YSU grad says a couple made the difference

Foster parents saluted

Foster parents Kelly Dillon of Champion, left, and Jacqueline Brown of Warren, share photos of their children Tuesday at the Trumbull County Children Services annual foster parent recognition dinner at Ciminero’s Banquet Centre in Niles. Photo by Bob Coupland

NILES — Mineral Ridge resident Christine Snipes said when she was 15 and pregnant, a foster couple took her in and made all the difference in her life.

Snipes later became the first African American to graduate with a doctorate of physical therapy degree from Youngstown State University. On Tuesday, she was the keynote speaker Tuesday at the Trumbull County Children Services annual foster parent recognition dinner at Ciminero’s Banquet Centre.

The event had the theme “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” and was held for National Foster Parent Month, recognizing the 74 Trumbull County foster care and adoptive families who care for an average of 140 children per year.

Snipes said the minute she walked into her foster parents’ home, she “was treated like she was somebody.”

Her foster parents, Bernice and James Smith, told her many important messages, including, “You are not damaged goods. You are more than the poor choices you have made. When you fall down in the dirt, you don’t wallow in it. You dust it off and get back up,” she said.

“You here today have opened your hearts and homes to children. You have the impact to change those childrens’ lives,” Snipes told the audience. “I could have been a statistic and grown up angry, but my foster parents opened their homes and chose to look beyond the flaws and rough exterior.”

Snipes is now married and has four children. She said many of the children in foster homes “have been through more in their few years than what adults have been through.”

“When they come to you, they are literally the walking wounded. No matter what they say and do, remember to tell them, ‘Look at all the places you will go,’ “ Snipes said.

Snipes said her life experiences taught her perseverance and helped build character, stamina and fortitude.

“This is what you need to be successful in your life. To you who have taken these children in, they will go on to touch other peoples’ lives. That will become part of your legacy,” she told the foster parents.

In 2016, Snipes was the recipient of the YSU Distinguished Alumni Award for Physical Therapy.

Deerfield residents Nicole and Ron Love have taken care of several foster children — from three babies to school-aged children, with some staying a few months and others staying a year.

“We saw a need in our own community to help children. The biggest thing is when the children get to go home and stay home. We are glad to be able to help the families rebuild and stay together,” Nicole Love said.

She said they have become like an aunt and uncle to the children when they return to their own homes.

While foster parents attended the program, the 70 children were in a separate room for activities and games provided by the OH WOW! Center of Science and Technology.