FOSTERING COMMUNITY BLOG
A biological child’s perspective of growing up and living in a foster care certified home
Hi everyone! My name is Kelsey Karr. I am a current intern with the Houston Angels, a Texas A&M University graduate, and now a Baylor doctoral occupational therapy student nearing very close to graduation. In addition to having these roles, I also have some roles/background within the foster care system. So, let’s get into it.
My Family, Our Journey
Growing up, I was raised by a single biological mother (she’s a superstar) alongside my two biological siblings. I am the oldest, but my sister and brother aren’t far behind me in age. Our journey as a family as part of the foster care community began in middle/late 2016. One of our family friends in town was fostering a sibling set, and she told my mom that she thinks we would really like fostering kids. So, we looked more into it and started the process of becoming a foster to adopt home.
Becoming Foster-to-Adopt Certified Home, how’d we do it?
For anyone thinking about becoming a certified foster home or foster-to-adopt home, the process looks very daunting and long and complicated. I personally would say that it definitely can be daunting, but if you are organized and know where to go for resources, it does not have to be.
In Texas, here are the main/major steps in becoming a foster/adoptive parent:
That’s the major stuff friends. That is the major steps to becoming foster certified or adoption certified in the state of Texas. Now my mom went through ALL of that. As a “child” in the home, my process was not as extensive. I have memories of us all going and getting fingerprinted together, taking CPR together, making fire escape maps with our markers and hanging it on the wall. One of the major memories I have of the process was the home-study. The CPS worker came in, interviewed us one by one, and got to know us. I remember being so scared and nervous about it all, but then it happened and it was totally fine! While the steps to become a foster parent can seem daunting and time-consuming for everyone involved, you can do them as a family and it makes it SO fun.
So, now we will fast-forward a little to February 2017. We got the call that we were officially approved and certified as a Foster-to-Adopt Home! We thought it would take a while to get a placement, but boy were we wrong!!
A Certified Home to The First Placement- Our INSTANT Start
We got the call that we were certified to start fostering…and within TWO HOURS we got a call -
“Hi we have a potential placement for you, they need somewhere immediately, it’s a newborn.
Do you want to take it?"
WHAAATT!! We were shocked. We thought it would be at least a week or two. But nope. Now let me tell you a little about calls for placement - you get little to no detail sometimes. We knew NOTHING about this baby’s situation, why she was brought into care, nothing. We just knew it was a baby that needed a place to go. Foster care is taking a jump, trusting in yourself and your worker, and saying YES. Needless to say, we said yes. Within an hour or so we had a beautiful baby girl dropped off on our doorstep.
Now just so you are aware - the goal of foster care is ALWAYS family reunification, ALWAYS. So, I knew when those sweet babies came into our home, that it wasn’t going to be forever. Out of the 13 kids we have had in our home, some of them did go home (YAY). That first sweet little angel you saw in the picture, yep she went home to her parents. Some of our placements got adopted by new families, some went to other foster homes, each one with their own journey and story. Being a foster certified home is bittersweet. You sacrifice for the kids in your home, you love and care for them, protect them, advocate for them, and then have to say goodbye. While the goodbyes are hard, you know ultimately you are making a difference and are doing what is right for the kids.
The One That Never Left
Remember how I said I got super duper attached to all of our babies we got placed with? Well the story is no different with the one that never left. We got placed with a 5 week old newborn baby girl, and instantly loved her. After two years of being placed in our home as a child in the foster care system, her parent’s rights were taken away/signed away, and she became eligible for adoption. Needless to say when they asked us if we wanted to adopt her, it was an instant yes. Ever heard of Gotcha Day? Well we just celebrated her 2nd Gotcha Day, aka her second year anniversary of the day she was adopted and became Kendall Skye Payne.
