After her first day working at a shelter in 2016, Autumn Harris felt heartbroken knowing there were so many children in need of a home with people who will love and care for them. That night, she shared her thoughts with her husband, Army Sergeant Doug Harris, and they knew instantly they wanted to become foster parents. Having received their specially adapted custom home in Romney, W.Va., the year before, the couple had more than enough room in their home – and in their hearts – to provide a warm and welcoming environment to children who need it the most.
Because their single-level, four-bedroom home is fully accessible to Doug, who lost both of his legs while serving in Afghanistan, he and Autumn felt confident to begin this new journey. They received their first placement in January 2017 – four siblings, including a newborn. “We were very nervous going from no kids to four, but it became easier because they needed us just as much as we needed them,” says Autumn.
Since then, Autumn and Doug have fostered 14 children, five of whom they have adopted. They became parents to Kaydence and Freedom in October 2019, and in 2020 Reagan and Bentley joined their family. On Nov. 30, 2020, the family will officially adopt their daughter, Aubrey. Autumn says she was overwhelmed with relief when the adoptions became official. “They are our kids and we can now advocate for them and make decisions on our own,” she says.
Without their HFOT home, Autumn and Doug say they would not have been able to become foster parents and have the family they have today. “When the social worker visited, she was amazed at how beautiful the house was and loved the open layout,” Autumn says. “If we didn’t have this home, it would have been years before we could have started to foster. Because our home is mortgage free and easy to maintain, this was possible for us.”
Doug says he is grateful to have the ability to care for his children in a barrier-free environment, especially Freedom who is fast and likes to run around. “I can play with him and get from room to room in my wheelchair without worry. Plus, I can help cook and clean up. This house has been a blessing for me and my family.”
The home is also a relief for Autumn. She can focus her energy on caring for the children and not worry about Doug’s safety. Their previous home had several stairs, which often limited Doug to one room. “If we had kids when we lived there it would have been harder for Doug to watch them. Also, he couldn’t cook in the house at all because nothing was level with his wheelchair,” she says.
Above all, Autumn and Doug want HFOT’s donors and supporters to know their generosity will not only benefit themselves, but the children they have cared for as well. “We wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without you. You made it possible for four kids to get out of foster care and into a forever home, and eight kids to be loved and cared for in a safe environment before being reunited with their birth families,” she says. “If it wasn’t for you, these children would not be where they are today.”