BROWNSBURG — There is anguish in Terry Blackburn’s voice as he shares stories of the foster children who have been welcomed into his family’s home over the years.
Two had chemical burns on their feet from walking around in a house soaked in dog urine and feces. Then there were the siblings — ages 1 and 3 — who had been living on their own in an abandoned house before they were discovered.
Blackburn, a U.S. Navy veteran who now works for the Department of Homeland Security, shared dozens of such stories to a group of community members during the inaugural Breakfast for a Cause meeting Wednesday morning at the Crown Room in Brownsburg.
Blackburn’s goal was to drum up support for Jordan’s Place, a non-profit agency that he and his wife have run since 2005. Jordan’s Place is a foster family resource and donation center serving Indianapolis and its surrounding areas.
“My grandfather was a judge, magistrate, sheriff, and a farmer,” Blackburn said. “I had 15 aunts and uncles growing up. When he died, I suddenly got an education. I learned that five of the 15 were children my grandfather had brought home as a magistrate. My grandmother used to joke that for dinner, she didn’t know if she was going to have a lunch pail or a child.”
Blackburn said that has caused him to pay the act forward with Jordan’s Place.
“We’re the bridge between the Department of Child Services (DCS) and foster families or caregivers,” he explained. “Sometimes we have kids that stay the weekend, sometimes four years. What we’d like to do is grow to have Jordan’s Place in four legal areas in the state of Indiana so it’s the same distance if you’re driving a child from Fort Wayne or Evansville, you can have rescue care.”
Jordan’s Place includes a warehouse of sorts, where the Blackburns gather necessities for foster children. The facility then opens for families who need clothing or other things for children they’re caring for.
They also drop off materials for mothers with young children who have been released from prison and find themselves in need of cribs, car seats, children’s clothing, and other necessities to take care of their children.
The warehouse is open from noon to 2 p.m. Sundays for those in need to come by and pick up what they need.
The community breakfast this week was a first for Blackburn, and he said he realizes he has to do more events such as that to get donations and funding for Jordan’s Place.
He won’t find himself lacking stories to tell of foster children in need.
“In Avon, in the middle of summer, two little girls went to school in wool pants and wool sweaters,” Blackburn recalled. “Their adopted mom dressed them like twins, but they were two years apart. When the teacher told everyone to take a seat, one of them refused to sit down and wouldn’t tell the teacher why. She eventually broke down in tears and the teacher called for the nurse, who suddenly realizes that the same thing is going on at the end of the building with the other child.”
After the girls were taken into the office, it was discovered that their adopted mother had beaten them with a belt all along their backs and legs, rendering them unable to sit down without pain, Blackburn said. The two girls stayed with the Blackburn family for awhile, but Child Protective Services eventually placed them back with their parents.
Foster children staying at the Blackburn home are each given their own drawer space to keep their belongings. He said that sense of ownership is important to children who often show up with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
He said their goal is simply to make a child’s life better than it was before.
“When we’re gone, our kids are what’s left,” he said. “It’s not about a house or a car. It’s about the kids you leave behind. Those are the ones that are going to dictate who we are as a governing body or citizens group. Do we take care of our own?”
Foster parents are compensated, but Blackburn said the funds they receive are generally inadequate to provide everything a child needs.
“You can have a foster parent making $18 a day as a stipend, but you go to Walmart and a can of formula costs $12 to $20. Then diapers. So $18 is nearly nothing,” he said. “We just need to do these functions again and continue to educate people. I eventually want to work myself out of a day job and do this on a full-time basis. I guess I got it from my grandfather. He always set goals for you, taught you, but held you accountable. Kids are looking for the curbs in the road. If they know where the curbs are, they can go between them and get to the highway. But if you have water and just pour it on the ground, it’ll run everywhere. Pour it between the curbs, and it stays there. That’s what kids are looking for and not getting.”
Jordan’s Place is always in need of donations and funding, but Blackburn said what it needs most is volunteers, especially to work in the warehouse.
“The best way people can help is to volunteer their time,” he said. “By doing that, they become familiar with what we do first hand and get a chance to see foster kids and families in need. Between noon and 2 (p.m.) is our biggest push that we need volunteers to help folks and service their needs.”
At this week’s breakfast event, Blackburn was surprised with a $5,000 check from Lucas Oil.
“I was amazed,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve done a fundraising event like this. A lot of our events have been on Saturdays and Sundays where a lot of business folks are unable to come. Wednesday was determined to be the least impacted day for them that they could come out.
“The biggest thing we hope people take away from what it is we do is focusing on the needs of the children. There’s nothing like this in the state of Indiana and it’s been a need for a long time.”
For more information about Jordan’s Place and how to give or receive help, visit the website at www.jordans-place.org.