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Midland Living

Fostering Hope

Jul 16, 2019 04:40PM
written by haley ragsdale | photos by hometown-living

High Sky Children’s Ranch is in its 56th year of helping to heal child abuse and promote family wholeness. High Sky served over two thousand children in 2018.  One couple, Amy and Jim Riser, assisted in their success. The Riser’s passion for helping children in need led the couple to foster dozens of children over the years.  In fact, the number of children that have come through the Risers' home is almost 100. “We fostered number ninety-six in our home until May,” Amy Riser said. And each child whether they stayed a few days or years, left footprints behind. “We had a child who would say ‘you are pulling my leg off,’ and that was years ago, and we still use that expression. Each child has touched us in some way and left lasting impressions,” she said.


 
“Each child has touched us in some way and left lasting impressions.” -Amy Riser
  

Riser shared that there are many myths surrounding foster care but in reality, its much simpler than you might think.  “People think you have to take these grand vacations or be these above and beyond parents. It’s just the simple things,” Riser said. “These kids have never had a parent show up and watch them play a sport or bring cupcakes to their class. It’s finally being a priority to someone.”


She went on to explain how often they hear from others, that they are afraid of foster care and giving back a child to their family. “Over time as you get to know the situation, you realize most of these children want to be back with their families, and while the return process can be painful, you go in knowing that getting these children back with their families is the goal - That their stay in your home is only temporary,” she said. The Risers only foster children, not foster-to-adopt. She said that has helped with families working to get their kids back. “The children we foster, their families know we are not trying to keep them, and that has really helped build a bridge with these families.”


 

The Risers began their journey as foster parents as they faced infertility issues.  “We knew we wanted children and didn’t mind if they were biological or not, and even after we had our two biological children we still wanted to foster.” she said. Riser explained she has always had a heart for children. “As a young kid, I loved to babysit, just had a real passion for kids. Always wanted to have a big family of my own,” she said.

 
They fostered for 24 years with a little break in the middle.  “We took about six years off of fostering when we had very young children,” and this past May they decided to take another step back. Riser explained, “We hope to have a nice break before revisiting the foster care world.”


 

“These kids have never had a parent show up and watch them play a sport or bring cupcakes to their class. It’s finally being a priority to someone.”  -Amy Riser


The Risers usually fostered boys between the ages of 6-12 but, Riser explained, “If there were sibling groups then we did foster girls, or younger or older children. We just found that fostering the same gender and the same age range was much easier when fostering multiple children.”

 
The Risers and their young charges lived on campus at High Sky’s Children Ranch in the Carter Home where Amy stayed home caring for their foster children and scheduling therapies and activities. “High Sky is a foster parent dream. We felt so blessed to be able to live on campus and be so supported. We lived in a home that had a playroom and seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms. That really allowed us to have more children at a time,” she said.


 

High Sky Children’s Ranch offers many services to children in need in the Permian Basin, including foster care, an emergency shelter, parenting classes, and programs for foster children transitioning to adulthood. They also offer an array of therapeutic services including counseling, equine therapy and sand tray therapy.


The High Sky campus is undergoing a major renovation, with the construction of a new shelter, therapy center and other renovations to help enhance services and care for at risk children. “It was really fun to be on campus during the construction. The boys loved watching buildings being torn down and new ones constructed. They just pressed their little faces against the fence watching all of the progress,” she said.  


The renovations at High Sky will help future foster parents with the day to day needs of the children in their care, with more space for therapies and rooms for parent visitation. “It is really exciting what this will do for so many children in our community and with additional space, High Sky can lead conferences and training for all sorts of agencies in the area,” Riser said. 


 

The renovations at High Sky will help future foster parents with the day to day needs of the children in their care, with more space for therapies and rooms for parent visitation. 


Living in the Carter home had provided the couple with additional resources to take the children on vacations. “We had a really large van, which allowed us to travel with the kids. We visited 15 states and had such great experiences taking these kids to places they had never been before. One summer our boys swam in the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.”


Once a child leaves the Risers' care, they take with them a personalized photo album and a way to always get in touch.  “I still have the same phone number, because I want the kids to always be able to call me. Recently, I had a former foster child call me out of the blue after not hearing from him in seven years,” she said.

 
Riser offers this piece of advice to anyone on the fence about fostering. “Sometimes people tell us you are a saint for fostering so many children. We are not, we are just like you. We enjoy being around kids and helping them get out of some really rough places. All of us have something to offer. All these kids want is just to be a part of a happy family.”


 


 
Almost 100 little hearts (Jim and Amy’s included) have been forever changed with the gift of fostering.  †


If you want to know more about fostering, or High Sky Children’s Ranch. Visit 
www.highsky.org  or call 432-694-7728
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