So, here’s my newest little sister:
Fostering and The Impact it Has On Me Now
Loving and providing a safe space for those babies was everything to me. Now, I know without a doubt that I am SO ready to be a mom myself, whether that be with biological children or kiddos in the foster care system. Not only has fostering kids confirmed that I want to be a mother, but it also has taught me SO many important lessons that are applicable for my life as an adult. I know how to manage really hard situations. I am a killer at time management because I juggled life as a high school student fostering kids on top of transporting kids to appointments and visits and everything else they needed to be at. I learned how important kindness is and how although love hurts sometimes, it is worth it. Fostering kiddos brought my biological family closer together. This wild journey we went through, made us rely on each other more and we have had more and more communication and love for each other.
That’s my story. That’s our story. & That's how God blessed me with another sister.
the impact of the love box program
Happy National Kinship Care Month!
Today, we are going to be highlighting a Love Box Leader, the Love Box Group, and the willingness of those people to support a family in the foster care community. Caroline Bortz joined the Houston Angels volunteer efforts through our Love Box Program. Thanks to her and her group’s willingness to serve the foster care community, a kinship family of 9 kids has forever been impacted. Read what Caroline Bortz has to say about her experience below:
How did you find out about the Houston Angels? Our church has an outreach program and it was listed as an opportunity for us to serve our community!
Why did you decide to participate in our Love Box program? I did some research on Houston Angels and loved what I learned about it! The Love Box program was a perfect fit for our group since we were a little larger and had the ability to volunteer monthly. We wanted to support a great cause and love on/support an amazing family!
What have you gained personally from the Love Box program? So much! Knowledge about the foster care system, perspective about the foster care system (how many people it affects), relationships with all the kids, relationships with the foster parent, relationship with the biological mom and how you can make a difference/help families in the foster care system.
Has the Love Box program helped change any of your perspectives in life? All children, no matter their background, desire similar things like love and attention. We were a little nervous initially because it was our first time interacting with children/a family in foster care. But, the kids are so amazing and are just like any other kid. They want to play, they want to be interacted with and talked to, love showing us their toys. The kids didn’t care what we brought in the box, they just wanted a relationship. A few hours once a month can make a big impact!
Did you have any fears about being in the program? If so, what were they? What helped you overcome these fears? There were definitely some fears - will the kids like us, will the guardian/parent like us, do they need help, how do we get to know the kids? But it just took showing up every month and getting to know the kids - playing with them like they were any other kid!
Describe your relationship with the kids. Describe your relationship with the caregivers. The kids are incredible! Not only so respectful and kind, but just the goofiest, most energetic little humans (we were always exhausted after playing!). Each relationship with the kids were different - some girls wanted to talk more, one always wanted to play basketball. Our relationship with the guardian/parent was there however she wanted us to be, through text/dropping off what she said they needed, checking in emotionally to see how she was doing, and encouraging her for doing such an amazing job! Being a caretaker is hard!
What is your favorite memory/experience with the family? I think just getting to know the kids, seeing their personalities come out over time. Playing with them - water balloon fights, chalk, lots of hide and seek.
Tell us about what you have learned about kinship foster families. Kinship foster families allow for kids to stay with family and that is a huge blessing. I cannot imagine these siblings not all being in one household together - they are each other's best friends. And they love their caregiver/family member so much.
What do you wish people knew about foster care / kinship care? Foster care / kinship care affects a lot of people, specifically amazing children and selfless caregivers. Any support at all, emotional or financial, goes a long way and truly makes an impact. I would like to encourage more people to get involved!
If you were to speak face-to-face with the donors who help make the Love Box program possible, what would you say to them, to reassure them that their support is making a difference? I could write pages! These families and children are in such need of the Love Box program. I saw for the first time the positive effect it had on their lives. I don’t think anyone could put a price on making a child smile, laugh, feel loved and seen. Furthermore, the support provided to the caregiver, acknowledging the difficulties and encouraging her for all her sacrifice and hard work. I would like to say thank you to donors and that their money is directly touching many lives.
How has your involvement with our [organization/program] benefited you or your community in terms of increasing quality of life or satisfaction? I have gained perspective and told many people about the Love Box program! I also have just purely enjoyed it! It brought me joy!
