Being a teenager can be tough. But imagine how much more difficult it would be if you don't have a loving family to support you. That's why Richard and Kathleen Lancia of Allenhurst have dedicated their lives to helping children, from volunteering with the Scouts and church youth groups, to bringing many into their homes as foster children. Even though they have three children of their own, they always knew they had to get into foster care.
"Both of us came from troubled backgrounds," said Kathleen. "There was no one there, so we could identify with what they were going through."
The Lancias are very special in that they take in the children who are hardest to place, teenagers. In fact, they only accept teens. "Frankly nobody wants them," said Richard. "Everybody says they are too much trouble. They'd rather deal with younger kids. Teenagers aren't all that bad. They just need somebody who cares and wants to take time to love them."
"It's tough being a teenager and being bounced around from place to place," added Kathleen. "It's important to know that there's somebody that you are actually going to be able to hang on to."
They've offered that safe haven for about 14 teenagers over the last 25 years. Two are living with them now. "Teenagers are very special, too, and they need a break," said Kathleen. "Not every teenager in the system is there because they are a bad kid. Most are in the system because of the things beyond their control."
Things like being abandoned by or neglected by their parents. Kathleen and Richard admit they've gotten a lot out of the experience, but it hasn't always been easy. "It's been exciting and challenging at the same time," said Richard.
"It's helped us grow too," said Kathleen. "It's hard to just stay in one place and be complacent. Sometimes they're willing to accept the help sometimes they just need the space."
These are also lessons that have not been wasted on their daughter, Ruth. "It's made me see how much I want to try to help other people when I get out on my own," she said.
"I always say if I make an impact on one child, I've done something and we've made an impact on several children," said Richard.
They challenge others to do the same. "You may be able to do it, you may not, but if you don't give it a chance, I think you're doing yourself an injustice as well as the child," said Richard.
If you'd like to make a difference in a child's life, like the Lancias, call our phone bank between 5pm and 6:30pm each night this week at 233-5311. We have representatives from the Department of Family and Children's Services standing by in our studio during those times to answer your questions about foster care and adoption.