Tucked away at the end of a road in Estill County’s beautiful knob country, there is a haven.
A haven for children who need a safe and loving home—whether it be for a week, a month, or even a year.
Over the course of the past three years, Bertha and Doug Newton have welcomed 13 children into their home. They adopted one and are currently caring for two others.
Tears run freely down the friendly face of “Miss Bert,” as she speaks of the children for which they’ve cared.
Bertha tells of siblings who had to be separated-but eventually found a permanent home together. She shares stories of little ones who hoard food, because they are afraid there won’t be enough.
She tells of discipling a six foot teen who wanted to play football but didn’t want to do his homework.
Miss Bert, barely five feet tall and soft spoken, kindly told him if he didn’t do his homework, he’d not be playing football.
He did his homework.
Bertha and Doug first became interested in becoming foster parents three years ago after a conversation with someone who talked to her about the great need.
Around the first of March that year, the Newtons received their first child placement. Three weeks later, Bertha unexpectedly found herself about to lose her job at EKU where she had worked for 26 years.
She “bought” the extra time she needed to retire and stepped into a new role of foster parent.
“Miss Bert” credits a higher power with working things out to allow her to devote more time to caring for children.
“It was God,” she said, as tears flowed down her face.
Bertha said her husband Doug is 100 percent on board with fostering too.
Her husband’s parents were wary of the idea of them fostering at first, but now they are “Nanny and Papaw to all of them, and they love it,” she said. Bertha’s parents are deceased.
On Saturday, September 17, 2016, the Newtons were recognized for their selflessness in caring for foster children when they were invited to have dinner with Governor Matt Bevin and his wife at the Governor’s mansion.
They were recognized as the Outstanding Service Recipients of the Southern Bluegrass Service Region, consisting of Boyle, Clark, Estill, Fayette, Garrard, Jessamine, Lincoln, Madison, Mercer, and Powell Counties.
“Doug and Bertha Newton go above and beyond to meet the needs of children,” wrote the person who nominated them. “They not only take the children into their home, they take them into their hearts.”
Foster parents in Kentucky are required to take five classes, as well as a background check, but the Newton’s have chosen to participate in many additional trainings. Theirs is an advanced level therapeutic home and a medical complex home, which qualifies them to take children with a variety of needs.
The Newtons do all they can, but Bertha says there are so many needs going unmet. She wants to spread the word about fostering in hopes that others will be moved to provide at least a temporary home to children in need.
Even homes where both parents work can still foster, she explains, because help is available for those who need to use daycare or a babysitter.
“You don’t have to be a perfect family or have a nice house,” she said.
Foster parents can even offer “respite” care, or provide care for short periods of time, to children who may need a place to stay during a time of transition in their lives.
One little boy came to the Newtons when he was seven weeks old, on her husband’s birthday.
Perhaps that was a sign of things to come. Now he’s three, and he has become a permanent part of the Newton home.
Bertha and Doug have two grown children, who are supportive and pitch in to help with the foster children whenver they can. Josh is 29 and the father of Zane, the couple’s first grandchild. They also have a daughter, Jerrica, who is 25.
Birthdays and holidays at the Newtons are growing celebrations as some of the kids they’ve cared for come back to visit. The Newtons also take the children on as many family vacations and outings as they can.
Bertha urges anyone who would like to know more about becoming a foster parent to call Sandy Lewis at 723-5146. Information is also available on the website: http://chfs.ky.gov/dcbs/.