Melissa Wilson-Cassidy, Behavioral Health Therapist, Key Assets Kentucky
Q: Tell me more, what do you mean?
A: A few year’s ago, a neighbor child my husband and I were acquainted with was in an abusive situation that we were unaware of, until she reached out to us and ended up living with us for several weeks. We did everything we could to connect with the mom, and the dad, plus local social services, with very little results. What could we do? So, we just cared for her, listened to her, made sure she had everything she needed until the day came where her mom reached out for her. This was my first lesson that reunification with the family MUST be the goal of foster care, as heartbreaking as it can be. Turns out, she moved in with her father and is in a much healthier situation today.
Q: Wow. That is amazing. So, that was a few years ago, what is your current foster parent situation?
A: Well, I have two foster children I’m caring for right now, along with our almost two-year old daughter Charlie, our 15-year-old bonus daughter and 17-year-old son, with a couple of unique situations. We met Kayne when he was just a baby at 7 weeks old, and now, we share care of him with his mom who recently regained custody in March. He has sensory processing disorder and is on the autism spectrum, and with my background in social work and caring for children with special needs, a shared arrangement is helpful to his mom, Lacey. She works full-time as well, and we talk and share pictures every day. We also care for Cooper, who is almost a year old. We have a shared relationship with his grandparents who are raising his sister, so we are thrilled he will grow up with a biological connection with them.
Q: So, all in all, how long have you fostered and how many kids have you had the opportunity to help?
A: It is hard to believe, but 23 kids since 2016, and we have adopted two.
Q: How impactful! Is that normal for foster families? And isn’t that hard emotionally when you are no longer caring for a child?
A: Well, that is what most people do not understand about fostering. The primary goal of foster care is reunification to a safe and healthy environment with biological family, whether that be one or both parents, grandparents, older siblings, cousins, etc. That is, most of the time, what is best for the child, so we just keep that in mind when our hearts get involved. Sometimes, but very rarely, we could make the argument a child truly would be better off in our home, and that’s when we’ve stepped in to adopt.
Q: What is your greatest challenge being a foster parent?
A: Right now, it’s hard having my husband deployed in Saudi Arabia, but I have an older daughter who helps me as well.
It is also sometimes hard to have grace and patience with these kids and understanding they come from hard places. Some days it is difficult not to take it personally and get frustrated with the anger or resentment they may be showing. These kids come from a place of trauma and I am grateful for the education and experience to recognize that and be able to help.
Q: And finally, what is your greatest joy?
A: Ahhhhh, when you care for a kid who is really struggling and then you just see, all of a sudden one day, the light bulb comes on and they now trust you. It is the best feeling in the entire world. Once they realize they can trust you, and you will never intentionally hurt them, these kids open up, feel hope and then they let you get them help. I just simply tell them, “I will never lie to you”, over and over until they finally hear me.
If you, or someone you know, is interested in fostering, there are a variety of local and state resources available to you.