A PHOTO CAPTION THAT RAN WITH AN ARTICLE IN SUNDAY'S EXTRA ABOUT LOUDOUN FAMILIES FOR CHILDREN INCORRECTLY SAID THAT PAM HAYBA AND HER FAMILY MET THEIR NEWLY ADOPTED DAUGHTER, GRACE, THROUGH THE PROGRAM. AS THE ARTICLE REPORTED, THE HAYBAS REGULARLY TAKE CHILDREN IN FOR SEVERAL DAYS OR WEEKS THROUGH LOUDOUN FAMILIES, A MENTORING AND TEMPORARY FOSTER CARE PROGRAM, BUT TOOK GRACE IN THROUGH A DIFFERENT PROGRAM AFTER SHE HAD BEEN ABANDONED. FOR INFORMATION ABOUT LOUDOUN FAMILIES FOR CHILDREN, CALL CLARE TURNER AT 540-687-5452. (PUBLISHED 07/01/99)
It was to Pam Hayba's home that a neglected 3-month-old boy once came. He never cried, never smiled--an expressionless baby who didn't seem to know how to be one. It was Hayba's family who gave him love and attention for the first time. And a few weeks later, it was in her oldest son's arms that the baby smiled his first smile.
That kind of moment reminds Hayba why she opened her Lovettsville home to troubled children 10 years ago. Although she has four children of her own ages 8 to 16, Hayba has taken in 13 others who needed a place to stay for a few days or weeks.
"I really wanted my children to be compassionate people," Hayba said. "You have to practice compassion."
Hayba said she has learned that "you have to give and open your arms and really pull them into your family."
"Letting go is hard," she said, "but you're different when they leave. You feel a little bit changed just because they were here."
The Haybas are one of about two dozen Loudoun families who have given more than 300 children temporary homes since Loudoun Families for Children, a volunteer emergency foster care program, began in 1989. Two years ago, the nonprofit program expanded to include a mentoring component, allowing families to maintain relationships with children they had cared for.
The program evolved out of the county's need to find safe places for children who are suddenly removed from their homes by Loudoun County Child Protective Services. Before the group was formed, social workers would search--sometimes frantically--for a relative or random neighbor who could care for a displaced child.
"It wasn't a good situation," said Peggy Krogh, a Loudoun Families coordinator who worked in Protective Services for 12 years. "You want to know who you're placing the child with."
The program has several families on call each night, available to take in a child at a moment's notice for as long as three weeks. All the families have been licensed by the state after background and reference checks.
The emergency foster care program initially was run by the statewide group Volunteer Emergency Families for Children. But the Loudoun volunteers formed an independent group in 1994 because they believed they could do it better and on a smaller budget.
After 10 years, the program faces difficulties familiar to other volunteer organizations: a society in which people have fewer hours in the day and fewer days in the week to deal with somebody else's problems.
The population boom in Loudoun has brought more families with complicated histories and more children who need a temporary haven. In the last nine months alone, there has seen a dramatic change in the severity of Protective Services' cases. Most reports used to involve unsupervised children, according to Laurie Warhol, Protective Services supervisor. Now, the department is receiving more physical and sexual abuse complaints involving children who need to leave their homes for a while, she said.
"This is a growing community," Warhol said. "It's becoming an extension of [Washington] and Fairfax. Because of the number of families moving to Loudoun County, there's a greater need. Lots of these families are under a great deal of stress. And some aren't able to cope as well with stress."
Many of the children are from single-parent homes in which, typically, the mother is financially strapped and often doesn't know how to be a good parent, Krogh said. In some cases, the children have been physically or sexually abused. In others, parents might be seriously ill or need someone to care for their children while they undergo treatment for drug addiction.
Although the program takes children of all ages, Krogh said, most are 2 to 7--the younger ones who can't manage their problems alone.
A small advertisement in a local newspaper about three years ago got Karen Cohen interested in volunteering. Since then, she has taken five children into her Sterling home. The experience has been enriching not only for her but also for her son, who was in middle school when the family joined the program, Cohen said.
"He was able to see life through another person's eyes," she said. "A lot of the advantages he took for granted were things other kids don't take for granted, because they don't have those things."
Besides taking her turn on call, Cohen now serves as a mentor to a teenage girl who shares her interest in art.
Recruiting mentors is harder than finding families to provide short-term nurturing, said Clare Turner, chairman of Loudoun Families.
For the last three years, Turner has been a mentor to two brothers, 10 and 11, whom she met when they stayed with her family. Several times a month, she and the two boys get together for their usual routine: a few hours at the library, some time playing outside, eating a small snack. It's nothing fancy, Turner said, but it's a chance for the boys to escape their home life, which often can be chaotic and fraught with financial problems.
The older brother was always the confident, chatty one. The younger was insecure and quiet. The older seemed to be doing well. The younger began flunking subjects halfway through fifth-grade. Concerned, Turner decided to start working one-on-one with the younger brother to help him with his homework and tests.
"I started noticing that he made very erudite comments," Turner said. "He was very observant and very interested in things. But he was just painfully shy."
With her encouragement, things at school began turning around. He received his first A and became a solid C student. He began raising his hand in class. His elementary school gave him a prize at graduation for his change in attitude and grades.
"I really do think you can make a difference," Turner said. "The mentor program is a powerful tool, but people today seem like they're too busy."
Her son, Oliver, who has shared his home with all sorts of children, said more than hectic schedules might keep people from volunteering.
"People think that the kids are going to be aggressive and wild when they're not," said Turner, 22. "They're usually just very tired, very frightened and desperate for normalcy."
Traditionally, the program has relied on a typical nuclear family--a dad who works, a mom who spends a good part of the day at home and a couple of young children. But as those families become busier, Krogh said, the group's future might lie in recruiting active retirees and younger couples.
The important thing, Krogh said, is stability.
Pam Hayba is a child-birth educator who works part time at night. Her husband, Dan, is a hydro-geologist who works in Reston. They found volunteering so satisfying that they decided to expand their role and now take in children from organizations in addition to Loudoun Families.
Last September, one of those organizations asked them to care for an abandoned 18-month-old girl for a few weeks. She stayed. And stayed. And stayed.
And she'll continue to stay because the Haybas are now her parents. They adopted the little girl after realizing that she was already part of their family. It will be the Haybas who'll see her laugh, cry and smile now. And this time, they won't have to let go.
CAPTION: Grace walks with one of her brothers. The Haybas, Loudoun Families for Children volunteers, have taken in 13 youngsters who needed a place to stay.
CAPTION: Pam Hayba holds daughter Grace. She and husband Dan adopted Grace, whom they had cared for in the program.