Tommy Washington wasn’t thinking of becoming an adoptive parent that day five years ago when his daughters moved out of his home and letters began crowding his mailbox about foster care.
But, when he finally opened one of those letters, Washington studied the two empty rooms in his home and thought he could help make a difference.
Now, 10 foster children and a half decade later, Washington is prepared to celebrate Father’s Day by keeping his doors open for others who might need assistance.
“I just kept getting notifications, so I looked into it,” he said.“I have enjoyed it and I’m glad that I have been able to help these children.”
Washington became a foster parent with the help and guidance of the Woodbourne Center, which is located on the former estate of the Enoch Pratt and A.S. Abell Families.
The center opened more than 200 years ago with a focus on treating children with psychiatric and behavioral problems and later expanded its programming to include foster care treatment.
Center officials said they’ve been able to call on Washington in emergencies, too.
“It’s not uncommon for Tommy to willingly go to pick up boys in the middle of night when Woodbourne has a need for an emergency placement,” a spokesperson said.
“Many of the boys are with Tommy for an extended period of time – he even adopted one of his foster children.”
Washington recently received a telephone call at 1:30 a.m. from Woodbourne officials who needed to place a young man into a home.
“It’s never a problem. I just get up and answer the call,” Washington said. “I just tell them to make sure and wake me up in the morning because I still have to go to work.”
Like other foster parents, Washington said he can attest that it’s not always easy.
“It’s been some trying times considering you’re taking in guys who haven’t had a normal family,” Washington said. “I tell them when they come in here, they’re family and they’re treated like family,” he said.
However, the Woodbourne Center staff works hard to make the transition as smooth as possible, officials said.
The center provides psychiatric residential treatment for boys, ages 12-18, who have chronic mental health issues.
Specialized programming is offered for unhealthy sexual behaviors and treatment foster care services are provided to boys and girls, age birth to 21, and families in the Baltimore area.
The site utilizes a comprehensive, integrated system of care to meet the individual needs of each child.
“Every kid that I’ve had has come back with the exception of one or two,” Washington said.
“Just recently, I had one who is now in the military, has a baby and is married. It made me feel good. He had been talking about getting himself together and I think he just needed the guidance of a man. I just remember when he was in high school and playing basketball.”
Still, other heart-warming examples Washington noted were of one of his former foster children calling him recently for a haircut and another he said is simply doing well.
“It’s been a pretty good experience,” Washington said.
“It has its ups and downs and it’s not an easy job because you have to recognize that you’re dealing with someone else’s troubles which are different from dealing with your own children or relatives. You just don’t know what they’ve been through and you