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Raleigh Agency Reaches Out To Families In Crisis

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RALEIGH — What do you do if sudden illness or tragedy strikes and you have no one to care for your children? An agency in Raleigh is reaching out to families in crisis.

When Judy Patterson first talked to her husband, Andy, about being a foster parent in the mid-1970s, he was not interested.

"I said, 'Absolutely not, you've got to be nuts. No way,'" he said.

But Alan eventually had a change of heart. When the Pattersons moved from Pennsylvania to Holly Springs, they thought their foster parent days were over.

"Nothing really filled that hole in my heart, and after six-and-a-half years, I said to Allen, 'I think we're meant to do the babies,'" she says.

The Pattersons now work with Volunteer Families for Children. The non-profit agency based in Raleigh provides emergency temporary care for families in crisis.

"As soon as they bring me the baby, it's love at first sight," she says.

Executive Director Barbara Heckman says the children stay with families anywhere from a few days to three weeks. Unlike traditional foster care, host families are not paid.

"All of our families do it simply out of the goodness of their own hearts. They receive no monetary compensation for taking care of these children," she says.

"I think we're living in such an age where everybody's so busy. People don't know each other. They don't have anybody to fall back on. This agency becomes family," Judy says.

The Pattersons have three grown children of their own and one grandchild, so they are no strangers to child-rearing. The babies they care for come for a variety of reasons, for example, because their mothers are sick, in prison, or giving them up for adoption.

Volunteer Families for Children is the only agency in North Carolina providing this service.