This story was written by KVC foster parents Jennifer & Brad Stallbaumer. They submitted this story during KVC’s Annual Story Contest to share about the importance of opening your home and heart to children in need.
How We Started Fostering
We started fostering by accident in 2013. One of our daughter’s classmates was going to move away and miss her senior year of high school because she needed to switch foster homes. To prevent this, we decided to open our home and become her kinship caregivers as she finished her senior year. As we got closer to becoming “empty nesters,” we decided to become heavily involved in something we knew nothing about: “The World of a Foster Child.” The more seminars we attended, the more amazed we became at how many children were in the system who needed loving homes.
After caring for our daughter’s friend, we didn’t realize we were actually licensed Kansas foster parents, and our phone started ringing off the hook. From a sense of uncertainty, we continually declined several placements until we were sure we were ready.
A few days later, in the middle of the night, an area police department called us. They had an emergency removal for a 13-year-old girl. Our hearts just broke for her so we told the officer he could bring her over. I’ll never forget opening the door that night. She was very sad and scared. We fostered her through KVC for three years.
It was a roller coaster ride of trauma, the first we had ever experienced hands-on. She had issues with substance use, mental health needs and a few run-ins with the law as a result of the trauma she had been through in her life. But, now that she’s grown, she still calls or texts us to check-in. She still calls us mom and dad.
Our foster daughter taught us so much. One thing, in particular, was to take care of ourselves. We got so caught up in pouring our hearts and souls out for this child we postponed our own medical appointments, forgot to talk about us, and forgot to remind ourselves of our marriage goals and dreams.
Fostering Helps Uplift Jennifer and Brad During a Health Crisis
We realized we were in a dangerous spot when Jennifer was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer. Since then, we have survived cancer twice. All along the way, the KVC Topeka team was with us. We have continued to help teen girls while they are staying in our home. We haven’t necessarily always been at capacity, but KVC never expected us to do more than our health would allow. We thought they would close our home because of illness, but they didn’t. The children we were fostering while we were surviving cancer saved our lives. They gave us a reason to get out of bed every morning.
It’s funny how seven years have come and gone, and the children in foster care we thought we were saving turned out to give us a purpose we never knew we would need in our lives. We have built wonderful relationships with dozens of KVC staff members. They are committed to our home, and we are committed to the agency.
Fostering During COVID-19
During COVID-19, our KVC Family Support Worker, Shayne, calls us twice a week to check on us and has brought us fresh food and school supplies. They listen to our stories of who did what lately and we all have a good laugh.
We also recently helped a girl we were fostering find her Forever Family. She was one tough cookie, but KVC found her perfect match! We’ve become close friends with her adoptive family. The best part of the adoption happened two days before she was moving on. She thanked us for talking to her about getting adopted and thanked us for not making her move out. That never would’ve happened if KVC hadn’t found respite for us when we were exhausted; it never would’ve happened if KVC hadn’t answered the phone and talked her through the difficult situations that she was going through.
It takes a village to raise a child, and KVC has clearly raised foster parents’ expectations where we live. Other agencies should follow their model of caring, compassion and support.
Nearly 7,000 Kansas children and teens need loving homes. If you’d like to change a child’s life as well as your own, click here to learn more about becoming a foster parent.