Editor's note: For several charitable organizations, the holiday season — like the rest of the year — is a time to help those dealing with some of life's toughest problems and providing solutions to those problems. In the week leading up to Christmas, the News Tribune is using its "A Christmas Wish" series to showcase individuals whose lives were impacted by United Way of Central Missouri partner agencies and donors.
Tammy Rodgers always wanted to be a mom. She knew she would be able to help children who needed care through fostering.
"When the opportunity to foster came along, that absolutely fit into my desire to be a mom," Rodgers said. "The ability to reach out to those kids and help those kids who didn't have a place to stay that just really tugged at my heart."
Her niece Faith was the first foster child placed in her care in 2000. Known now as kinship placement, Rodgers became emotional when she talked about helping children in need, like Faith.
"Because it was our niece, we couldn't picture her being anywhere else," Rodgers said.
Fast forward through almost 20 children in and out of her care, Rodgers became an adoptive mom to three.
At birth, Faith's brother, Josh, was placed with Rodgers. She said kinship placements can be difficult to navigate but each situation is different.
"You have all those family relationships that exists already. We had to put a lot of boundaries in place with family," she said.
After adopting Josh, she adopted daughters Isabella and Elisabeth Eitel.
"Adopting them was a bonus," Rodgers said. "I tell my kids that everyone else got stuck with whatever they got stuck with, and I got to choose my kids so they're all really special."
Rodgers is one of the founders of Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association. In 2007, the volunteer group was formed by a former fostered youth, foster parents and adoptive parents.
They gathered to support each other, and Rodgers said she needed that support group when she went through the foster and adoption process.
"Because of the ongoing and early support, two of my children are doing very well and are not in need of additional services," Rodgers said.
She added, "Having been on both (sides), taking in family and taking in non-family, the needs are the same — you still need respite care once in a while because you just need a break."
CMFCAA provides respite care events and private respite care for families. Program Director Jennifer Perkins said the break helps caretakers and children refresh and connect better.
"We try to help find respite providers as needed bases when situations at home arise," Perkins said. "(In respite care), kids can come to these events and hang out with each other, hang out, have fun and just put all of that trauma and things they're going through on pause for four hours."
Perkins said kinship is becoming more common in the 13-county area they serve. She said most people are unfamiliar with the resources the organization has to offer.
"Those placements are often more out of the blue," Perkins said. "It takes a village, and nobody can do it by themselves."
All of Rodgers children are now teenagers. Josh just turned 18 and is a high school senior.
"He's going to graduate this year, and he's going to go to Mizzou," Rodgers said, smiling. "I'm going to miss him because he's a good kid."
She said she hopes Elisabeth gets accepted into CMFCAA's Transitions Program, which provides more resources for graduating youth to help them succeed in adulthood.
No longer a volunteer, Rodgers has returned to CMFCAA. Since May, she has been the finance director.
"It's been neat to do something that I have the ability to do and the education to do, but something I'm passionate about," Rodgers said.
She said her Christmas wish is for every child to have a forever family.
"The holidays are very important, and they are a time for family — celebrating traditions and making memories and every child deserves the chance to have a family to make those memories with."
In this series:
Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association gives children safe place to land
The story has been updated to reflect the agency serves 13 counties.