Leah Coney (pictured here at JaKelle's Christmas Box) and her husband Shawn love children - so much so that even with five of their own they recently took in four foster children. It started with two infant twins, a boy and a girl, who were born premature and struggling to thrive. Weeks later they were told the babies' older siblings, a 6-year-old girl and 9-year-old boy, also had been removed from their home. They were asked if they would take them. They hesitated. Even with a spacious five-bedroom home there wouldn't be enough beds for all the kids. But when they were told that because of the current shortage of foster homes the older children would have to be placed in an institutional setting, the Coneys didn't hesitate.
"We weren't going to let that happen," Leah says. "The boy has to sleep on the sofa until we can get a bunk bed, but we make do. We're going to keep these kids together."
Besides the space squeeze, there's been a financial pinch as well. In order to care for the infants, Leah had to quit her job as a nursing assistant. State assistance for foster parents doesn't come close to making up the difference, and with the holidays approaching the Coneys were wondering how they would provide a merry, bountiful Christmas for their houseful of children.
"JaKelle's Christmas Box solved that problem," says Leah. "It truly is a Godsend for foster families like ours that are stretched to the limit. Thank you to everyone who has made it possible. We will definitely have a very Merry Christmas!"
Leah decided at a young age that she would like to become a foster parent. "I came from a large family and I had a good friend who was in foster care. She would tell me about the good and the bad. And when she was adopted it was the best thing that ever happened to her. I decided I want to help other children have that experience. Shawn is a youth pastor who enjoys working with kids, so he was on board.
"There are lots of people out there who hear about the foster children who need homes and think, 'I should become a foster parent - but...' I want to encourage these people to get beyond the 'but.' These kids need good homes. You can provide that. Just do it. Things will work out."