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Making a difference

A foster mom for five decades, Carol Nisely spends her time investing in others

Created date

May 30th, 2017
Carol Nisely relaxes in her Eagle’s Trace apartment home with her two rescue dogs, Murphy and Buffy.

Carol Nisely relaxes in her Eagle’s Trace apartment home with her two rescue dogs, Murphy and Buffy.

You would be hard-pressed to come across a more remarkable person than Carol Nisely, whose journey as a foster parent started nearly 50 years ago.

“My youngest daughter Cindy was two at the time,” says Carol. “I wanted another baby, but my husband was concerned about the cost of raising more children because we already had three of our own. Friends of ours had a foster baby, and we felt we could open our home to a foster child.”

Carol and her family were living in Ohio, where she began the licensing process.

“Back then, all that was required for licensing was a background check and a home visit,” says Carol. “A lady came to our house just as my three kids were at the table helping me make cookies. Flour and sugar were everywhere, but the lady looked over the house, looked over the kids, and said, ‘This looks like a happy place to be.’ That was the extent of our home visit.”

Eddie, the family’s first foster child, was a year old when he arrived in 1968. 

“Eddie stayed with us for a year and a half before he was adopted,” says Carol. “It was a busy time because I had four kids, ages 6, 4, 3, and 1, but I loved it. I cried and cried when Eddie left.”

Touching countless lives

Carol went on to foster more children, one at a time, even as she moved from Ohio to California to Indiana and then to Texas. She worked with Child Protective Services in the first three states and DePelchin Children’s Center in Texas.

“You have to get licensed in each state,” says Carol. “When I moved to Katy [Texas] five years ago, it took me almost a year to get licensed. The process is a lot more involved than when I first started fostering in the 1960s. There are classes and fingerprinting and background checks.”

Once her own children were in school, Carol went back to the classroom to become a registered nurse. As she embarked on her career, Carol requested foster children who were no younger than three years old.

“I was a recovery room nurse, so I needed to be able to put the children in preschool while I worked,” she says.

Most children stayed a few months at a time. Carol says roughly half were adopted and half returned to their biological parents or extended family members.

Looking ahead

After she retired three years ago, Carol took in a succession of three newborns, one as small as four pounds when he left the hospital.

“I learned to nap when they napped, because I was getting up to feed them every three hours in the night,” says Carol, by this time a grandmother of five.

As Carol began to think about her own future, she found the idea of maintenance-free retirement living appealing. In early 2016, she called the sales office at Eagle’s Trace to learn more about the West Houston community.

“I came to tour Eagle’s Trace and brought my foster baby Jacob with me,” says Carol. “There I was, pushing a stroller around a retirement community. He didn’t ride in the stroller, though, because Jodie [Schroeder, sales counselor] asked if she could carry him. Jacob got a lot of attention as we walked around the community.”

Carol learned that Eagle’s Trace was planning to open a new residence building, Amarillo Terrace, in October 2016. 

“I selected my apartment from the book of floor plans and started making plans to move,” says Carol. 

Carol chose a one-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath Bolivar-style apartment on the first floor of Amarillo Terrace so that her two rescue pups, Murphy and Buffy, could have quick access to the outdoors from her patio.

“I’m thankful Eagle’s Trace allows you to bring pets,” says Carol. “I wouldn’t have come without my dogs.”

Starting a new chapter

Jacob, at nine months old, went to live with his aunt in October 2016. 

“I put Jacob in his car seat, gave him kisses, and off he went with the caseworker,” says Carol, swiping at tears. “It doesn’t get any easier telling them goodbye.”

Less than a month later, on November 9, 2016, Carol moved to Eagle’s Trace.

“Now that I’m not fostering anymore, I’ve signed up to be a court-appointed child advocate,” says Carol. “I took classes all through the month of January to learn about my new role. As one judge put it, child advocates are the eyes and ears looking out for the best interests of children in foster care.”

Carol’s current assignment is advocating for two sisters. She visits them in their foster home and has even gone to their school.

“The older sister asked if I could come to her art class, which I was happy to do,” says Carol. 

Looking back over more than five decades caring for children, Carol says she loved raising her own kids and the foster children whose lives intersected with her own.

“It’s been one of the highlights of my life,” she says.