Michigan foster mom helps dozens of kids
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) — Ever since she was a little girl, Kindra Hanson knew she wanted to be a foster parent.
“I loved children,” she told the Battle Creek Enquirer . “I babysat all the time. I was good with kids, so it was always a dream of mine to have a large family, to be a teacher, to do foster care. I just knew in my heart I was going to do foster care and adopt children.”
Those dreams came true.
Hanson, who is now 54, has been a special education teacher for more than 20 years, spending most of that time working for Harper Creek Community Schools.
She has five now-grown biological children.
And she’s been a foster parent to dozens of children, two of whom she adopted, Devon, 13, and Jadyn, 11.
She’s not sure she’s done with taking in foster children either, though for now she’s doing respite care instead, providing children with a home for a short time so foster parents can get some time off.
She bought the Battle Creek house she’s in now because it has six bedrooms, so she’s got the room for additional foster children.
The big blue house is filled with the things that make a house a home. The dogs, a Chihuahua mix named Daisy and a terrier named Roxy, greet guests with their barks. Lovable Louie the cat rubs his face against any human who gives him attention.
Louie was Jadyn’s birthday gift. Every day she comes home from school, scoops him up and hugs him tight. He accepts with a just a slight high-pitched meow.
Family pictures and wall hangings with quotes like “Home Sweet Home” adorn the walls. A Christmas tree decked with special ornaments Hanson gets for her children every year sits high in the corner of the living room. Jadyn shows off the kitty cat ornament she got this year, and Devon shows off his Hot Wheels ornament.
The children who have come to Hanson’s are either reunified with their birth parents or adopted.
Hanson’s adopted children were supposed to be reunified with their birth mother. Devon was 2 at the time; Jadyn was 5 months old.
After Hanson had taken care of them for three years, a court asked if she was willing to adopt them. For her it was an obvious yes.
“I can’t imagine totally raising any more, (but) I am always open to anything,” Hanson said. “If there was a child Jadyn’s age who meshed in here super well, I am open to adoption. I know that sounds crazy,” she says laughing, “I love kids that much.”
Michigan has about 13,500 children in foster care and there are about 6,200 licensed foster homes with an average of two beds per foster home. Hanson’s is one of about 35 homes in Calhoun County and other surrounding counties that work with CityLinC’s Youth Guidance Foster Care & Adoption Center program.
Youth Guidance Program Director Nicole Gillies would like to have at least 50 foster care homes available. The organization gets calls daily to place foster children in one of their homes, but they don’t have the homes to place them.
“We do what we do because it’s our passion and we strive to do our very best for the kids and the families we serve and we would love to have more people join our team,” Gillies said.
There is always a need for foster families, Department of Health and Human Services Spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin said, “to keep children safe until they can be returned to their home — which is the priority as long as it is safe — or find a loving adoptive home,”
Foster care, though, is not for everyone. There are still ways to be involved even just by donating toiletries or toys to Youth Guidance.
As she rocks in her recliner, Hanson admits that there are times she’s needed a break from foster care in the 21 years since she started as a foster care parent.
Her first foster placement was a sibling group of three, so there were eight children in the house, all of them ages nine and under.
“They were a handful,” she said. “But I have had the training in special education to know how to deal with behaviors and trauma, and so we were able to weather it, but it was quite a first experience.”
To Hanson, being a foster parent isn’t just about providing a safe, secure home for several months. It’s also about helping the foster child through a difficult time.
“Part of being a foster parent is helping the foster child process through their grief and help them to understand that, no matter what they have been through, that their family loves them and they are going to get through it no matter what happens,” Hanson said.
One of Hanson’s recent foster children came to her when he was 2 months old. He got sick and had to go to the hospital, and Hanson couldn’t let him be there alone.
“I took off work, and I sat in Kalamazoo with him and held him,” she said. “He needed someone to hold him.”
When it was time for him to go, saying goodbye was hard for Hanson, Devon and Jadyn.
“They really got attached to him,” she said, “but, knowing what our mission is, it’s not (as difficult) because, going in, we know what we are doing,” Hanson said. “Our goal is to provide them with the safety they need during a difficult time. Do we grow to love them? Absolutely we do, but we need to let them go so that they can then move to their next stage of life and move on.”
Hanson’s five children, get to have a say in the fostering and adopting process. She divorced in 2010.
“It has become a family ministry,” Hanson said.
Her older children now help her take care of the Devon and Jadyn.
“I am very proud of my kids just for accepting the kids as they have. Sometimes, it hasn’t been easy,” she said. “It’s good for them, because life is hard and, in life, sometimes people are mean. You have to be able to accept everyone and get along with everyone no matter what.”
Her children have used social media to connect with some of the foster children who lived with them over the years.
“I remember every child who came into our house,” said Kayla Hanson, Kindra Hanson’s daughter. “They made an impact on me. It made want to serve and help others. It made me realize that there are people less fortunate than I am, and I can give back.”
Kayla Hanson was always interested in working in mental health and graduated with a psychology degree from Olivet College. She now works as a foster care and adoption case worker at Youth Guidance.
“If my mom wouldn’t have done (foster care), I would have never known anything about that,” she said. “I wanted to know more of the policy systems side of how things work.”
Kindra Hanson thinks about her foster children often, especially during the holidays.
“We always had pictures of them, and it reminds me of them, and I have always prayed for them throughout the years, too,” she said. “It can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve ever had. Not the easiest but one of the most rewarding.”
Information from: Battle Creek Enquirer, http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com