Amazing Grace

Songwriters create album to raise awareness about foster care When he was just a few weeks old, Kyle Hutton was adopted from DePelchin Children’s Home in Houston. Raised in a loving adoptive family, it was never lost on Hutton the gift he felt he was given by his parents. “I don’t have any memories other than the home I grew up in,” Hutton said. “My parents had told me from day one I was adopted.” So adoption had always been something that Hutton considered, but as a busy songwriter and parenting three boys with his wife, Tara, adoption slipped down on the list of the family’s priorities. But a trip with Tara to an orphanage in Haiti prompted some discussion a couple of years ago about doing something more. With their boys 19, 17 and 13 at the time, the couple felt there was room in their home for other kids. “My wife and I were being called to have more day-to-day interaction with kids,” Hutton said. “We came into it thinking we have some extra room, extra beds, extra food. We got into this thinking we would be somewhat of a boarding house — a short-term stop.” So, two years ago the Huttons became licensed foster parents and began welcoming children into their home. Today they have two girls — 2-year-old and 4-year-old sisters — whose stay has been longer than a short-term stop and may continue, depending on how their case progresses. Caring for kids in the foster care system got Hutton thinking about what more he could do to help them. With a lucrative songwriting career, he called on his friend country singer Radney Foster, about partnering on a project that would spread the word about kids in foster care. When he reached out, Hutton had no idea that Foster was also connected to adoption, having two younger siblings who were adopted. And Foster quickly jumped at the idea of creating a special album focusing on foster care. When they finally got together, in just a day the two wrote all of the songs for the The Foster EP, which was released in April. “We wrote all four songs in 12 hours,” Foster said. “It just poured out of us. I really like all of them and it was an amazing experience writing these. It was really magical.” The four original songs on the album — “A Little Love,” “Three More Bottles,” “Cross to Bear” and “Place to Stay” — speak to various aspects of the fostering journey. “‘Three More Bottles’ is one of my favorites,” Foster said. “It sounds like a guy crying in his beer country song until you get to the bridge and you realize we’re singing about a baby.” “Three More Bottles” was written based on Hutton’s experience opening the refrigerator and seeing just three more bottles before the child they were caring for moved on. Each song tells a fostering story. “One of the most intentional songs on the record is the one we didn’t write — ‘Amazing Grace,’” Hutton said. “That one’s special to me because it’s something that happens in our house every night.” When the Huttons first started as foster parents they sang to the children every night. But they wanted to find one song that would leave their mark on a child’s life for years to come. Tara came up with the idea of singing “Amazing Grace” because it’s common and at some point in the child’s life they’d most likely hear it again. It is Tara and Kyle’s hope that when those children hear the song in the future, they will be reminded about the love and care they received in their home. Singing and songwriting are part of the fabric of who Radney Foster and Kyle Hutton are and lending their talents to a project like this seemed like an easy way to help raise awareness about kids in care. “I’m a hillbilly songwriter,” Foster said. “If I can do something by playing my guitar and singing that helps put a kid into a family — that’s a no-brainer for me. When a child finds a loving home, that’s a home run for me. I just want to be a part of finding every kid in foster care in Texas a good place to stay.” In the past few months, that has meant partnerships with the governor, non-profit organizations and government agencies to host concerts and raise money for Hutton’s Real Life Real Music Foundation. While in the past the foundation has focused on making music to initiate social change, pass on the craft of music making and share music through its radio show, this is the first direct action social change project for the foundation. “The Foster EP is the first recording project that is focusing on social change,” Hutton said. “We need a surplus of families who are willing to take kids in their home. In my opinion, revolution starts at the bottom. Whether it’s faith-based or just being a citizen in a community, we have to agree that some kids need help. This album becomes: How many homes can we get to open their doors and take in a kid who’s sleeping in a state building or a group home?” The Texas foster care system has come under fire recently with a lack of foster parents and struggles finding places for kids to stay. In some cases, that has meant kids sleeping in Department of Social Services Offices and more kids being moved into residential treatment facilities. For Foster, the problem is summed up in one line in the song “Place to Stay.” “The system can only be what it can be,” it says. And for Foster, that tells the story that it’s about the people who step up to care for the kids. Governments and systems can’t fix the problem, but the people who can change one child’s life can. “Having families to care about kids can make a difference in one child’s life,” Foster said. “We’re just a couple of songwriters hoping to raise some awareness.” Already money has been raised and donated to non-profit organizations in Texas to help raise awareness, recruit foster parents and advocate for kids in care. Now Hutton and Foster are working to create a strategic plan for how they will use their songs and voices to help kids in the Texas foster care system. “We have to partner with strategic leaders in the non-profit community to get more families for kids,” Hutton said. For more information on The Foster EP or Real Life Real Music, visit – Kim Phagan-Hansel

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