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The unconditional love of a foster parent: A local story of hope

Melissa Wiles-Wiggins wears many different hats during any given day. She is a wife, mother, nurse and mimi. She considers the latter to be one of her most important roles. Most people would think her role as mimi would be as a grandmother. However, at only 43 years old, Mimi is what her foster children call her. For many years, she knew she wanted to adopt a child and possible serve as a foster mother. Of course, like most of us, life was busy. Eight years ago, she and her husband, James, adopted a son to add to their blended family. As the years passed by, the older children grew up and began moving out, leaving Wiles-Wiggins with a sense of empty nest syndrome. She couldn’t get use to the quiet of only having one child at home. She felt God telling her it was time to do something bigger. She and her husband made the decision to begin to foster and it has been a choice that has added so much joy to their lives.

For the past two years, they have helped children not only from Colleton county but also from across the lowcountry. Currently, she has 10 children living in her home, including her eight year old son. Even though the state limit is eight children, she sometimes has more due to her home is qualified for emergency placement, meaning sometimes children come to stay with her briefly while other arrangements are being made for them. Wiles-Wiggins hopes sharing her story will encourage others to consider also becoming a foster parent.

Since becoming a foster parent, her life has become much busier. She admits it was not easy for her son at first and was quite a transition, however he really enjoys having other kids around and usually never has to look very far for a playmate. She also admits she had no idea how emotionally taxing her role would be as she very often has to pick up the pieces of the children who have had their lives shattered. Wiles-Wiggins goes above and beyond to reach out to the birth mothers of the children she has in her custody in hopes she can build a relationship with them. She know how badly children want to go home to be with their mothers and wants to do anything in her power to help that happen for the children in her care. She hopes by building relationships with the biological family she may always be able to be in the children’s lives once they are returned home.

Serving as a foster family is truly a team effort. She and her husband work together as a team with the help of her oldest daughter. Since she is a nurse, she is able to work three 12 hour shifts a week so her husband and babysitter are able to hold the fort down while she is away. Wiles-Wiggins feels blessed to have so many supportive people in her family to allow her to love the children that are sent her way. “Foster parents are selfless. We get attached to our kids. They really need us. I don’t want people to let the attachment stop them from doing this. They should not worry about that. The need is so bad but the rewards are so much better,” she said on being a foster parent. Wiles-Wiggins currently has two children who are being placed for adoption and has applied to adopt both of them. She recently found out she will be able to adopt one and is still waiting to hear if she will be chosen to adopt the other. Even though she did not go into becoming a foster parent with the hopes of adoption, that is the way it has worked out for her and her family. Her words of hope and encouragement are “If you have the space and the love you will find the kids sent to you are great.” So far, she has not had to send any of them back to place where she feels would be a bad environment and has been able to keep in contact with her past children who will forever call her Mimi.

For more information on how to become a licensed foster parent please visit www.heartfeltcalling.org or call 888-828-8555.

Editor’s Note:
This story on the state of Colleton County’s foster care system is one in a three-part series of news articles that will show you the dire problems that exist in our system, both statewide and locally. The series will also showcase the positive aspects of our systems, and reveal to you solutions. The Colletonian and writer Christie Slocum are proud to bring you this series of investigative stories.

Christie Slocum (503 Posts)