Teri Hrabovsky responds to the needs of foster children day or night.
After three children, Teri Hrabovsky and her husband, Brian, began exploring the adoption process for a fourth child. Foster parenting had not entered their minds, but the classes they took to be part of the system quickly changed their minds.
“There was so much need and so many children,” Hrabovsky says. “Our hearts got broken midway through the classes, and we just knew we needed to foster.”
They jumped in with both feet, opened their hearts wide and fostered 20 children in their first year alone.
Nine years have passed. Fifty children have come and 48 have gone (two have been adopted). The entire family from Jefferson now volunteers together for their charity, One Heart Nola, to help cover the needs of foster families statewide.
One Heart Nola maintains a network of volunteers and donors who are ready to provide necessities for foster families at a moment’s notice: clothes; beds; cribs; strollers; diapers; toiletries; and toys. They have started providing drinks, snacks, small toys and DVD players for children in Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) offices going through placement or having supervised family visits.
Hrabovsky has gained a reputation as the go-to gal for personally responding to the needs of children on short notice and late at night. She trains new foster parents, supports placement and adoption services, and organizes an annual gift drive during the holidays.
That work alone would be enough to keep one woman hopping (especially a mother of five children), but Hrabovsky is also a highly visible advocate and media spokesperson for the needs of Louisiana’s foster kids. She serves as president of the NOLA Hope Foster and Adoptive Parent Association, and she is on the new state Secretary of DCFS’s transition team. She has advocated tirelessly with legislators for maintaining and increasing resources available for special-needs foster children and therapeutic foster homes.
Mostly, she just hopes she inspires people to action. “One of our thoughts is that everyone can do something,” she says. “Whether donating a box of diapers or buying a bed … everyone has a role to play in caring for the children. Our job is to find out what that is and empower people to do it.”
When it began in 2009, One Heart Nola was called In His Hands and consisted of just two foster families who recognized that the needs of foster children, birth families and foster families were greater than the state was able to provide. The families began spreading the word about specific needs to friends and family, neighbors and church members. They stopped in at garage sales asking for whatever didn’t sell. It didn’t take long to outgrow a bedroom where they stored donated items and open a resource facility benefiting children and families in need.
In Oct. 2015, the group was granted non-profit status and One Heart Nola was born. Run entirely by volunteers, One Heart Nola remains a grassroots operation that believes people best help other people.
Now Hrabovsky is receiving one of 10 annual Angel Awards from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation for her work to help Louisiana’s children. She said the $20,000 award will enable the organization to meet specific needs for more special children; airplane tickets for children moving in with an out-of-state grandparent; a senior ring for a teen about to age out of the system; dishes for a parent who worked hard to get her children back.
“It’s very humbling to receive this award,” she says. “No one person does everything. It’s a group effort. I couldn’t do what I do if they didn’t do everything that they did.” oneheartnola.com
One Heart Nola: By the Numbers
50 – Children the Hrabovskys have fostered in 9 years
1 – Bedrooms used to store original donations for One Heart Nola
25 – Complete bed sets now donated annually
24 – Hours per day that the Hrabovskys and One Heart Nola is available for emergencies
100s – Number of families One Heart Nola helps annually