Foster Care: Our Unexpected Journey

Andy Kafka, Assistant Vice President—Personal Trust

December 18, 2013

Community Commitment

Articles

Only weird people are foster parents.  People with their own kids aren’t foster parents.  How could our family with three children possibly thrive with foster kids?  Please let me explain, those ungrounded statements are a few of the initial thoughts my wife, Katie, and I had when we first considered becoming foster parents.

Andy KafkaWe certainly didn’t feel like foster parent material.  But through a mandatory ten week training class, we educated ourselves and became licensed in October 2012.  We weren’t sure how, but we prayed we could make a positive difference in someone’s life.

We first met our placement, Noelle, on Dec 23, 2012 at the age of 3 ½ months.  Her mom was 16 and her dad was 18.  Noelle had been born at 25 weeks and spent her first three months in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit at St. Elizabeth’s.  When the hospital released her, she could not return to her birth mother’s or father’s home because of a variety of issues.  As a result, she was placed in a temporary foster home.  Soon after, the state approved her transfer into our home.

As I’m sure you can imagine, things were a bit hectic at first.  Noelle had acute medical conditions we needed to address.  Our children were excited to have another sister in the house, but the youngest didn’t understand, ‘wash your hands before you touch the baby’.  Noelle also had medical appointments, developmental specialist visits and many others.  Our days were packed.

Along the way, biological mom and dad relinquished their parental rights.  Thus we were presented with the opportunity to adopt Noelle.  We had mentally prepared for the possibility but didn’t expect it.  Noelle had unofficially been part of our family for some time but we are excited to announce we adopted her on November 23.

The Nebraska foster system has figuratively got its hands full.  On an average day there are about 1200 children in Nebraska age 5 and under in foster care.  In 2012-2013 there were over 9000 youth in the state that needed foster parents.  Sadly, the greatest reason children enter foster care in Nebraska is due to neglect, defined as a guardian’s failure to provide for the child’s basic physical, medical or emotional needs.

You may not envision yourself as a foster parent and that’s OK.  I encourage you to look into one of UBT’s Community Involvement partners, the Foster Care Closet.  A donation of money or clothing has a meaningful impact to Nebraska foster children.  Through generous donors they provide a complete seasonal wardrobe to foster children who often have nothing but the clothes on their backs.

It turns out, you can be married or single, young or old, with or without kids, and still be a fabulous foster parent.  It’s not easy and certainly nothing to enter on a whim.  We learned that investing in a foster child has the chance to make a difference in a child’s life and may even positively impact your own.

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