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Valley family hopes to get loved one home for the holidays

Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 6:01 PM EST
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Too many people spend the holidays separated from loved ones. Whether that separation is caused by physical distance or family disagreements, it can be a painful time.

As Faye and Janice Gutshall try to gain temporary custody of Faye’s great nephew, they know that truth all too well. At their house, he has a stocking, his clothes and a room.

Now, they say just one thing is missing: him.

“We were that sure that we were going to have him for Christmas,” Faye said. “I just hate the thought of him having to be with total strangers for the holidays when he could be right here with his blood relative.”

Faye said she’s spent a lot of time with him, and they used to enjoy fishing together. There’s one thing making the legal process longer than normal.

“I got back in trouble back in my 20s, 40 years ago, and they want to hold that against me now, and say, no, he can’t come into this home until they’ve checked me out,” Faye said.

Faye said she’s not that person anymore, but her background check still has to process before they can gain custody. They believe the process has slowed down because of the holidays.

“I know what’s on my record. I know what I did as a youngster. I know how many years it’s been down the road. We’re talking 20, 30, 40 years. I’m 67 years old,” she said.

Janice said children have been her life’s work. She worked as a special education teacher, and she’s been a foster parent for 14 years.

Faye and Janice said their hard work for the boy is all for him. In their world, it’s all about the children.

For People Places, a Harrisonburg nonprofit foster care agency, every day is about making sure kids get to be in a loving home for the holidays. However, in their service area, which includes part of the Valley, there aren’t enough homes for kids.

Outreach and Communications Specialist Spencer Eavers said there are about 900 children in the area, and there aren’t that many families. Eavers said when there aren’t families available nearby, the children have to leave the community they’ve always known.

“Being able to keep them in the local community, in their local schools, even just passing the same local playground, local church, local convenience store is one less change that they have to go through,” Eavers said.

That need is especially true for children eight and older and sibling groups, Eavers said. She said many families are interested in younger kids, but welcoming an older kid or teen can be very rewarding.

“Kids finding a safe and stable place and a community and a family allows them to flourish in ways that they probably don’t even know that they are capable of,” Eavers said.

She said no parents are perfect, and there’s a myth that foster parents have to be perfect. People Places helps find the perfect spot for a child to land.

“It is just so worth it, to provide that safe and stable place for kids who have experienced trauma, whether that be a little or a lot,” Eavers said.

Many people hesitate to become foster parents, Eavers said, because of a misconception that says children did something wrong to end up in foster care.

“It may be scary to open your heart and your home sometimes, but it is so worth it,” she said. “Children enter foster care through no fault of their own.”

Faye and Janice say getting to bring the child home for the holidays would be their Christmas miracle.

If you’re interested in learning more about foster care, visit People Place’s website.

Note: The child’s name is intentionally excluded for safety reasons.

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