fostering for different lengths of time and explained that the children she would take in were 10-years-old and younger, as that was what was best for her own family. Though she took three years of Spanish in high school, there was still a language barrier and she needed to learn a few more terms, especially those words that are important to young children. Her family chose to foster younger children because older fostered kids have different needs and have conversations that she could not quite manage. While the family of five went to work and school during the day, the foster children would attend a place that provided educational and medical help, which worked well considering Jones works school hours.
She enjoys welcoming people from other cultures, which then helps expand her and her family’s culture. She also noted the differences between the parental angle of fostering children from the border versus fostering children from Florida. “Parents on the other side of the border would do anything to get their kids to a place for a brighter future… so they end up needing care to fill the gap. Some parents on this side of the border aren’t doing the things to give their kids a brighter future so [the child is] removed from the home,” she explained. “The main difference as I see it is irrelevant since either way kids need help.”
Whenever a call was made, asking the Jones family to take in an unaccompanied minor from another country, the only information they received was the age and gender of the child. “It wasn’t until they were brought to our home that we learned their home country and their name,” Jones stated. “After we helped them settle and got them to sleep, I’d lay in my bed baffled. Sometimes for hours. Each time, I’d find their home country on the map, read current events happening there and learn about their food and culture. The responsibility and weight of having someone else’s beloved child in my home was never light,” she said empathetically.
While the situation at the Mexican border has been politicized, the Joneses story is not political; it’s about helping people who need help. “My mom’s maternal grandparents were Lebanese refugees. My mom’s father was orphaned. With those stories in my blood, I viewed this situation less as a political issue and just as a people issue. If someone is in front of me with a need, I need to just do the next right thing,” Jones mentioned. Because of politics, however, the program that allowed Floridians to foster unaccompanied minors was shut down. Thus, fostering local children became the only option.
Within her own family dynamic, her biological children play well with the fostered children, and like to push them on swings and engage in other fun activities together. “Please don’t let me paint the picture that it was always rainbows and butterflies. Some days were annoying for our own children. There were crying toddlers, messes everywhere and a very distracted mama in the house. My children were predominately amazing though. They’d play chase, silly games and help with mealtime,” she said.
The Jones family is currently fostering a little girl named M.G. M.G. loves to attend Oak Hall sports games and cheer on the school. The young girl has an Oak Hall shirt that she loves to wear to OHS sporting events, and she especially loves the student section!
Jones is very grateful for how supportive the community has been on her journey. She feels it is amazing to see the students showing compassion, concern, and interest in what she does. She explained that she really appreciates it when people drop off outfits and show other acts of care. Jones explained that the goal is never adoption; it is to reunite the child with their parents.