The Love Box Program was created to provide a sense of community and support for fostering families through intentional giving, relationship building, and mentorship. Every family's love box may look different, because it all depends on the needs of the family!
We are SO grateful for our volunteers and Love Box Groups, as they are what makes all of this possible!
Want to learn more about the Love Box Program & how to get involved? Visit our website at www.houangels.org/lovebox.html. Read more about what the Love Box is, Read our Logic Model behind the Love Box Program, or complete the online volunteer application to get started with your volunteer journey!
Written By: Kelsey Karr, Houston Angels Intern
Meet the irby/jones family!!
Written By: Kelsey Karr, Houston Angels Intern
Hey everyone! It’s National Kinship Care Month, and we at the Houston Angels are here to honor and celebrate the families involved in kinship care. First up, we would love for you to meet the Irby Jones Family.
Mrs. LaShonna Irby is the mother of one biological child. Her daughter graduated high school at the young age of 16, and began college to pursue her degree of social work. While her daughter was in college, Mrs. LaShonna was under the impression that her time “raising kids” was over. Well, in 2018 that changed when the State of Kansas Court System and a C.A.S.A Worker contacted Mrs. Irby letting her know that her father’s children were in the care of the state and needed a place to call home.
How the Irby Family Prepared
Now, as you can imagine, the Irby family home was not particularly “kid-friendly” because it hadn’t had young children living in it for quite some time. To become a kinship certified home and to successfully take in her siblings, Mrs. Irby worked with Sanctuary Foster Care Services here in the Houston area. This foster care service/agency helped the Irby family through the entire process of getting the kids into their home. From parenting classes to obtaining a CPR license, to home inspections, the agency assisted them with all of it.
With the formalities finished, all that was missing was the kids. To ensure she was ready to care for the kids and to test how “kid-friendly” her home was, Mrs. LaShonna decided to begin offering respite care for foster families. Respite care is when there are planned short-term and time-limited breaks for foster families. So by becoming a “respite care home”, the Irby family was able to get a little practice when it came to caregiving and having smaller kids present.
Lots of preparation went into providing these three kids a home. Finally, on March 18, 2021, three beautiful children were officially in Texas and in their forever home with the Irby Family. So, let’s meet the kids.
Karrie Irby is a 10 year old sassy ball of sunshine. She is very caring, and aspires to be a nurse when she is older.
Lamont Jones Jr. is a four year old boy who aspires to be a police officer when he’s older.
Treyvon is a 9 year old who is considering joining the military and serving our country when he is older.
All three of these beautiful children are different in their own way, but share a common thing that kept them together, their “Sissy” (LaShonna Irby).
The Irby’s have many things that they enjoy doing together as a family. Just a few of these things include going to Dave & Busters, going to Main Event, watching movies, and attending family outings together.
A Message to Kinship & Foster Families.
Through talking to the Irby family for this blog post, it became evident that there have been sacrifices made and a lot of time, work, effort, and love put into welcoming these kids into their home. It was an extensive journey for this family, filled with triumphs, stalls, and trials. The important thing that the Irby family would like you to know is that you need to Keep Climbing. It is a lot of work and it does get hard sometimes, but you ultimately are doing what is best for the kids. We do not know the individual trauma that each child has from their life journey so far, and so we must continue to serve the children - with their best interest at heart. The Irby family kept climbing, relying on patience, prayer, and community to make it through. Now, here they are, a happier and larger family than before.
Want to know more?
If you want to know more information about kinship care, and how to support these families, please visit the following sources:
National Kinship Care month
September is National Kinship Care Month.
So what is kinship care exactly?
Kinship care is recognized as the full-time protection and nurture of children by relatives, members of their tribes or clans, godparents, stepparents, fictive kin or non-related extended family members. Kinship care is inclusive, and is a way for birth families to ensure the child’s cultural values and ties of affection remain.
There are two types of kinship care:
How common is kinship care?
