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Council of Governments names Linda Cheeks as “PWC Foster Parent of the Year”

Linda Cheeksof Prince William County was recently named as a Foster Parent of the Year from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG).
COG recognized foster parents from 10 local jurisdictions for their dedication to foster youth across the DC region.

Cheeks has been opening her home to foster one or two children at a time since around 2010. Although she may not recall the exact number of children she has assisted over the years, the bonds she has formed have helped her stay connected with many of them.

“It’s been quite a few down through the years, and it’s been quite a few years,” Cheeks said. 

To Cheeks, her foster children are like family. 

“You’ve got to handle them with tender, loving care. It’s a test for them and it’s a test for you,” Cheeks said.  “I just want to leave little nuggets in each person, just try to make a difference, not in the whole world, but just the few people you come into contact with. It makes you feel good when you can be a part of somebody’s life and know that you had an influence on them to do better. When I see them doing well, that’s my reward.” 

Cheeks, who prefers fostering teens, believes it’s the right thing to do for the children. She said that keeping in touch with teachers, social workers and counselors has helped her become an effective foster parent. She also stays in touch with parents and families when she can.

Another aspect of Cheeks’ child-rearing philosophy in helping to raise foster children comes down to telling them the truth and talking to them when they are ready to listen. The children might not be in a perfect situation, but Cheeks, a cosmetologist who sometimes works at a reduced rate in area assisted living for seniors, said she encourages foster children to recognize and possibly appreciate some of the good things in their lives. 

“You just need to be able to listen to them and not always judge the situation. It’s not about where you come from. It’s about where you are going,” Cheeks tells the foster children in her care. “You can still have joy. You can still be happy. You can get the help that you need.” 

Cheeks also said she tries to prepare the children for life as adults when they age out of the foster care system at 18. 

“I hope they’ll be productive adults when they get out there on their own, that they will empower themselves so they can be self-sufficient and be giving and loving and kind in the world,” Cheeks said.

Prince William County Department of Social Services Senior Human Services Caseworker Marcy Capers said Cheeks is always ready to step outside her comfort zone to take in children who might have more challenges than others. The children Cheeks has fostered have often been children who have experienced trauma that led to behavioral issues, including aggressiveness, depression, attachment issues and a lack of relative and family involvement. 

For more information about becoming a foster parent in Prince William County, visit pwcva.gov/fostercare.

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