by Juli Oberlander
One of Bobby Loud’s greatest joys is his family. For Loud, this family consists of his 17-year-old son Isaiah and the foster children he cares for in his home.
For the past five years, Loud has welcomed 10 foster children into his family. Currently, he is the foster parent of two 11-year-old boys. Loud says his passion for helping others drew him to become a licensed Nebraska foster parent.
A native of Omaha, Loud graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. At UNO, Loud was a member of the Goodrich Scholarship Program. He credits Goodrich for instilling in him the drive to become a lifelong learner and serve the community.
In 2008, Loud received a master’s in Organizational Leadership from Bellevue University. Six years later, Loud returned to UNO to serve in his current role as an academic adviser for the School of Communication.
Out of all his experiences, Loud says he enjoys being a father the most. As he raised his son, Loud began to understand how fortunate he has been in his life.
“I have been very blessed in my life, personally and spiritually,” Loud says. “I have an awesome son who has had awesome experiences. One of the things that I soon recognized is that every kid hasn’t had the experience that my son has.”
Upon this realization, Loud says he wanted to become a foster parent. However, before he trained to receive his license, Loud sought approval from his son Isaiah.
“When I was first thinking about becoming a foster parent, I had to explain to him what that was,” Loud says. “I told him his dad might have other children in the home and asked him how he felt about that. He thought it was pretty cool.”
Once Loud became a foster parent, he says he began to realize the complexity of the foster care system. He understood how children and parents suffered when the system failed to meet their needs because he often struggled as a foster parent to receive support.
After learning that other parents had similar experiences, Loud says he wanted to start an organization to advocate for foster parents. In January 2017, Loud created the Nebraska Foster Parent Advocacy Network (NFPAN) to help foster parents ensure opportunities for their children.
Since its founding, NFPAN serves as the only Omaha metro nonprofit that solely supports foster parents. NFPAN’s initiatives include monthly meetings and community events that allow foster parents to collaborate in a supportive setting.
Loud, who serves as the NFPAN network coordinator, says one of his main goals is to dispel misconceptions about foster parents.
“A lot of times there are myths about foster parents, like they’re just in it for the money,” Loud says. “People don’t understand the responsibilities, the level of training or what it actually takes to become a foster parent.”
Before he founded NFPAN, Loud says he often dealt with agencies that were unable to help him due to high caseloads and overextended staff. During those times, Loud turned to other foster parents for encouragement. Now, NFPAN serves as a supportive network for Loud and other foster parents.
“NFPAN has given me a platform and a voice as a foster parent,” Loud says. “That’s what has led to that channel to actually impact change.”
Loud’s colleagues at NFPAN share the same mission to help children. Amadi Watts, the foster parent liaison for NFPAN, says Loud inspires him to better support foster parents and children.
“I’ve learned from Bobby to keep my eye on the prize,” Watts says. “What comes with that prize is making a difference. That is very important, especially when you are advocating for foster parents.”
Like Loud, Watts is a foster parent. He currently cares for a 9-year-old and has served 10 foster children overall. Watts says he understands the challenges that parents face in helping youth who are not their biological children.
However, Watts says Loud helps him realize change can happen when foster parents work together to meet children’s needs.
“He’s taught me that talk comes with action,” Watts says. “Bobby has worked extremely hard to ensure that this is a success and that we all stick together to help families.”
Based on his experiences as a foster parent, Loud says he strives to encourage other foster parents through his personal example. His goal is provide youth with the same opportunities he had as a child.
“Being a parent has helped me reflect and see how fortunate I am,” Loud says. “I have even told my parents, ‘Thank you so much,’ because what if they had not done some of the things that I am a beneficiary of? Now I have an opportunity to give foster youth experiences they were not exposed to, and that gives me great satisfaction.”