Throughout the 15 years that Marlene Jackson has been a foster parent with Pressley Ridge in Cleveland, she has cared for a number of children with various backgrounds and challenges. In 2015, a young man named King was placed in Ms. Jackson’s home after being taken into protective custody. At just 12 years old, he weighed 487 pounds, could walk only short distances, and was oxygen-dependent.
Marlene was fearful for King’s life, and she was committed to helping him get well. He had the will to become healthy, and within months, King began to lose weight as he ate healthy foods and exercised with a personal trainer the YMCA. “This was a different lifestyle,” said King. “At first I thought my foster mom was mean and strict, but then I realized she was really nice.”
King was also driven to do well in school. Marlene helped him to identify his strengths, which included a talent for writing. “He went from all F’s to A’s after two semesters, and he became a member of the National Honor Society. He had the power and I had the direction.”
Once King realized his academic potential, he aspired to attend Hawken, a college preparatory school in Cleveland. Ms. Jackson did all she could to make it happen and successfully obtained a scholarship from the prestigious school. Today, King is 15 years old and a freshman at Hawken. He is a member of the debate team, which has given him the opportunity to travel to competitions throughout the U.S.
When Marlene was badly injured in a car accident that could have proven fatal, King was understandably shaken and became very protective of her. Fortunately after time, Ms. Jackson has fully recovered and is as vibrant as ever. “I believe that God had another plan for me,” she said. “That plan was King.”
Marlene and King recently celebrated the finalization of his adoption. They continue to grow together as a family and enjoy helping others through their church community. King’s next goal is to get his driver’s license and first car. Ms. Jackson plans to continue fostering to provide children with the opportunity to live a full and healthy life. She believes her primary purpose in life is plain and simple—she just wants to be a mom.
Read King and Marlene's full story published by Cleveland.com.
There are more than 2,300 children in Cuyahoga County in foster care - many due to the opioid crisis. These children need a loving and nurturing home while their families of origin strive to get healthy. Foster parents can serve as role models for the kids and provide support to birth parents. The ultimate hope is that children can be reunited with their families or make permanent connections to other loving adults in their life.
If you or someone you know may be interested in opening your heart and home to a child in need, please contact your local Pressley Ridge office. In Cleveland, contact Zina Klypchak-Guercia at (216) 763-0800 or ZKlypchak@pressleyridge.org.
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