The Impact Foster Parents Can Have Keeping Youth Connected With Biological Family
Last updated: April 18, 2023, at 3:56 p.m. PT
Originally published: April 17, 2023, at 9:51 a.m. PT
June and Andrew Richard have always been interested in fostering youth. In the spring of 2020, as the pandemic hit, they decided the time was right. They had been thinking about it for years and since the stay-at-home order was in effect, there was no better time than the present. So, they got licensed with the YMCA and started their journey as foster parents by providing respite care.
Then they decided to take on a long-term placement. Kaile came to stay with them at the age of seven. June filled her home with toys, food, love, and everything she believed a child could need. What she did not realize was that what Kaile really wanted was her biological family.
When June brought Kaile to visit with her family on the weekends, Kaile did not care what state the home was in. What mattered most was spending time with her family. One night after a visit, Kaile went to bed holding on tight to a stuffed animal that, to June, seemed run down, but to Kaile, it was a connection to her family because it smelled like home.
Kaile’s behavior was often defiant when staying with June and Andrew. But June realized that her need to spend more time with her bio family was not being met and this is where the negative behavior stemmed from. It wasn’t that Kaile didn’t like June and Andrew, their home, or their family. She just wanted to be with her own family over everything else.
June provided the transportation to and from Kaile’s visits with her bio family which gave her the opportunity to meet them. June knew it was important for Kaile to stay connected with them so she built a relationship with Kaile’s dad which enabled them to work together for the benefit of Kaile. Their ability to co-parent and support Kaile while she spent time in foster care was key to getting her to school and bed on-time, and improving her listening skills. All things critical to a child's healthy development.
Building a relationship with Kaile’s dad was not easy, however. The Richards didn’t know much about Kaile’s case including why she was in foster care and an invisible power dynamic made Kaile’s bio dad feel judged and inadequate. June and Andrew wanted to show they respected him and how he was raising his children but navigating his feelings was difficult. So they took the process slowly and ensured they were not appearing to try and assume his role as Kailes dad. They asked his advice and gave regular updates about Kaile’s well-being. And they spoke positively about him, especially in her presence. It was important to make sure she knew he was still a very important part of her life.
When Kaile was reunited with her father, the Richards stayed closely in touch and eventually Kaile began to look to June as a mother figure. They connected by phone and video calls, where they would watch Kaile perform gymnastics. This made June realize “wow, she needs to get into a class”. So, Wednesdays became their date day. June would pick her up from school, have a snack together, and take her to gymnastics class. June covered the cost of the class so Kaile’s dad did not have to worry about it. She now also takes Kaile bra shopping, swimming, and to the gynecologist.
Annie, Kaile’s older sister, was hospitalized for three months as the result of an accident in late 2022. June was devastated for Kaile because Annie was like a mother to her. June didn’t know much about Annie but spent time with her while she was in the hospital. She now drives Annie to school twice a week and acts as a school aid to her. She feels a strong connection with Annie, who relies on a wheelchair and is unable to verbalize her needs as the result of her accident.
The Richards are still providing respite care to youth today. June expressed, “For our kiddos to get the opportunity to have this experience and have this joined mission, it is invaluable. We get more out of it than we give. We are so grateful.”
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