Editor’s Note: A Spanish language version of this report can be found immediately above. Continue scrolling to see the English language version.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In the past nine years, Grand Rapids resident “Mamá Foster” has fostered around 200 kids from Central America who came to the United States alone.
“They feel like I’m their mother,” Mamá Foster, whose real name is Matilde, told news 8. “They give me hugs, they feel secure.”
Matilde, whose last name News 8 is not using to protect the safety of the children she cares for, decided to become a foster parent after a serious back injury left her temporarily paralyzed.
“I always ask God to help me give me my walking again,” she said. “I will do something, whatever he decides he wants me to do for him.”
A television commercial grabbed her attention.
“I was sitting on my couch watching channel 8. Bethany Christian Services needed help,” Matilde recalled. “Oh my God. My heart was beating.”
Now, she cares for up to six kids at a time as foster parent through Bethan Christian Services.
“I can’t tell you how many kids we have come into care that have a desire to go to school and lead a good life,” Cynthia Quintana, a program manager at Bethany Christian Services, said. “They’re being harassed, recruited (by gangs) on the way to the school.”
Bethany Christian Services helps the unaccompanied minors find foster homes once they reach the U.S. The organization’s ultimate goal is to unite the kids with family members living here.
“It’s probably more than 95, 96% of the time,” Quintana said of the organization’s success rate in reuniting the kids with a family member.
A high success rate means these children stay at homes like Matilde’s for a short period of time.
“For 10 days, 15 days, for one month, two months,” Matilde said. “Go, go, go.”
Seeing the children leave is a bittersweet moment for Mamá Foster.
“Big blessing,” Matilde said. “They always are calling me: ‘Mamá Foster, I love you.'”
For more information on Bethany Christian Services and the programs it offers, you can head to Bethany Christian’s website.