Most often, kinship care involves a child being placed with a relative – grandma, auntie, uncle or cousin – but sometimes a friend, coach, coworker, teacher or neighbor who has established a relationship with the child is asked to step up. Unlike foster parents, kinship providers welcome a child with little notice, little preparation, little support and a host of complex relationships to navigate. That’s why Project 1.27’s Kinship Care program in Mesa County is so important.
Sharon, now the Kinship Family Care Manager for Project 1.27, shares this, “Working with kinship families, being a kinship family, I know some of us feel like we didn’t have a choice. A child close to us needs somebody. You might feel like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, but that doesn’t mean we don’t respond with a yes. I hear families say they feel like they didn’t have a choice, I like to think of this from the kid’s perspective – these kids didn’t have a choice in what happened to them. As adults we have experiences and resources that have helped us curb our perspectives, our responses to those around us in the best and most challenging of times. And even then, we still mess up and respond in ways that leave room for compassion and grace! It’s an honor and a privilege to share our lives with children that teach us a lot about relationships, love, and what really matters.”
While R was moving from home to home, Sharon provided day care for her from time-to-time. Sharon remembers a joyful time watching R play footsie under the lunch table with her oldest son, Carter. Sharon knew then, as she watched this little girl playing and having that behind the sparkling eyes and excited laugh, fear and worry were already a big part of R’s young life.
Sharon shares, “We had so many emotions as we took a weekend away to consider welcoming R into our home. This was the child of a close family friend. We’d have to find ways to build a parent/child attachment with R AND navigate existing relationships with her biological family. To top it all off, I was pregnant with my third son.”
When Chris and Sharon decided to say yes to God, yes to this little girl, they asked God to give them the same love and wisdom in decision-making, the same commitment, that they had for their biological children. Saying yes to God and to this little girl, meant they were all in, no matter what. During challenging times, and there have been many, Sharon would sometimes ask herself if she was the right mom for R. Sharon admits that sometimes answering that question with a, “no, I’m just not the right mom for this kid,” might have been easier, but she and Chris didn’t say yes to this little girl because it was going to be easy. They said yes because they believe every child deserves a “no matter what family”.
Initially, there was so much for Chris and Sharon to learn about being R’s parents. They juggled learning about their little girl through the eyes of their case manager, R’s healthy relatives, and her former foster mom. There were a lot of people involved in the process telling them who they thought R was, what they thought she needed, and what they thought her new parents should do. It was overwhelming, easy to get lost in all the tasks of parenting R and filtering through lots of advice, visits, appointments and interventions in an effort to do what was best for their little girl. It took a while to figure out how to define their new sense of normal and to see R the way she needed, wanted, and had yet to be seen. Through the eyes of her “no matter what” parents, and through her own eyes.
After R’s adoption (and the birth of their third son which happened the following day!) Chris and Sharon took the reins of the family, hunkered down and began the work of building their newly formed family. It was challenging for R. Because of her long-term childhood trauma, being part of a family, being loved, scared R.
At the peak of R’s struggles with Early Developmental Trauma behaviors, Sharon, who was home 24/7 with four young kids began to feel like the nurturing enemy. With limited resources and feeling completely overwhelmed, Sharon wisely started calling churches to find a respite provider. Sherri Campbell responded.
“The first time I talked to Sherri, I felt like I wasn’t alone!” Sharon reports. “Instead of judgement or shame for not loving enough or being strict enough, Sherri got me. Sherri had raised kids who had experienced developmental trauma and would respond to me with words like, “don’t you hate it when they do that!” I needed someone to normalize what was happening in our home.”
After meeting with Sherri to develop a respite plan, Sharon felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She had someone who had lived through a similar journey, someone she could text when R was having a hard day. Someone who would respond with a crazy or fun emoji instead of judgement, criticism or complete bewilderment. During times of respite care, Sherri provided R with a routine schedule and parenting responses consistent with what R received at home.
“Having respite from someone who had the tools to care for our daughter allowed time for us to rest as a couple, to spend time doing things we did before we had kids. Time to pray. Time to research. Time to sleep in,” commented Sharon.
One thing Sharon loves about being a kinship and now adoptive mom is loving a little girl who really needed a safe momma. “Kinship has helped me learn to lean more on God, to be dependent on him. I can see through parenting R, helping her learn to trust me, to attach to our family, and build deep healthy relationships, a mirror of the way God parents me. Being a kinship-adopt parent provided the opportunity for me to learn to trust God with new depth, to build a stronger attachment to Him. When I pull for control, God gently reminds me of who’s boss. I’m so grateful to know that he has everything under control!”
Sharon has these words of wisdom for other kinship families.
Whatever you're experiencing is normal because in kinship, there is no such thing as normal. Your family is not going to look like anyone else’s family. You’re not alone. Find ways to connect with other families on a similar journey. Especially at first, life is messy. When a case worker comes into your home, they’ve seen messy before. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Find humor in every situation.
How can you pray for Sharon, her family, and Project 1.27’s Kinship Support Group?
For Sharon’s family – “Pray God’s provision and our obedience to follow the path He’s set before us. That we’d have lots of songs, laughter and little ah-ha moments of connection in our home every day.”
For the Kinship Support Group
“Pray for continued growth and attendance. There’s a lot of kinship families who aren’t accessing resources. Pray that we can find ways to connect and provide the supports they need. Pray that churches, volunteers and donors step forward so we can match the need with resources. We always need dinner, every month!”
More about Project 1.27’s Kinship Support in Mesa County
The Kinship Support program provides a place for kinship families to connect with other kinship families, an opportunity to develop the new skills needed to be a successful kinship provider, support in navigating kinship resources and a chance to earn certification hours. The free childcare includes fun activities for kids of all ages. Friendship, support, laughter, free childcare and a free dinner that is really good. At the last Kinship Support Group, a donor provided an amazing taco bar with all the fixings! Tummies and hearts always leave full. The group meets monthly, hosted by various churches in the community.
Kinship families also have access to Project 1.27’s Bear Necessities Closet filled with diapers, car seats, clothing, beds, bikes and other resources that might be needed to care for a child. Gift cards are also made available so kinship families can purchase needed resources.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.