AGAPE of NC’s First Licensed Foster Family
A retelling of our full 40-year story begins with Michael and Karen Seamon, AGAPE’s first licensed foster family. At the time, AGAPE’s Board of Directors (which included Lem Sample and P.D. Kirby), together with AGAPE’s Executive Director, Tom Slaughter, desperately needed families to join them in AGAPE’s mission. The Board and Tom had been praying for people to step up, and Michael and Karen became the first answers to those prayers.
At the time, Karen was a stay-at-home mother to daughters, Katherine and Mary Jean. Karen believed AGAPE provided a way her family could serve the Lord by helping kids who needed better options. The Seamons felt capable in the ministry of providing foster care; so, they began taking children into their home – sometimes for a day, a month, a year, or a few years. When they started, the Seamons did not know they would be fostering for the next 20+ years.
Early in our interview, Michael and Karen talked about how much encouragement and assistance they received from their relatives and church family. They said, “Without that, fostering would not have been possible.” Friends and family stepped in to pray for, emotionally support, and even take care of their kids for the weekend. Through tears, Michael said, “There was no difference between our foster kids and our biological kids.” The Seamons dressed all the kids in the same kind of clothes, and everyone traveled together on vacations. “We were all family.” If a child in Michael and Karen’s care had a school function or extracurricular activity, everybody attended in support. Even friends and other family members turned out! Karen stated, “Foster parents should treat children in care the same as your own. There should not be a difference. That’s the only way to make it work.”
Like any true Mom and Dad, when kids left their home, Karen and Michael always worried. “Are they being taken care of? Are they sad? Do they miss us?” But then, life would move on, and another child or two would arrive for them to nurture and love. The Seamon Family still has a connection with some of the kids they fostered. One instance involves a little girl who was adopted and grew up to become an artist. The Seamons have some of her artwork in their home and, as adults, Katherine and Mary Jean stay in touch with her through Facebook.
Michael teared up talking about all the children they cared for through the years. He and Karen hope all those kids know they have a Mom and Dad who still loves and thinks of them. They hope their children saw a glimpse of God through them. Michael and Karen commented that, as they fostered over time, stressful situations changed and they grew and matured as a couple, a family, and in the Lord.
One of the Seamons’ first placements was a pair of siblings, ages 2 and 4. Their bio daughters were only 3 and 5 years old then too. So, that meant Karen and Michael were raising four very young children at the same time! Those foster kids eventually went back to their biological family, who lived in the same county as the Seamons. A few years later, Michael was subbing at the 4-year-old girl’s school, and she recognized him. She pointed to Michael and shouted, “That’s my dad!” Michael joked that the little girl’s declaration started “the rumor mill” – but it clearly demonstrates the positive impact he and Karen had on that little girl’s life in the short time they were together.
Another placement they had was a baby boy, just a few months old. He needed cataract surgery and could hardly see. Karen had to put contact lenses in his eyes, which is very hard to do with a squirming baby!
Over the years, the Seamons took in other children with special/medical needs. Karen and Michael never shied away from those challenging placements, and both parents undertook any special training required. They opened their home to nurses who sometimes had to be with a child all night, making room for necessary medical equipment, and willingly paying extra-large electric bills for monitoring machines. They even learned how to change the “nose” for a child with a “trach.” Yes, it was stressful, but the Seamons also say it was “a wonderful thing to be able to share love and to care for a child who needed it.”
The Seamons were members of the same congregation (Friendly Ave. Church of Christ) as Tom and Joan Slaughter. Because of their own fostering experience and having gone through the same medical training, Tom and Joan were able to help Michael and Karen with their special needs kids. For example, if a child could not join the Seamon family on vacation, the Slaughters would take care of that child while the Seamons were away. Unintentionally, this incredible arrangement sparked the idea for other AGAPE Foster Families to team up and help each other. AGAPE of NC still uses this concept of “sharing the journey” when possible among our circle of Foster Parents and Respite Volunteers because it worked so well for the Seamon and Slaughter families, as well as others through the years.
Even though Karen and Michael admitted that providing foster care is sometimes stressful, and at other times heartbreaking, they summed up their experience by saying it was “FUN!” They have fond memories of AGAPE. To this day, no other Foster Parents with AGAPE of NC have taken in as many children as the Seamons (35+ placements)!
Eventually, though, Michael and Karen did step down from fostering, a decision Karen describes as “one of the hardest things she has ever done.” At that time, however, the Seamons wanted to focus on providing the extra help needed by Ty and Hannah, two school-age children they adopted!
A few years ago, Karen and Michael moved to Nashville, TN to be with their daughters and grandchildren. When the Seamons began their AGAPE journey in North Carolina all those years ago, they attended the same church as Tom and Joan Slaughter. Now they attend the same church as the Director of AGAPE Nashville in Middle Tennessee. It just goes to show that once you are part of AGAPE, you are always family!