BRYAN, Texas — It’s Foster Care Awareness month and it's a growing need here in the Brazos Valley. We spoke with a local foster care office where we learned why fewer children are being placed in homes and how one local family is changing lives forever.
Renaissance Family Services is a local office to help families get licensed to foster kids and help place kids in homes.5
Case Supervisor Manager Kadie Thompson shares that there is a high need for children to be placed in homes here in the area.
“There is a huge need for foster families in our area,” said Thompson. “We see a lot of movement of kids coming in and out of the area. There are a lot of kids needing families.”
With foster care, Thompson says the goal is for kids to reunite with their biological families if possible.
Abby Belangeri is a local parent in the Brazos Valley and shared how a journey of the unexpected and uncertainty has now brought her to parenthood.
“My husband and I dealt with infertility for about 10 years and through that journey, we decided we would pursue adoption one day,” said Belangeri. “It didn’t all quite unfold the way we had planned but it definitely unplanned perfectly the way it was supposed to.”
Abby adopted her cousin’s son through kinship. She says it was a moment of unplanned perfection.
“It just happened to be a family member’s child that they needed help caring for him while they kind of got things together, and they didn’t quite get things together, so we ended up adopting him,” said Belangeri.
Kinship is one of the ways to get a child placed before going into a non-relative home.
“With foster care, the primary goal is always reunification,” said Thompson. “We always want to see our kids go back to their biological families that are safe, happy, and healthy. When that’s not possible, then we look at relatives which is our kinship piece.
Kadie explains kinship is when family members step up and take children in either through adoption or by taking guardianship.
“Kinship is different than traditional foster,” said Thompson. “It would be like if someone showed up at your door and said this is your niece, she’s going into foster care, can you take her? You pass a background check; can you take her?
Reunification is the main goal in foster care. Abby and her husband made sure to keep a group of siblings together.
“We’re on our second placement fostering at this time,” said Belangeri. “We have a sibling group of four in addition to him.”
Abby hasn’t been able to have kids yet, but she’s still grateful.
“I am not sad at all about not being able to have my own children because they are my children,” said Belangeri. “I didn’t birth them necessarily but caring for them and raising them, and the love I get to share with them is better than I ever could have imagined.”
Abby also doesn't mind her family growing a little bit bigger. She says if it becomes possible, she and her husband will adopt the four other siblings.
“A lot of our families really have a heart for children from trauma who have different needs than the average child,” said Thompson. “They’re all ready to open their homes to those children that need those extra needs and have been through a little more tough life situations.”
Even though people are looking to foster children, older children seem to get left out as Kadie says families feel more comfortable with younger children.
“I think a lot more families are hesitant to take older children because they typically have more trauma,” said Thompson. “They’ve either been in the system a lot longer or they’ve been in situations where they were not safe and were having trauma for longer.”
Abby and her husband have adopted one son and have four foster kids. It's a life Abby says they love to cherish every second of.
“We didn’t know how well we would do at parenting the older children because we haven’t exactly been parents yet until this point,” said Belangeri. “Having the older kids has been such a blessing and they’ve been just as amazing as the little ones and probably in some ways, easier.”
If you are not currently looking to foster or adopt, Kadie says there are other local initiatives to help children in foster care such as Local Casa and John’s Boys.