Imagine, like Aaron, that you're 13 years old and have not even seen your parents or sibling in four years. As a result of your parent's drug use, you've bounced around in foster care since you were nine years old. You were separated from your only sibling because no family was willing to take both you and your teenage brother. You love to read and your social worker describes you as "intelligent and respectful", but three months ago your guardianship family decided to terminate your placement, saying that you "don't listen well enough about doing your chores". Since then you've been in a foster home where they speak a different language than you, there are five other children, and you don't feel there is enough of the foods you like.
Your social worker is looking for a new foster family for you, hoping to find someone who can keep you in the same school. How long until someone will say "yes" to you? Who will your new family be?
The Newman family began their journey with Koinonia in 2015 (about the time that Aaron entered foster care). They were 24 and 27 years old and had been married for two years. As they began considering growing their family, they shared, "We've always been open to adoption, but as we learned more about foster care, we decided it could be a great way to support families and provide a safe place for a child who needs it." As a result, the Newmans spent a year attending training classes and preparing in other practical ways to serve vulnerable children and their families. From 2016-2018 the couple had five different children placed with them, from 0 to 2 years of age, and each time they made a commitment to serve both the child and their birth family. Of the five, four were reunited with their birth parents or a relative. The couple adopted the other child, bringing their family from two to three.
In 2019 the Newmans learned about the changes in the child welfare system and the increased need for foster families willing to serve older children. This led to a decision to extend their age range to include kids 8 and under. Nevertheless, within one day of waiting for their next placement call, the family said "yes" to 13 year old Aaron. Feeling incredibly nervous, the couple waited for Aaron to come for a visit to see if they would fit together well. But their own feelings were overshadowed as they saw how nervous Aaron himself was as he shared his life story with them. He quickly began making promises about how he would do chores if only they would be willing to take him! His desperation to be accepted and treated with dignity as an individual led to opening their home to Aaron.
Four months later, although the "honeymoon" is over, he is still with the Newmans. Aaron openly shares his past and worries for the future with his Foster Family and they are learning to face the joys and hardships of fostering a youth who has experienced an immeasurable amount of trauma.
Emily Kaiser is a Program Director for Koinonia Family Services in Sacramento. She is also on the Board of Directors for the Sacramento Heart Gallery and is a mom of 2 amazing kids, one who was adopted from the foster care system. If you have questions about Foster Care feel free to email Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*The names of the foster child and family have been changed to maintain confidentiality but this story is one that is currently unfolding here in the Greater Sacramento Area.