The Glider–An Interview with Author Linda Summerford
**Read to the end for a chance to win a copy of this beautiful new release.***
My dear friend Linda Summerford knows a thing or two about the foster care system, as well as about adoption. Her personal story, though filled with pain and brokenness, is one of purpose and beauty because of our gracious, redeeming God. Never wasting a suffering, He works all things together for good for them who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).
I had the privilege of interviewing Linda–asking her several key questions pertaining to her testimony, her heart poured out in her recently released memoir, The Glider.
Grab a mug of something warm and settle in. I pray you’re not only blessed by her answers but, even more, you’re motivated to make a difference in the life of a child.
Q: When did you first feel in your heart you wanted to write your story and was there any specific prompting you might share?
A: After I met my older sister Martha, we would share our story. People would immediately remark, “You need to write a book!” to which I’d reply, “Yes, wouldn’t that be great? But I’ve never written a book!”
In 2005, my mother became ill with breast cancer. My younger sister, Wanda, lived nearby and had been taking care of her. But during that time, Wanda was going through a difficult season, so I felt I needed to go home for a while and help them both. After we were there for a few weeks, we realized we were needed longer, so my husband, Richard, and I decided to rent a house in the town of Hartsville. I was able to get a job with Coker University. One of the perks of working for Coker was that employees were able to attend evening classes at no cost. I decided to work toward my English degree.
I took a public speaking course. Naturally, an early assignment was to give a speech. I was a nervous wreck, discovering I didn’t like public speaking. The speech was to be about a controversial topic at the time, the abortion bill. I decided to approach the subject from a positive angle. I wrote my speech from the voice of a five-year-old little girl who was adopted, telling how grateful she was that her biological mother chose life. At the end of the speech I concluded, “How do I know how that little girl felt? Because I am that little girl.” I held up a photograph of me standing outside the courthouse on the day of my adoption.
Suddenly, everyone in the room stood to their feet, clapping and wiping tears. I knew then that God was confirming in my heart that I did have a story to share with the world and that He was calling me to write it.
Q: What is your ultimate hope for your message?
A: After my older sister Martha found us, we determined to search our foster care and adoption records to learn how we’d been separated–why she and our brother, David, were never adopted. We’ve still not been able to obtain all our records, but we were given some “non-identifying” information. There were typed summaries about us from the time we were found to the day of our placement. Though they’d redacted our names, dates of birth, and the locations where we’d lived, I was able to fill in the blanks, having many of those answers already.
The more paperwork we received, the angrier we became. From the deplorable conditions in which we were all found, we’ve always felt the parental rights should have been removed from the mother and father immediately. They were not. The mother had signed all four of us into state custody from the beginning. But the father refused to sign relinquishment papers for Martha and David, even after being given years to comply with court orders. So they languished in the system.
As I was telling people that I was writing my book, many times they’d comment, “Well, I hope you can do something to change the system, to make it better for people trying to foster and adopt. The system’s a mess.”
Thus, I decided to learn more about the current state of the system by serving on a foster care review board. This experience really opened my eyes. Situations like ours were still happening in the foster care and adoption systems. Many times I would get upset and disagree with a decision made by the review board–hearing on more occasions than I could count comments like, “Our hands are tied,” or “There’s another child failed by the system,” or, “We have no choice until the laws are changed.”
I then was asked to serve on a task force with the governor’s office to see what could be done to make things better for children in foster care, those awaiting adoption. Again, we sat around discussing what was wrong with the system and brainstorming ideas for improvements. But I often told the others, “We can talk all day, but until the laws change, nothing changes for the children stuck in this web. Children must be our priority. After all, they’re the future of this country.”
While the system is still broken, there’s hope on the horizon. Since moving to NC, I’ve already met many people who have a heart for children lost in the tangled web of foster care. They, too, are seeking ways to make things better, as well as helping foster parents with daily needs as they care for those most vulnerable.
Q: What do you desire to see happen as a result of your story being told?
A: My ultimate goal for sharing my story is to work with legislators and state agencies to change laws that are still on the books hindering progress, and to make the process of fostering and adopting smoother and more productive, for the best interest of children. As things are right now, the children’s best interest is not being met. Many languish in the courts awaiting hearings, or hearings are postponed at the last minute, causing the children to remain in foster care for months longer than necessary.
Furthermore, more foster homes are needed throughout the country. The need is now so great many times, when children are removed in urgent situations, they have nowhere to go. Can you imagine, a traumatized child having to leave his home, many times in the middle of the night, and then have to sleep in strange places, awaiting someone to take him or her in?
Q: In your own words, give a summary of The Glider as a “teaser” for readers.
A: When a sister I never knew appeared, we determined to find answers concerning the cause of our separation. Our search led us to discover atrocities we all endured at the hands of a broken foster care and adoption system. Instead of simply finding answers for ourselves, we learned such is still happening to children today, over 65 years later. How can this be? Now is the time for change.
I am challenged by the song, I Refuse, by Josh Wilson, who sings of this.
I simply refuse to sit around, waiting for someone else to do what God’s called me to do myself.
Q: What’s an anchor scripture that you’ve held to for most of your life?
A: My sweet grandmother who was an invalid and knew of suffering always repeated Psalm 56:3 to us anytime we came running to her arms when we were fearful, especially of storms.
“When I am afraid, I will trust in You (NIV).”
I still catch myself beginning to panic when storms come. Some insecurities still haunt me. But then, I remember what Grandma told me all those years ago, that my trust must be in God and His sovereignty. The wisdom and insight I learned while sitting on her lap has carried me throughout my life.
Q: What’s a final take-away for your audience?
A: What I hope readers will glean are five specific ways one can make a difference in a child’s life:
- Pray daily for the foster care children, their biological parents and the workers tasked with placing them in safe homes.
- Get involved by volunteering, such as becoming a Guardian ad Litem, an advocate in court so children will have a voice representing their best interests.
- Become a foster parent. The need is great in every county and state throughout the nation. DSS in NC told me recently that, in Haywood County alone, there are currently 128 children being held in foster care awaiting adoption or to be returned to their biological families. That’s at least 30 more than is usual.
- Search for organizations in your area working to support foster care parents with financial needs, clothing, medical supplies, and the personal needs of children. Long’s Chapel is an example of one church in Haywood Co. working toward this very thing.
- Donate your time and supplies to organizations that have clothes closets or school supplies. Many foster children move from one home to another with their belongings in a trash bag. You can donate duffle bags or gently used suitcases to children’s homes or foster care organizations so children can maintain dignity when they’re placed in foster care.
With hard work and diligence, I believe change is still attainable. It’s not all bad news. There are many organizations working diligently every day to effectuate change and make improvements for foster and adoptive children. Search them out and help in any way you can.
Now is the time for us to step up and advocate before the legislature for all foster care children, to ensure their safety. We must give them hope and be there for them as they search for acceptance and meaning in their lives, despite the hardships many children endure.
There should be no more cracks in the system, potentially causing harm to those most vulnerable. We should hang our heads in shame if we allow this to continue.
Systems don’t fail children. People do.
Kind Father, You know the needs of each and every child still in the foster care system. None are hidden from You. Please comfort them, no matter their circumstances. Remind them of Your love and lift them from any pit of despair. And please, please, Good Shepherd, bring each into the broad and beautiful pasture Your Word promises in Psalm 23–leading them by still and restful waters, restoring each and every soul. Amen.