GameChangers: Valerie Crabbe, Changing The Game On Foster Care By Starting At Home
By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Super Mom. It's a badge Valerie Crabbe wears proudly. She's a mother of three and has adopted or fostered eight other children. Now, she's preparing a home for six more teenage girls.
"I always told my mother I was going to adopt a Black little girl, a Chinese little girl and a Caucasian little girl," says Crabbe who married Larry Harris, a father of three, ten years ago.
Luckily, Larry was open to Valerie's dream of a larger family. After they married, Valerie volunteered to become a foster mother and before she knew it, she began to take in teenagers in therapeutic foster care.
"They were broken and I didn't think I could do it," she says.
But she did. She took in Angie, a ten year old White girl who had never been placed with a Black family. Valerie says it was challenging, but they stuck with her. Pretty soon Angie began to thrive.
"Her F's turned into C's; C's to B's and pretty soon she was on honor roll," says Crabbe.
The couple soon adopted Angie. Later on, they adopted Audelia, another therapeutic foster care child. But Valerie's first thought was how to help more. They brought in boys as well. Recently, Valerie began visiting group homes for foster children. She says a visit to one facility that housed about 80 teenagers pushed her to action.
"I felt like I was at a prison and my heart just broke," she says.
Valerie decided things had to change. Her idea -- create homes for groups of six to eight foster teens manned with a mom and a dad, transforming congregate care into family-style care.
"We've seen it proven- it works," she says, "we've done it."
To prove it, Valerie and Larry transformed their own Montgomery County home into a group home for six girls. They received their license from Harrisburg and the girls are slated to move in later this month. Valerie says her goal is to duplicate the model by putting strong foster couples in ten homes, each with six girls or six boys.
"I am not going to stop until we get them all open," says Valerie, who her girls call "Me-Mom."
Nacera Wynn, 15, is one of those girls. She grew up in West Philadelphia and has lived in foster care since she was four. She does not remember her parents.
"I had my 15th birthday in the Villa," she says, referring to a congregate care foster group home. "It's been hard moving place to place."
She described that place one where she works for what she gets.
"What we get is up to us," she says.
Nacera says she lived in an apartment with seven other girls. She says Valerie saved her life.
"I feel like I can do anything," she says, but it won't be easy.
Nacera is behind in school, but with the help of her new foster parents, she has hope.
"When I brought home F's and cried-- she told me don't worry about it, it will get better," she says.
The tenth grader wants to be a teacher and with Valerie by her side, she believes it can become reality. Valerie wants children in foster care to know they are not forgotten.
"And I feel like I want to do so much more," she says.
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