Linda Paylor is a tough cookie with a soft spot. Make that six soft spots, one for each of the four girls and two boys she has nurtured in her home over two decades with The Arc’s Treatment Foster Care Program.
“Each child has special needs that make them unique, but they all lack a safe and consistent home environment where they can thrive. Crisis is a way of life for many of them,” Linda explains.She has a knack for seeing a child’s potential before their challenges. She responds with empathy and leaves no doubt they are family. Linda jokes, but is not kidding, when she says the tenacity required in her job as an IRS revenue collector comes in handy in treatment foster care.
To her, certain things are not negotiable. Her home runs smoothly; the children in her care come first no matter what; she gets to know and co-parents with biological caregivers when reunification is the goal; and she is up for whatever it takes to point her children in the right direction and sustain their journeys.
Linda’s first foster child was an 11-year-old girl neglected by her biological mother. “She wore size 22 clothes,” Linda says. “That was the most striking but certainly not the only indication of the seriousness of her challenges.” Today she is a happy young woman who frequently is in touch with Linda.
In years when Linda’s foster family was multiple children, she made up to three stops each morning getting them to school or other resources. And then she went to work. Family therapy, conferences with case workers and teachers, and traditional chores like grocery shopping and laundry rounded out the weeks.
Linda’s most recent foster child is Joshua, who has autism. When he arrived five years ago at age nine, he knew 15 words. Today he is a voracious reader who also likes Nickelodeon. He attends Trellis School near Hunt Valley year-round, except for a brief summer break. “He loves school,” Linda says proudly. “When he wakes up, he wants to go to school or shopping. He loves books.”
Linda adds that Joshua tends to frequently repeat certain phrases or songs, one of which was “vacation” and he didn’t know what it meant. He will find out this summer, and it’s a big surprise. She and Joshua will accompany her best friend and her kids on a short camping trip.
At 64, Linda has learned to have life balance. “I made the decision to put these kids first,” she says. “We’re a package. But I take good care of myself. I go to the gym regularly now that I’m retired and try to balance my responsibilities and my own life.
“I assumed I would stop when I turned 70, but now I’m not so sure. Joshua is completely different from when he arrived. I can see us together for a long time, and it’s particularly important that he has male role models through The Arc support services.
The Arc has provided therapeutic foster care since 1990 with 24-hour support for the children and their foster families. The program is a partnership with the Maryland Department of Human Services and Social Services. Foster parents receive training, a stipend per child, 20 days of respite care annually, and social activities year-round, including picnics, holiday parties, and a Foster Parent Appreciation Dinner. For information, contact Bridget Roth at email@example.com (or call 410-296-2272 x5317 or visit thearcbaltimore.org)