An estimated 2.7 million children (about 4% of all children in the United States) are being raised by grandparents or other relatives. Nearly 25% of children in the foster care system are placed with relatives, and it’s estimated that many more are being raised by grandparents or other relatives outside of the foster system. With so many children being raised by relatives other than their biological parents, chances are you most likely know someone in your own community who is currently raising a child in kinship care.
How can you help?
Kinship caregivers can experience significant hardship once they take on this role of caring for additional children. Most often, the kinship arrangement is unforeseen, and families can experience increased financial, emotional, health, physical, and social challenges. The next time you speak with a kinship caregiver, take the time to offer them support in any way that you can. Maybe they need someone to cook them a meal, or someone to provide childcare services so they can have a little time away.
Want to partner with the Houston Angels to support kinship families? Sign up to be an Angel Ally or join our Love Box program! More information about the ways that you can serve can be found on our website, www.houangels.org.
Want to know more?
If you want to know more information about kinship care, and how to support these families, please visit the following sources:
2021 houston angels open
Photo credit: Lori's Perfect Shot and Melissa McGrath
According to a 2019 study, 30% of youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ+ and 5% as Transgender. (Compared to youth not in foster care, at 11% and 1% respectively.)
Young people in the LGBTQ+ community are overrepresented in foster care and are also more likely to experience discrimination, abuse, neglect, and the risk of harm. Many LGBTQ+ youth run away from home or are rejected from their families of origin upon learning that they identify as LGBTQ+, and some face this within their foster families as well. Houston Angels supports the push for awareness and advocacy for LGBTQ+ youth while striving to help foster families acknowledge, respect, and support their LGBTQ+ youth to protect their well-being. All children and youth deserve a nurturing home where they feel safe to be themselves.
Houston Angels is proud to support #PrideMonth as we have many children, youth, caregivers, volunteers, and staff members who are a part of this community. We are committed to continuing to provide a space where our LGBTQ+ community is not only accepted but celebrated for all that they bring to the world by being uniquely themselves!
❤️We believe... Everyone deserves and can benefit from deep, meaningful relationships.
🧡We believe... Every child, youth, and family experiencing foster care deserves to be fully seen, heard, and supported by healthy, affirming, and lasting relationships.
💛We believe... Every single one of us has a role to play in changing the way children, youth, and families experience foster care, and that it will take a diverse community with varying backgrounds, experiences, and identities to do this.
💚We believe... In elevating the voices of those who are experiencing foster care and using their lived experiences to guide what it means to provide intentional support.
Helpful tips for foster families, mentors, volunteers, or any other community members who are supporting an LGBTQ+ youth in foster care:
Searching for more information on the LGBTQ+ community and how you can help? See below for more information:
meet our summer interns
Hana is excited to intern with the Houston Angels because she is passionate about helping families and children in the foster care system and wants to learn more about the work of non-profit organizations.
She wanted to intern with Houston Angels because she believes they are doing a phenomenal job bringing awareness to those that are a part of the foster care system. She wants to be able to give back and help others just as she was able to be helped.
juneteenth & race in foster care
Juneteenth is the national celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, the Union soldiers landed here in Houston's own Galveston, TX with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was already two and a half years AFTER President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and slavery had ended.
This day of shock and realization of freedom, turned into an annual day of rejoicing, reflection and prayer. In the early years, June 19th - referred to as "Juneteenth" - was mostly celebrated by the black community. There was often resistance to these celebrations, so they had to take place in rural areas or on church grounds. But as more black people started to become land owners, land was donated and dedicated for the festivities.
Over the years, Juneteenth celebrations and acknowledgment started to decline. But today, more and more organizations, businesses and communities are finally starting to recognize and celebrate Juneteenth. It is an important time for our country to acknowledge American history, educate ourselves and others, promote black culture and achievement, and strive for continued improvement.
Although this historic achievement happened so long ago, we know there is still so much work to be done in the continuous battle against racism and inequality, even to this day. Fortunately, Juneteenth National Independence Day became a national holiday and will be the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.
