From left to right: Christina, Cady (16), Jason, Emily (15), Ashleigh (13), Aidan (11)
In honor of National Kinship Care Month this September, PAFCAF is highlighting kinship caregivers across our social media, blog and weekly newsletters. Below is a story from one of our very own member executive directors who is also a kinship care provider.
Christina Wilson, executive director of Child Abuse Prevention Association, became a caregiver in 2003 when her mother and aunt called to let her know that her cousin’s two children had been placed in foster care and that her cousin was also pregnant with a third.
The children had found themselves in the Florida foster care system for a myriad of reasons that include mental illness, drug abuse, and domestic violence. Christina expressed her dismay and sadness and asked what that had to do with her. Her mother and aunt said, “we think you should go get the children.”
Christina and her husband had been married for two and half years, him having a son from a previous marriage but no biological children together - “You have plenty of room and love to offer,” her aunt and mother both said.
"Nice try. April fools," Christina said as she hung up the phone. They called back. They weren't kidding.
Christina rolled over in bed after she hung up the phone and asked her husband what they should do. Without missing a beat, he said: "well we can't leave them there."
Five months later, Christina and her husband became kinship caregivers in a Pic-N-Sav parking lot in Holiday, Florida. During the encounter, a Florida Department of Children and Families caseworker handed them a five-month-old baby, a nebulizer, and a bottle half full with formula. The next day they returned to the parking lot and picked up the baby's 17-month sibling - she had a small box of clothes and a tiny drug store photo album. Six years later they returned to Florida and picked up two more siblings ages two and four.
What does it mean to you to be a kinship caregiver?
“Being a kinship caregiver means putting the children entrusted into your care before all else. It means having to sometimes disappoint other family members when it's not in their best interest. It means sometimes being the hero and sometimes being the heavy. It means forever. It means loving someone more than you could have ever imagined. It means having your heart broke sometimes. It means holding on even when its hard. It means never giving up. It means stepping up. It means being their parents.”
What’s the most inspiring part of being a kinship caregiver?
“Kinship caregiving, fostering, and adopting is soul touching, grueling work. It's climbing a mountain every day knowing at some point you will slip back down but must keep going. For me, the most inspiring aspect of our journey is the fact that these children would have remained separated and wouldn't have known one another or their other family and because of our decision, that fate was altered forever.”
What motivates you each day?
“We have to keep the end goal in mind - to raise healthy, happy, and kind children. It's easy to get caught up in the day to day insanity of raising four teenagers. It's easy to let the daily battles of will and the children's own scars drown out the miracle that the kids are as stable as they are. When we step back though we can easily see from where we came. The children by anyone else's account are happy, well adjusted, thriving young people - that's the thing that keeps up going. Our faith also plays a huge role in our motivation. It has been clear from day one that if we thought we were in control of this life or this family or this situation, we were simply kidding ourselves. His plan. His time.”
Caregivers, such as Christina and her husband, provide quality care to South Carolina’s children. Through their dedication and commitment, PAFCAF is able to continue with our mission to provide positive outcomes for children and their families.