HomeNewsFeaturesDisplay

Family bonds: more than blood

Tech. Sgt. Leah Thomas, noncommissioned officer in charge of Quality Assurance, Aircrew Flight Equipment talks to her daughter at their home in Box Elder, S.D., April 19, 2018. The Thomas’ have fostered children and adopted one of their previous foster children. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Tech. Sgt. Leah Thomas, noncommissioned officer in charge of Quality Assurance, Aircrew Flight Equipment talks to her daughter at their home in Box Elder, S.D., April 19, 2018. The Thomas’ have fostered children and adopted one of their previous foster children. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Tech. Sgt. Brian Thomas, the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of power production,  and Tech. Sgt. Leah Thomas, noncommissioned officer in charge of Quality Assurance, Aircrew Flight Equipment, sit for a family photo at their home in Box Elder, S.D., April 19, 2018. Brian and Leah have been foster parents for more than four years and have housed over 40 children. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Tech. Sgt. Brian Thomas, the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of power production, and Tech. Sgt. Leah Thomas, noncommissioned officer in charge of Quality Assurance, Aircrew Flight Equipment, sit for a family photo at their home in Box Elder, S.D., April 19, 2018. Brian and Leah have been foster parents for more than four years and have housed over 40 children. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Tech. Sgt. Brian Thomas, the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of power production, comforts his son at home in Box Elder, S.D., April 19, 2018. The family has been involved with supporting community youth programs and working in orphanages for more than 10 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Tech. Sgt. Brian Thomas, the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of power production, comforts his son at home in Box Elder, S.D., April 19, 2018. The family has been involved with supporting community youth programs and working in orphanages for more than 10 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Tech. Sgt. Brian, the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of power production, and Tech. Sgt. Leah Thomas, noncommissioned officer in charge of Quality Assurance, Aircrew Flight Equipment, hold hands with their son Lucas as they say grace at their home in Box Elder, S.D. The family has had some of their previous foster children visit and participate in family functions whenever they are in the area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Tech. Sgt. Brian Thomas, the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of power production, and Tech. Sgt. Leah Thomas, noncommissioned officer in charge of Quality Assurance, Aircrew Flight Equipment, hold hands with their son Lucas as they say grace at their home in Box Elder, S.D. The family has had some of their previous foster children visit and participate in family functions whenever they are in the area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Tech. Sgt. Brian, the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of power production,  and Tech. Sgt. Leah Thomas, a 28th Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of Quality Assurance, Aircrew Flight Equipment, eat dinner with their children at their home in Box Elder, S.D., April 19, 2018. Brian and Leah have been involved with mentoring youth for over 10 years in the United States and in other countries. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Tech. Sgt. Brian Thomas, the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of power production, and Tech. Sgt. Leah Thomas, a 28th Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of Quality Assurance, Aircrew Flight Equipment, eat dinner with their children at their home in Box Elder, S.D., April 19, 2018. Brian and Leah have been involved with mentoring youth for over 10 years in the United States and in other countries. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Lucas, a child of Tech. Sgt. Brian, the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of power production, and Tech. Sgt. Leah Thomas, noncommissioned officer in charge of Quality Assurance, Aircrew Flight Equipment, waits for his dinner in Box Elder, S.D., April 19, 2018. The Thomas’ perform more than 50 hours of training each year to keep their certifications valid compared to the five-hour minimum to be foster parent in 14 states. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

Lucas, a child of Tech. Sgt. Brian, the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of power production, and Tech. Sgt. Leah Thomas, noncommissioned officer in charge of Quality Assurance, Aircrew Flight Equipment, waits for his dinner in Box Elder, S.D., April 19, 2018. The Thomas’ perform more than 50 hours of training each year to keep their certifications valid compared to the five-hour minimum to be foster parent in 14 states. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE,S.D. -- With the rapid pace for Airmen, time can be their most valuable possession. There comes a moment when children enter the fray, it could be sports, choir or theater: the time one devotes to their kids resonates with them for the rest of their lives.

For two Ellsworth Air Force Base Airmen, they devote their time not only to their own children, but also to fostering children for the state of South Dakota.

Tech. Sgt. Leah Thomas, noncommissioned officer in charge of Quality Assurance, Aircrew Flight Equipment, and her husband, Tech. Sgt. Brian Thomas, the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of power production, have housed more than 40 children ranging from six months to over 15 years old as foster parents. 

“We have been fostering now for four years, and we have a wealth of knowledge,” Leah said. “We have also adopted through foster care. We are licensed…and have been actively recruiting other families to become foster parents as well as mentors to younger children when fostering is not manageable.”

During their 18 years in the military, the Thomas’s have been involved, both stateside and overseas, in mentoring youth. They participated in different organizations for supporting children before they became foster parents.

Leah explained that in conjunction with relevant military training, such as Green Dot, the Thomas’ perform more than 50 hours of training each year to keep their certifications valid, compared to the five-hour minimum to be a foster parent in 14 States.

“Throughout the years, we’ve volunteered for Big Brothers and Sisters, ,” Leah explained. “I started working at an orphanage in [South] Korea, and once we got back to the states, I started doing the [28th Operations Group] Angel Tree and once we got [to Ellsworth], we needed to do something more.”

Even with a poor boarding experience, the Thomas family pressed on with their goals to help children in need. Once becoming foster parents, they learned the hardest part of fostering is learning how specific traumas affect the way their new children interact with the Thomas’s.

“The most difficult part is to knowing that all the children come from different backgrounds,” Brian said. “You don’t know what they are coming out of or what got them into that situation. Sometimes we get a brief synopsis of what’s going on with the child, but you never know. You may know a part, but you don’t know how it actually affected the child.”

When the children feel welcomed, it no longer becomes just the parents who bring up the foster children. It’s the entire family who showcase the proverb: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’.

“Each of our kids have a role when we get a new kid,” Leah said.

She explained how her oldest shows the new children around the home. One of their other children has experience with the foster care system and is able to serve as a peer to their new family members and help alleviate some worry.

The Thomas’ explained the stress due from constantly moving has the goals of these children change drastically.

“Everything [a child] has known is now changed [once they change homes],” Leah said. “Our goal is to show they still have choices and options for when they think the door is shut.”

While foster children are staying under the Thomas’s roof, Brian and Leah care for them as their own.

Base Guide/Phone Book
Commander's Action Line
Helping Agencies
Newcomers
Powder River Training Complex
Road and Weather
Public Affairs