The first Christmas Lori and Omer Steury spent as empty-nesters roughly 16 years ago was, well, sad.
The couple’s grown children had families of their own, but Lori, 59, who had been a stay-at-home mom, knew something was missing in their lives. She and Omer, also 59, missed caring for children, something they now see as their mission.
I was so depressed on Christmas morning because I looked around and it was just me and him, Lori said.
The Steurys decided to get their foster license and have taken care of about 50 children over the past decade and a half.
In December, the family realized it was getting a little tough to keep up with fostering, which requires 24-hour care over long periods of time. Omer, a former woodworker, is on disability and gets around on a motorized scooter. The couple’s adopted son, Daniel, 6, has cerebral palsy and other medical issues.
Lori heard about Daybreak, an emergency child care program run by Stop Child Abuse and Neglect, through another foster parent. In Daybreak, families like the Steurys provide trustworthy child care for families that are going through a medical emergency or other crisis.
Just a few months ago, the program had seven child care families in rotation. But after losing a few families and turning away more children in June than the staff would have liked, Daybreak staff realized the program needed more families willing to donate their time, program manager Jennifer Rutkowski-Smith said.
The demand for emergency child care through Daybreak isn’t growing, Rutkowski-Smith added, but the staff never knows when a month will be hectic or slow. The four families can also decline taking in children any time if they are too busy.
In addition to offering free temporary child care, Daybreak also provides case management services that help families get at the root of difficulties they face instead of providing a temporary fix.
There’s multiple layers of issues you begin to address, Rutkowski-Smith said. That’s so important.
After going through the application, licensing and SCAN training process, child care providers are put on a list and are called when needed.
Lori and Omer like that Daybreak allows volunteers some flexibility they don’t get with foster care, Lori said. The Steurys might take care of children back to back, but they might also get a few days in between. And when Omer had surgery recently, Daybreak’s staff members temporarily took them off the roster.
It’s easier. We get a break every once in a while, Omer said.
Since December, the family has watched several children; the oldest 10 years old. The kids enjoy playing games and reading with the Steury’s adopted daughter, Brenna, 16. They also like to shoot hoops in the yard and learn how to help feed Daniel through a special device. But they especially enjoy catching a ride with Omer on his scooter.
Being able to give children guidance and self-esteem has been the most rewarding part, Lori said. She’s firm when she needs to be, but she also makes sure to tell children when they’ve done a good job.
They say, I did?’ she said. It just does your heart good.