A dream came true for this year’s 2017 Adoptive Parents of the Year for Talbot County. Jeff and Jeanne Scharf, resource (foster) parents for the Talbot County Department of Social Services (TCDSS), when they recently adopted a group of five siblings on the Mid Shore between ages 5 through 14. The Scharfs initially became resource parents in 1998 with another agency and foster parents in 2013 with the Talbot County Department of Social Services. They were selected as Talbot County’s Resource Parents of the Year in 2016. This year’s accolades reflect the hard work and dedication of the family in the adoption process which has brought their number of family members to an even dozen.
While the Scharf’s had four biological children of their own and one adopted son, they felt the tug to do more. Jeanne Scharf, who had been in challenging family situations as a child, recalls, “God allowed me to go through the trials in my own life when I was a child to prepare me for caring for children in situations like foster care. We got the call about this sibling group of five children and said we would take them all.”
She adds, “When I see children in these situations, I remember what I said as a child, ‘Who will love me?’ I wanted to break that cycle in my own family and raise my children differently.”
The couple, who were school sweethearts before they married, attribute their faith, supportive church community, and extended family and friends to helping them keep things going. Jeanne quips, “God never has given me more than I can handle.”
The Scharfs felt it was important to keep the five children together. Their sibling bonds were even stronger because they had survived something together. Jeanne recalls the process of figuring out how to meet each child’s needs. She recalls, “We had to take a step back and reassess everything to give each child the tools that he or she needed to be successful. They began to trust us because they had security and consistency in their lives.”
Because of the language barrier, Jeanne and Jeff started with sign language with the youngest of the siblings. Jeanne had taken a Spanish class just before they arrived and was able to piece the language together from what she had learned, along with using Google Translate. In addition, there were cultural differences that needed to be addressed. Jeanne adds, “Having foster children before helped us to be more understanding of the children and more patient. We grow every day having them with us.”
Christine Abbatiello, LCSW-C, Foster Care and Adoptions Supervisor at the Talbot County Department of Social Services comments, “We were so honored to nominate the Scharf family for Adoption Family of the Year. They are so deserving of this award as they have dedicated the past several years to these five children. They encompass all that we would ask for in a foster and adoptive family. They are nurturing and advocate for each individual child.”
The Scharfs have enjoyed the support of families, friends, and their church in providing for the children. Jeanne states, “They came in with just the clothes on their backs, but God provided for them”. She thanks Talbot County Department of Social Services, St. Martin’s Barn, The Good Shed, and everyone in the community who pulled together to help. “We only had a five-passenger car and a church member sold us a 15-passenger van for a reasonable price. It was an overwhelming blessing.”
The family stays busy with the children participating in 4-H, dance, band and student council. The Scharfs’ youngest biological daughter, who is in her freshman year of high school, is very bonded with the children and helps Jeanne with the tutoring. Jeanne quips, “It’s a very busy life!”
Jeanne says that while she keeps the children straight, her husband Jeff entertains them and is their biggest cheerleader, always saying to them, “You can DOOO it!” Jeff adds, “When you take children in, there are so many obstacles you can face; but, one day you wake up and you’re just family! When you look back on life, you find when you lead with your heart, it’s all worth it!”
For further information about becoming a resource (foster) or adoptive parent, contact the Talbot County Department of Social Services at 410-820-7371.