By TIFFANY RONEY
When a local retired empty nester’s husband passed away, she could have sat at home alone wondering why the good times were all behind her. Instead, Ruby Winters began taking in children in foster care.
“It keeps me younger; it keeps me on the go,” Winters said. “Otherwise, I’d sit around and do nothing. So, that I like.”
Babysitter to grandma
Some people become grandparents and then turn into free babysitters, but for Winters typical life progression has accelerated in reverse.
Shortly after Winters’ husband, Bud, died in 2007, Winters babysat a local girl. The state of Kansas removed the girl from her mother’s home due to abuse or neglect. TFI Family Services, a non-profit organization whose mission is “devoted to the strength of family,” knew Winters was babysitting the girl, so TFI called Winters and asked her if she would like to become a foster parent.
Since then Winters has taken in eight children in foster care. Whenever possible she stays in contact with the children after they return to their homes.
“I had one little boy I ran into here at the Pizza Hut in Abilene,” Winters said. “His parents thought they had seen a long lost friend. The kids always call me grandma. The little boy (said), ‘Oh, there’s grandma!’”
She took in one child, another young boy, for two separate stays.
“When they removed him (from his parents’ home) the second time, he asked if he could go back to Grandma Ruby’s and they brought him,” Winters said. “He didn’t forget, so I thought I was doing something right.”
Not all roses
Though Winters said she enjoys fostering – “I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t like it” – she said it is not always easy. About a month ago, one of her experiences was so difficult that she asked TFI to place the child with a different family.
“I had a 10-year-old girl and she had ADHD, and she and I weren’t jiving,” Winters said. “She didn’t want to follow house rules and that sort of thing. I felt like she was unhappy, and I just felt like if she was somewhere else, maybe she would be happier. I want them to be happy.”
Winters asked TFI to find another foster home for the girl and they did.
In Winters’ six years of fostering, that girl was the only child Winter ever asked to have removed from her home.
Winters said she prefers taking younger children whenever possible. The oldest age she asks for is 8 years old.
“I figure, younger ones, I can outsmart better,” Winter said with a laugh. “The older ones are more set in their own way when they come and it gets harder to break that way.”
Winters said one boy came with an unusually poor attitude. After some time in Winters’ care though the boy’s demeanor changed.
“He acted like he was mad at himself and the whole world,” Winters said. “Once in a while, he will still get in that mood, but we’re getting to where I’m breaking him of that.”
Winters said her favorite part of fostering is watching children grow in their mindsets.
“Just seeing them change in attitudes, becoming more happy and being able to start following rules and things of that sort,” Winters said. “Most of them that come in have no guidelines whatsoever.”
Even when they mess up children in foster care can find stability and consistency in Winters’ home.
“Sometimes, I kind of let down my guard every once in a while, but every day is a new day, and there’s always something that pops up that seems like it’s new, and you just have to work through it that day, and then go on from there,” Winters said. “The kids are loved, regardless.”
Winters said she never leaves her children in foster care with a babysitter or in daycare. She takes them with her everywhere she goes even to the doctor’s office.
“I always have them with me,” Winters said. “I had an annual checkup yesterday, and he told me, ‘I think you’ve got the call.’”