Alice Skinner has been a foster parent for over twenty years, welcoming many children into her home. In October 2013, CCANO’s Therapeutic Family Services (TFS) approached her about fostering an eight-month-old boy who had been hospitalized with medical issues. Alice disclosed, “I was nervous after I saw all of the tubes connected to his small body, but I learned how to take care of him.” Five years later in March 2019, the courts finalized Alice’s adoption of Kaiden. “He’s been here since he was eight months old. This is the only house and home he’s known, so when we went to court to finalize the adoption, nothing changed between Kaiden and me,” Alice revealed. Things went on as usual; a piece of paper did not make the love and care Alice has given Kaiden since he was an infant more real or legitimate.
As Alice shared this, Kaiden walked closer to hear her speak about him, sat crossed-legged on the edge of the coffee table, and reached out his small hand to offer her an onion ring. “See,” Alice pointed, “other foster kids I’ve had in the past would never just sit down like that on my coffee table. I’ve had foster kids ask me if they could have a cup of water because their previous foster families wouldn’t let them go into the kitchen or open the refrigerator. In my house, Kaiden is made to feel like he belongs here, not like he’s a guest who doesn’t feel comfortable enough to really live in the space. I want him to know this house is his home just like my other children.”
Kaiden then proudly pulled out a thick album with his name on the side filled with photographs of him growing up, evidence that not only was someone there for him throughout all of those moments, they took the time and effort to document these family memories and print them out. Kaiden points out pictures of Paw Paw, Alice’s next-door neighbor who has built a strong bond with Kaiden as if he was his grandfather. Paw Paw appears in photos throughout the years at Kaiden’s birthday parties always with a protective stance. Kaiden even calls Alice’s daughter “Mama” and called her daughter’s late husband “Papa.”
There are 4,000 children in foster care in Louisiana; 140 of these children are waiting for adoptive families. Children enter foster care because they or their families are going through a crisis. Adoption is not necessarily the end goal for all foster children, though. Removal from parents creates feelings of mistrust, abandonment, and a sense of constant upheaval. Despite the severe circumstances that led to a child being removed, the biological parents are still extremely important to the child, so all efforts to help the bio parents regain custody are made. Foster care is intended to provide temporary/short-term care for a child. For instance, Alice still has a very close relationship with a former foster child of hers who aged out of the system. It was not in the cards for her to adopt him, but he has received a consistent and stable source of love and support. Kaiden now has two younger siblings, and Alice tries to keep him connected to his birth mother. He is proud to be a big brother and has pictures in his photo album of his siblings and biological parents.
TFS supports foster parents by offering supportive services and trainings including workshops about abuse and neglect, communication, socialization, conflict resolution, and more. These sessions allow foster parents to unite as a community for support and advice. Shacidy Hadley-Bush, Program Director of TFS, shares, “Seeing the children find security in a loving home with someone who has proven trustworthy is the most rewarding part of this work. It can be a difficult and long road to get there, but in the end, it’s all worth it to know that these children now have committed family members who will support them.” Learn more about becoming a foster parent or about Therapeutic Family Services here.