Portia Ratcliff has mothered well over 100 children—187 to be exact. She stands out as a rare soul who wields the strength of her motherhood in awe-inspiring ways, to say the least.
Her children know it best.
When I spoke with two of her nearly grown daughters I sensed her strength in them—a strength ever growing. Though the two were initially from separate families, they have now both been fostered and adopted by Portia and her husband. They shared what it’s like when CPS shows up on their doorstep with a new child.
“Normally when they come in they’re all crying and we just basically come out of our rooms and we comfort them…if they’re hungry, we get them a snack, we get them a drink, we turn the TV on, and let them watch whatever they want to watch—like cartoons. And we just play with them until they’re calmed down.” (Olivia)
There is no warning. Incoming foster children show up suddenly, traumatized, small. They have nearly nothing of their own—save memories—here in the midst of making a new life-long memory. The girls remember what it was like and spring into action with a gentleness and thoughtfulness most children their age would not know how to muster. Life has taught them this gentleness by being too harsh. Portia has taught them this gentleness by being warm, safe, empathetic.
“You don’t say anything because sometimes you don’t have the words to say. You just be. You’re just there. And you try and fill the gap. I love the term ‘stand in the gap’ because I feel like that’s what we do for these kids—we stand in the gap and we fill those empty spaces. And so a lot of the stuff that you can do to assist a child with coping and settling in is not words. You’re not talking. Because what could you say, you know? ‘How you doing?’ ‘I’m horrible!’
…I mean what could you say to make this child feel better?” (Portia)
Perhaps the most important thing Portia has done for all of her 187 foster children is to simply be available.
“No child should ever have to spend the night in the CPS office, and we have multiple children doing that on a regular basis. No child should ever have to be turned away and put in a shelter. And that happens a lot.” (Portia)
For the girls, being available means making sure each child knows they’re welcomed.
“I want them to feel welcomed and safe and know that we’re here for them and know that nobody’s gonna hurt them while they’re in our care.” (Olivia)
For the Ratcliff’s, fostering is a family affair. Everyone has a job to do, and they do it well.
“North Texas needs families that are willing to step up and stand in the gap for these children. It is very difficult, but it is rewarding and it is something that is worth doing. And here in North Texas we don’t have enough foster homes.” (Portia)
If you have questions or have considered foster care or adoption, please call SOS Local at 817-898-0262. We’d be glad to connect you to our ministry partners locally who can assist you in beginning your own journey.