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Thursday's Child Heroes: Rose and Robert Woolbright

Rose and Robert Woolbright have been heroes to foster children for more than 20 years. Photo credit: Steve Douglas

Before a foster child hears their first Bible story at Rose and Robert Woolbright's home in Dimmitt, TX, they've already been through a lifetime of changes.

"A lot of 'em, where they come from, don't nobody really care," said Foster Dad Robert Woolbright.

Most of the time, authorities remove a child from a home in the middle of an emergency or crisis. At the moment of removal, the child goes to a temporary home. Then the State of Texas assigns an investigator, an attorney, a therapist, and often times a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer to look after the needs of the child. If it looks like authorities will move to terminate the parents' rights, the child's case moves into the adoption unit at Amarillo's Children's Protective Services (CPS), allowing case workers to move the child into a more permanent placement, like the home of Robert and Rose Woolbright .

"Whenever we bring kids into our home, they call us 'Mamma Rose' and 'Daddy Robert,'" said Foster Mom Rose Woolbright.

Mamma Rose and Daddy Robert enjoy looking back on the memories of their more than 20 years as foster parents.

"Here's one right here. This is our family. He was our very first placement. Outstanding young man," said Rose as she studied a photograph of a young boy.

Quincy moved into the Woolbright's house when he was five. Now he's 27. When he lived with them, Quincy was very close with one of Rose and Robert's own sons, but he moved on when another family adopted him. His absence left his foster brother in tears.

"It broke his heart. And it does us, every time they have to go or have to leave, but that's why we do this. Families get back together; they want their children back," said Rose.

When Rose and Robert welcome a child to their home and start making memories with the youngster, they know their role as parents has a specific purpose.

"Not only when we foster children are we fostering those children, but we're helping those parents to get their lives back on track," said Rose.

It's not a job they take lightly. In fact, they collect walls of memories from each child who walks down the hall in their home. In that hallway, Rose keeps a collection of children's art work on her bedroom door.

"Probably would be to anybody else, probably be like a lot of clutter," said Rose. However, she explains how each piece tells a story and holds a cherished memory.

"He says, 'Five reasons I love Mamma Rose. She takes me to school. She cooks food. She takes me to the park. She reads me stories at night. She takes care of me,'" Rose said as she read from a piece of art shaped like a child's hand.

The words of that child reveal a gratefulness for basic needs, but the meaning in the words is anything but basic to the Woolbrights.

"To me it's precious. To me it's precious," said Rose.

In addition to their own four children, Rose and Robert have been parents to dozens of kids who were in desperate need of love. The don't have an exact count, but they believe the number is somewhere between 20 and 30. Each of those kids walk away with a life book . It looks like a scrap book, and Rose said it's a way for their foster children to remember their time with the Woolbrights.

"They take these life book[s] home, and that way they can remember us, and keep up with us, and that part of their lives is not blank," said Rose.

As Rose and Robert thumb through their own memories, they hope their life of love is making a difference.

"Everybody has a calling. God didn't put you on this planet for nothing. I mean everyone of us is here on this planet for a reason, and when you do that, it's not just for you. It's for someone else," said Rose.

The kids who come into the Woolbright's lives are, without even realizing it, giving something to Mamma Rose and Daddy Robert.

"They've given us a whole lot more than we've given them. We give them a home, a roof over their head to stay, and to feed them, and to love them, and to teach them about the Lord," said Rose.

"You know, you do a lot for the kids, but with the kids coming in, they do a lot for your too. I mean, especailly when they get to go back home to their parents," said Robert.

And while Rose and Robert say a child's departure is never easy, they hang on to the faith they've made a difference.

"You're hoping that when they grow up, you at least kinda indented their lives a little bit with something good that they didn't have or they didn't get to go through," said Rose.

Sometimes that gift is as simple as a Bible story.

"You establish the Lord in their lives, they'll always keep it," said Rose.

And sometimes the gift is more complex, such as giving the kids an example of love and why it exists. It's a gift Rose knows at least one of her foster kids learned.

"He said, 'Mama Rose, why do you love me so much and I love you so much?' I said, 'I don't know, we just do. I guess that's the way the Lord wants it to be.' he said, 'I love you so much,' I said, 'I do you too.'"

Texas is always in need of more foster parents. If you would like to learn more about the process, CPS staff holds informational meetings at 7 p.m. on the second and last Tuesday of every month. The next meeting is November 14, 2017, at Amarillo's CPS office on 15th Street.

You can call their office at (806)358-6211 for more information.

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