Houston Angels honors Juneteenth and its history. Houston is the most diverse city in the nation, and foster care itself is an incredibly diverse system of children, caregivers, and biological families of all different races and cultures. Unfortunately, not all people are represented or treated equally.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures states: "Families of color are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system and are more likely to experience negative outcomes compared to white families. For instance, children of color are more likely to experience multiple placements, less likely to be reunited with their birth families, more likely to experience group care, less likely to establish a permanent placement and more likely to experience poor social, behavioral and educational outcomes." The American Bar Association named the following as contributing factors:
Houston Angels will always strive to educate ourselves and celebrate diversity and inclusion in our city, as well as within our own services. We will continue to advocate for and provide quality, tailored support to the families, children, and youth that we feel lucky to serve. And we will always fight to empower this community to succeed.
SPRING INTERNS (CONTINUED)
We love having interns join our team every semester. Last but not least, meet Kendall!⠀
Kendall is a Dallas native that graduated from @tamu Texas with a Bachelor’s Degree in kinesiology and a minor in psychology.
Through college, she was involved in many service organizations, and served as a community outreach chair for an organization that serves children who are terminally ill. She was then chosen to serve the people and children of Lima, Peru, where her group was able to serve 3,500 citizens and their children with health care. After this opportunity, she knew she wanted her career to be serving people.
She graduated and began working in the healthcare field, but after a couple of years, she decided to pursue a nonprofit career. She is currently getting her Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management.
Kendall is excited to be interning with Houston Angels this semester. She has had it in her heart for a long time that she knew she wanted to adopt or foster a child one day, so when she heard about Houston Angels, she knew she wanted to be a part of it. She wants to learn more about how to serve the community and children of Houston better while being able to learn all the aspects of what it takes to make a nonprofit work.
When she's not working or going to school, she likes to read, be outdoors, or do something active with her sweet 1 year old lab, Josey.
Loves: she is the biggest Texas A&M football fan
Dislikes: bugs, sunburns, when the Aggies lose!
meet our spring interns
We're so excited to have several interns join our team this semester, to help move this mission forward while also learning all the things about nonprofit work and foster care. ⠀
AIexis is a native Houstonian. She is married with no children, but a dog mom to a very spoiled pup! Alexis is currently getting her Masters of Social Work at Our Lady of the Lake University, and is in her last term before graduation. She has a Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in English as a Second Language from the University of Texas at San Antonio.⠀
Alexis also works for Harris County with Adult Services as a Legal Guardian for people who are deemed incapacitated either through mental illness, physical disability, or both. She LOVES what she does! If and when she gets any free time between work and school, she enjoys church, reading, spending time with family and friends, exercising, taking her dog on walks, and binging Netflix.⠀
Alexis wanted to intern for Houston Angels because of the work we do to assist foster families and youth. With being blessed with her gift to serve others, she has always wanted to be a foster parent. She feels as though she has a lot to offer a child in need and when this internship opportunity presented itself, she leaped towards it. She is very excited to be apart of this organization and to gain the hands-on experience working in the foster care system and with children and families.⠀
Loves: spending time reading devotionals, watching documentaries, learning new things, and trying new experiences.⠀
Dislikes: any and all bugs, cats, and people who are dishonest.
Emilly grew up in Houston, and both of her parents are from Mexico. She is currently in high school and also attends Houston Community College as an early college student. She plans to graduate with an Associates of Arts next year, and then move on to major in neuroscience. During her free time, she tutors children virtually, write articles as part of Redefy’s journalism team, and exercises outdoors.
Although she is going into the STEM field, Emilly has always been passionate about the humanities and has connected it with her studies as much as possible. She wanted to intern for Houston Angels because she has always considered herself an advocate for children. She has witnessed the injustice and situations out of their control, and it’s been something that has infuriated her since she was young. Over time, she turned her anger into drive and passion to provide as many resources as she can to others.
Interning with Houston Angels will allow her to contribute to the long-term goal of helping those in the foster care system receive more support from society, while also supporting them herself.
Loves: reading, family time, listening to rock, cinnamon rolls
Dislikes: mosquitoes, math
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
PO Box 420966
Houston, TX 77242