Cora White: The Ultimate Foster Mom
by Laura Salinger
Fostering is often a difficult and sometimes a thankless job that is worthy of praise in and of itself. White, however, didn’t stop at fostering. In 1988, she
founded Foster Care Children and Family Fund.
“I founded the organization after a young boy came to live with me on Christmas Eve,” White said. “He arrived with only the clothes he was wearing and a
shirt and pants in a small paper bag. That was during the times that our family had a Christmas tree in the home with lots of gifts for all the children.”
White scrambled to find some presents for her new charge and decided she never wanted a child to be without gifts on Christmas.
“When starting the charity, I only wanted to do one thing, and that was provide gifts to children on Christmas,” she said. What started with this one simple
wish, however, soon transformed into a non-profit providing numerous services for foster children and foster parents. The organization’s goal is to fill the gap
between available government services and the actual needs of children.
“I was involved with training foster parents, setting up conferences and doing workshops, so it was only natural to add training to our programs,” White said.
“Everything else just came naturally; scholarships for high school seniors who wanted to further their education, back to school picnics with school supplies for
children and youth, and a respite camp to give parents and children a break during the summer.”
Foster Care Children and Family Fund eventually expanded their work abroad to Ukraine and White’s reputation as a foster parent and trainer grew. “I was
very busy providing training to foster parents, social workers, judges, psychologists, psychiatrists and youth who had aged out of the foster care system around
the world. I was getting email messages from many countries asking for help,” White said.
When White received several emails from a woman in India requesting help, she ignored them ... at first. Eventually, White offered to help this woman open a
small orphanage in southern India, an area where orphaned children are often mistreated. According to the Foster Care Children and Family Funds’ website:
“Orphaned children in India lead a very difficult, sorrowful and oppressed life. Because of cultural belief that orphans are cursed, they are treated unfairly and
are often mistreated. Most of these children end up begging on the streets or working long hours in the fields without a chance to receive any love and
affection. A majority of these children become antisocial.”
What started as a home for 10 children, grew to 20 children, and now serves 50 children in need. “We located some land for sale and made arrangements
with the landowner to purchase 3.5 acres,” White said. “We wanted to build a large home to care for 50 children. In June 2008, the home was finally
completed and the children and staff moved in.”
In addition, White’s organization has also helped open a medical clinic, dental clinic, pharmacy and three sewing centers for older girls and women in
southern India. White plans to return to India in February and then again in August to check in with the children whose lives she has helped change. She
hears status reports twice a week and gets frequent updates and photos from the home. Here in Madison, she has helped youth organize fundraisers to benefit
these children. Vera Court neighborhood youth recently raised enough money to buy a water buffalo for the home. The buffalo is fittingly named Vera.
While White has accomplished great fetes in her lifetime, to her, it is simply a matter of being there for a child. Her no-nonsense, tough love approach used
with her own foster children has helped changed the lives of children who are often on a destitute and lonely path.
“For these kids, the parents are just not there for them; they’re on drugs, or just not capable,” White said. “Kids are raising themselves and raising their
siblings.” Yet, White is no pushover. “Kids really want you to make them do the right things. I tell them, ‘I’m not your friend; I’m your mentor, I’m your leader.’
You have to really hang in there with these kids. You have to tell them, from the beginning, what your expectations are.”
At the end of the day, White wants one simple thing. “I just want kids to be able to be kids,” she said.
Foster Care Children and Family Fund has many ways for people to help. Children in India can be sponsored for a tax-deductible amount of $30 a month.
General donations can contribute to other programs or donations can be made to purchase chickens, turkeys, coconut trees, water buffalo, and other items for
the children at Mom Cora Blessing Home. To sponsor a child or donate contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Foster Care Children and Family Fund, Inc., P.O Box
2534, Madison, WI 53701.
The “Mom Cora Blessing Home” in southern India currently houses 50 orphans in a nurturing
environment that is truly a blessing to these children in need. The home’s namesake is none
other than Madison area resident Cora White, a woman who has worked tirelessly to provide
services for the world’s most vulnerable populations; children without parents.
Little did White know that what began as a favor to a family member would eventually morph
into a charitable service that has reached global proportions. Founder of Foster Care Children
and Family Fund and a foster parent herself, White has managed to reach a gamut of children
in need both locally and abroad.
“I became a foster parent to help a family member out,” White recalled. “After three months, he
returned home and the social worker suggested I look into becoming a foster parent for other
White filled out the necessary paperwork and began a journey to reach as many children,
some already labeled unreachable, as she could. “Fostering is an important thing to do because
there are so many families in turmoil and children needing help,” White said. “We know and
understand that we can’t solve all the problems. But most times, just being there and letting a
child know they have someone to listen to them, without being judgmental, is enough.
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but we don’t give up.”
Cora White (2nd from left) is beloved by her staff and
beneficiaries in India