Kinship Care Month | Ashley’s Story

Author: Ginette Rhodes

Jennifer, a 30-year-old woman with a heart of gold, serves as the primary caregiver for her father, who has become immobile due to a stroke. Despite dedicating a significant part of her day to her father’s care, she made a life-altering decision in July of 2022. Upon learning that her 16-year-old niece, Ashley, had entered foster care in Texas under troubling circumstances – marked by alleged abuse and neglect, leading to her battling anxiety, depression, and self-harm – Jennifer couldn’t bear to stand idly by.

Upon hearing of Ashley’s tumultuous history, Jennifer immediately contacted the Coalition CareLine to explore how she could take custody of her niece. This is when Emma Fitzgerald from the Coalition CareLine joined Jennifer in navigating the intricate legal process to transfer a child’s case across state lines (ICPC process).

Though the ICPC process proved to be a convoluted and time-consuming journey, Jennifer remained unwavering in her determination. She persevered through its twists and turns, never losing sight of her goal. When Hannah Trout from Families United joined Jennifer’s support network, they tackled the licensing process together after Jennifer’s ICPC request had been submitted. Their combined efforts led to Jennifer completing her home study, getting her one step closer to welcoming Ashley into her home.

To accommodate Ashley’s arrival, Jennifer realized she needed to move into a larger, three-bedroom apartment. She signed the lease, and Ashley eagerly began decorating her new room during visits. Everything appeared to be going smoothly until Jennifer received unexpected news: Ashley could only move in at the end of the school year. That was a whopping 4-5 months from when Jennifer originally envisioned. She was now paying a rent increase, and the extra room was inevitably vacant in anticipation of Ashley’s arrival.

On Jennifer’s birthday, she received an unexpected call from a caseworker in Texas. The caseworker informed her that Ashley was having difficulty with her current placement and would be able to move to Saint Louis sooner than expected. Jennifer was stunned by the timeline change but was happy the third room would be occupied sooner than she originally planned.

Jennifer immediately sprung into action, enrolling Ashley in school to accommodate the sudden move. Upon Ashley’s arrival in Saint Louis, the transition into her new environment seemed promising. However, a heartbreaking revelation emerged as Ashley confided in Jennifer about her struggle with self-harm. Compounding the issue, Ashley had not yet been assigned a Missouri foster care case manager, and the status of her Medicaid remained uncertain. With the assistance of the Coalition, Jennifer embarked on the search for a psychiatrist to help Ashley through this challenging time.

From that point forward, the situation began to take a turn for the better. Ashley wholeheartedly embraced her newfound family, forging connections with her cousins and uncles. The compassionate and familiar support system played a crucial role in easing Ashley’s transition and setting her on a path toward a brighter future.


Program Spotlight: Families United 

Families United is a relative support program that assists relatives and kinship caregivers in obtaining their foster care licenses. We understand the unique challenges prospective caregivers face, such as tight deadlines, which can make navigating the process alone difficult.

Kinship placements and adoptions often happen abruptly, placing a sudden responsibility on the caregiver. We recognize the significance of providing emotional support throughout the entire journey. Our dedicated team of specialists stands by families every step of the way, offering comprehensive advocacy, material resources, assistance with application completion, and crisis support. Our role encompasses advocacy, education, empathy, and healing, connecting families with the necessary community resources to navigate the challenges they encounter.

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