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One lost her mother at the age of 13, the other followed the example set by her mom.
Southeast Queens foster parents Phyllis Samarion and Shauna Brown were raised under different circumstances, but they share an exemplary dedication to caring for those in need.
“I survived because of the people who helped me along the way,” said Samarion, who over the course of three decades has cared for about 30 foster children. “My older siblings helped raise me. I achieved a good job, a home and I felt I needed to give back. This was my way of giving back.”
The 53-year-old bus driver from Springfield Gardens has dedicated her life to providing a safe, nurturing place for some of the city’s most vulnerable children. Many of the children she cares for have problematic backgrounds and are generally difficult to place in foster care.
“The first one I got I adopted and raised her. She’s grown and in college,” said Samarion, who also has two biological children and another three through marriage. “Another child I’m adopting, she’s 16 now. She was a crack-addicted baby. I weened her off drugs and now she’s in high school and doing well. She’s one of my real success stories.”
May is National Foster Care Month, and in recognition of their dedication, Samarion and Brown have been honored among 20 others as Foster Parents of the Year by the city Administration for Children’s Services. In particular, the ACS noted their commitment to opening their homes to hard-to-place children such as pregnant mothers, LGBTQ youths and children with special needs.
Brown, 41, who has three biological children of her own, now cares for three foster children at her home in Rosedale.
“The first child I got was an 8-day-old abandoned baby with no parents. I finally got to adopt her after two years,” she said. “She’s 8 years old now and she’s a blessing.”
Brown is a daycare provider as was her mother, who took care of 15 foster children.
“I basically followed in her footsteps,” she said. “Her door was always open.”
Over the course of nine years, she has taken in 11 children and they, along with those her mother raised, have become her extended family.
“I still talk to them. They call me. I used to have a 13-year-old girl who’s now 17 and about to graduate. I’m very proud of her,” she said.
But the foster parent-child relationship is not a one-way street. Brown said she learns just as much from the youngsters she cares for as she teaches and prepares for them.
“One child had sickle cell [disease]. I learned a lot about the disease that I probably wouldn’t have looked up on my own,” she said.
Brown added that the biggest challenge of caring for foster children is meeting their needs, which can fluctuate with their good and bad days. Nonetheless, she encourages others to reap the rewards.
“If this is something you really want to do you should pursue it,” she said. “There are obstacles that could come in the way — just keep going ahead.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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