Tami Kromer and her husband, David, have provided foster care for 40 children in their lifetime and their 40th, a teenager, still lives with them along with their two adopted children. The caring couple adopted three of the children they fostered. Tami is now the founder and director of Clara’s Hope, which was created in 2015 under the umbrella of the Freedom Center Church until it became an independent nonprofit in September 2020.
According to the founder, Clara’s Hope exists to help families foster and adopt successfully. The organization offers support that is geared toward moving families from simply surviving to thriving. “We work to fill in the gap between agencies and families by providing accessibility to support and resources,” Kromer states. “We utilize volunteers to provide meals, house-cleaning, small home repairs and childcare for foster families.”
“Clara’s Hope came out of our story. I love what I do.”
Many of the children who enter the foster care system have been subjected to trauma of some sort, Kromer explains. “We realized it was really hard, and we didn’t have a lot of knowledge about trauma. We didn’t know how to ask for help and there wasn’t a lot of help out there.”
In 2012, the Kromers adopted a baby girl named Clara who was medically fragile. “She had a terminal condition, hydranencephaly,” Kromer shares. “Clara was born without a brain.” They decided to pursue adopting her. “When we made it public, people came out of the woodwork to help us,” she remembers. “Within 24 hours, her adoption was paid for.” And, many people came to provide support, cleaning their house and running errands.
While Clara lived only eight months and eight days and passed away on April 6, 2013, the Kromers were grateful for all the help they received. “We wanted to give other people the support we had received. Clara’s Hope came out of our story.”
Kromer says that Clara’s Hope is the only organization in the area that offers this type of service. The team includes a full-time social worker who helps parents navigate court proceedings, explain paperwork and provide individual support to families through the ups and downs of foster care and adoption. “Our Program Coordinator, Erin Deale, is the driving force behind our success. She helps families manage the new dynamics that are in place,” Kromer states. “Things come up because of past traumatic situations, so we work with the entire family, as well as the foster child.”
Clara’s Hope provides trauma training to individuals, churches and schools, and works to connect the community to the needs of foster and adoptive families so that they aren’t walking through it alone. “We believe everyone can do something – adult or child – and we want to raise awareness of the foster care issues in America,” Kromer explains. “We are not a placement agency or a case management agency. We try to help people remove the barriers that would prevent them from becoming a foster parent or that would stop them from continuing as a foster family.”
The many volunteers at Clara’s Hope have assembled 300 “first-night foster care bags” – backpacks containing everything a child needs for the first night in their foster home. This is something they work on year-round. Kromer’s daughter, Lillie, has volunteered since the fifth grade with a fundraiser called Socktober, which has collected over 150,000 items for the first-night bags. Volunteers also provide a monthly meal to connect with a foster/adoptive family. “We want to make sure the family is seen, heard and loved,” Kromer says. During the 2020 pandemic, Clara’s Hope provided approximately 420 meals to families.
“It is so meaningful to see families go from just getting by to ‘we can do it,’” Kromer shares. “To me, that is the best thing. I love what I do.”
photos provided by Tami Kromer