September is National Kinship Care Month. During this month our nation highlights what our Coalition Families United program celebrates every day: the commitment and love our relatives and kinship families provide to children in foster care.
To celebrate we thought we could share a few of our amazing family stories. Stay tuned, as we will be adding stories to this blog throughout the month of September!
After Seven Years in Foster Care, Kylen Moved in With His Great Aunt
Kylen* came into foster care in 2013 at age three after his biological mother burned his baby sister. She was also unable to adequately care for Kylen who was diagnosed with autism. Kylen’s sister went to live with her biological father while Kylen was left to be raised in the foster care system.
He was placed with his grandmother but had to leave after she tested positive for drugs. He went to live with his Great Aunt Shannon, but she was diagnosed with cancer and worried she would not be able to meet his needs during treatment. After another family placement fell through, Kylen went to live in a treatment foster home for children with special needs.
Edna Green with Extreme Recruitment® received the referral in March 2019, when permanency seemed like a fading dream. She quickly began the search for family members. Unfortunately, the maternal grandmother still struggled with drug addiction. Edna spoke with several other family members and found that none of them felt equipped to meet Kylen’s needs. She had a sense that this family felt Kylen was everyone else’s responsibility. Kylen would grow up in foster care if they could not figure out a way to meet his needs. They needed help so they could step up for Kylen.
Even though grandma could not be a placement option, Edna motivated her to enter drug treatment so she could at least be a part of Kylen’s life. Edna provided several options for drug treatment which grandma successfully completed and became drug free. Once the family witnessed Edna’s passion and commitment to make a difference in Kylen’s life, they were able to trust her and were determined to work together to figure out a solution. Great Aunt Shannon, who was cancer free, stepped up to take placement of Kylen because she knew she had the support of her family and the Coalition.
Edna connected Shannon to the Coalition’s Families United Program for licensure. They worked closely with Kylen’s doctor and helped Shannon become licensed as a medical home to ensure she received the resources necessary to meet his needs. Edna utilized the Coalition’s Educational Advocacy team who worked with the school so Kylen could achieve his full potential. She deployed the Coalition’s Family Works Steps Program which helped the family navigate the Department of Mental Health and connected Kylen to many services needed for his autism diagnosis. She even found a daycare for Kylen that was qualified to work with children with autism and arranged for the bus to help with transportation.
With all services in place, Kylen moved in with his Great Aunt Shannon on February 14th, 2020. Everyone in Kylen’s life immediately noticed the difference this placement made. He came out of his shell, interacted more with peers, and his demeanor at school changed tremendously.”
Edna says: “When you are able to meet people where they are at, show them you truly care, and love children no matter what, amazing things can happen.
Henley, Canada, and Marlo are right where they are meant to be
Eve is the maternal cousin to 13-year old Henley, diagnosed with autism, 11-year-old Canada, diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome, and 10-year-old Marlo. Their mother, Mariah, suffers from mental health issues leaving her unable to properly care for her children whom she loves dearly.
Even as a single parent to a 16-year-old daughter, Eve did not hesitate when 30 Days to Family® contacted her to care for her cousins. She knew Henley, Canada, and Marlo needed to be together with family. Eve has this innate drive to take care of others. She works as an in-home nurse and was raised by her aunt who had 11 children and raised 24 relatives.
Tonya, Families United® Specialist, was assigned to help Eve become licensed as a relative parent and navigate the complicated process. Eve initially had her guard up, but Tonya was able to gain her trust and establish a rapport with Eve which provided the foundation for a strong relationship moving forward.
Eve was then very open with the assessment process for licensure. The more Eve shared about her background and trauma history, the clearer it became that Eve had the ability to meet her cousins’ needs long-term. Growing up, Eve didn’t have the parents that she needed and understands deeply how important it is for the girls to have someone consistently show up for them to help them heal.
Eve was licensed right before the COVID-19 pandemic and Tonya was there every step of the way to help Eve navigate the systems virtually and ensure she remained connected and supported. The girls’ professional team did not give Eve a lot of guidance so Tonya attended meetings and court hearings with her. She made sure Eve’s voice was heard and helped translate courtroom and social work jargon, which often confuses our families. Tonya supported Eve in going from a one-child household to four basically overnight. She secured beds for the girls to ease the financial burden. Tonya deployed the Coalition’s Family Works STEPS program to assist Eve as she navigated the mental health system. Tonya enrolled Eve in training for children with elevated needs.
Due to her mental health issues, Mariah struggles to maintain connections with her daughters and complete her case plan. Eve works well with Mariah and tries hard to keep visits as consistent and natural as possible for the girls. They have a brother who entered foster care earlier on. Eve works with his relative foster parents to keep the sibling connection intact.
Eve is a fierce advocate for her cousins as well as Mariah. She is very open to staying connected to her and remaining in the girls’ lives no matter what happens. She made a lot of personal sacrifices such as cutting back on her PRN hours and taking a significant cut in her income so she could spend more time bonding with the girls. She would do anything for them. Since moving in with Eve, Henley, Canada, and Marlo have blossomed. They are right where they are meant to be.
We are so grateful to work with families like yours, the ones who step up to make a difference! For all your work, your sacrifice, your dedication – we thank you!
*Names changed to protect children’s confidentiality.