A few hours after Brooke and Kyle Howe became certified foster parents, they received word that they would foster two boys – Harlem and Bryson. That moment would become the foundation for The Cooper House, a nonprofit that supports birth parents throughout the foster care process.
The Howes, of Westfield, felt called to foster parent at the end of 2016. They were licensed in July 2017.
“I think we got the email around 11 a.m. saying, “Congratulations, you’re officially foster parents,” and a couple hours later got called for our first placement,” Brooke said.
It was the Howes’ eighth wedding anniversary, and Kyle, a firefighter, was working at the Westfield Fire. Dept.
“From then, throughout the boys’ case, we got to know their birth parents,” Brooke said. “In foster care, the goal is reunification. Mom and dad have a chance to get the kiddos back.”
Throughout foster care, Bryson and Harlem had visits with their mother, and Brooke and Kyle began to build a relationship with both parents.
“Through that, God kind of revealed the other side of foster care,” Brooke said. “I think a lot of people realize these kids are hurting and need people to love them and all of that, but God also revealed to us this other side of it with the birth parents and how they lack healthy relationships. A lot of birth parents also grew up in the foster care system, so they just had no healthy role models in their life to be able to be the mom and dad they were created to be.
“Seeing them face-to-face and being able to hear their story and how they grew up, it breaks your heart and you can’t ignore it after that.”
Brooke asked the birth mother how she would feel if a place offered support for her without feeling judged. When the birth mother said yes, the Howes realized their next steps.
“That’s where the vision was birthed,” she said.
The birth mother’s last name is Cooper, which led to the name for the nonprofit.
The birth parents were unable to complete the steps required by the Dept. of Child Services, so the Howes adopted Bryson and Harlem last summer. But the boys still maintain relationships with their birth parents.
Now, the Howes are seeking a building for The Cooper House. They want to be centrally located in downtown Noblesville near the Hamilton County Courthouse and DCS.
When established, The Cooper House will provide support groups for birth parents with guest speakers, along with life-skills lessons for parenting, weekly Bible studies and a mentorship program. The house also will serve as a location for visits between birth parents and their children.
“Parents and kiddos can do weekly visits with one another because there’s very limited places that are safe and welcoming and nonjudgmental for these parents and kiddos to do visits,” Brooke said. “We will offer the home up to do visits, and they can practice parenting skills of cooking with their kids, give them a bath and put them down for a nap if they need a nap. They will be able to engage in a healthy way and bond in a real home-like environment.”
The Cooper House also will be a space for children who have recently been removed from their homes when caseworkers need a place to bring them.
“We want to be a place available with volunteers to meet the kiddos’ needs while the caseworker finds a placement,” Brooke said. “A lot of times, the kiddos go to a foster family and they don’t have anything, so we will give them a bath, put them in clean clothes, feed them snacks and play with them and meet their needs to lessen that trauma. It takes the burden off the foster family, too.”
The Howes attend Genesis Church in Carmel. For more, visit thecooperhouseindiana.com.
Foster parents Brooke and Kyle Howe are trying to bring awareness to the Noblesville community about The Cooper House.
“We went to downtown Noblesville to introduce ourselves to the businesses and bring awareness to the neighborhood,” Brooke said. “We want them to hear it from us and hear this need, and then we will need a home. We are currently serving in some ways to birth parents.”
The Howes organized virtual visit bags for birth parents to visit their children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their main objective at the moment is fundraising to establish The Cooper House. To donate, visit thecooperhouseindiana.com/donate.