When family changes everything: A kinship care story

Finding Taylor’s family when she needed them most

Lauren Wiens, National Director of Foundation Relations

A teen is safe at home with her aunt

Taylor was at her lowest point. Still recovering from a mental health crisis, she’d just been discharged from an in-patient psychiatric facility, but she didn’t have a home to return to.

Taylor’s mother had passed away years before and she never knew her father. Home to this point had been with family members on her mother’s side; but when she became a teenager, they dissolved their guardianship, rejecting Taylor for both her race and gender expression. This led her down a dark path where she questioned her desire to live.

What happened next, with 30 Days to Family®, changed everything.

The 30 Days to Family® program uses a rigorous search process designed to ensure more children in foster care can live with family members. Using online tools, interviews, and databases, specialists can often identify up to 150 extended family members and close family friends who may be in a position to provide care for a child. But Taylor had doubts that Bethany could find any family members willing to care for her. She had no one.

Taylor’s 30 Days to Family® specialist was also unsure what she would uncover, but Katie’s not one to give up easily. With her long history in child welfare, Katie knew the likely outcome for Taylor if she didn’t succeed: With a limited supply of foster homes open for teens, particularly a teen with ongoing mental health challenges, Taylor was at high risk of being placed in a residential facility where she would likely age out of foster care alone.

And Katie also knew this: Institutional care is not where children thrive—family is.

So Katie was determined to search high and low for a loving family for Taylor. She knew that uncovering Taylor’s family tree would fill in essential but missing pieces of her roots and give her a deeper sense of belonging. With that motivation, Katie began her search.

Her initial calls were to Taylor’s maternal family who had dissolved their guardianship. Those conversations confirmed Taylor’s assessment of the situation—those family members were unwilling to care for her.

Katie’s next step was to determine who Taylor’s father was. After diligent research, Katie discovered his identity, only to learn he had recently passed away. This news hit Taylor hard and she began to feel discouraged.

But God was working behind the scenes, preparing an unexpected family for Taylor.

While searching for Taylor’s father, Katie learned Taylor had half-siblings on her father’s side. When Katie reached out, they told her they would think about welcoming Taylor into their family and would call back. Katie knew how this story typically went—a call back was rare.

The next morning, however, Katie’s phone rang. Taylor’s siblings wanted to meet that same day.

In that meeting, Taylor’s sister shared that when they were cleaning out their dad’s home after his death, they found the Bible he’d always kept on his nightstand. Inside was a picture of him with Taylor when she was a baby. Her sister said she believed her father held space for Taylor in a very private and personal way, even though he was not part of her life. One night, he even told the siblings about Taylor, so they knew she was out there somewhere. Little did they know in that moment that God was preparing them for what was to come.

The rest of the story quickly unfolded as Taylor’s paternal aunt, who had long been their family’s safe haven, committed to welcoming Taylor into her home and family. Taylor’s half-siblings also offered their additional support to their aunt in any way they could.

Katie recalls the first time the family met Taylor: “They instantly fell in love with her,” she said. “It was so beautiful to see.”

In February, Taylor had no place to live—no foster home, no family, and the very real possibility of being placed in institutional care. Six weeks later, Taylor was welcomed home to live with family she never knew existed but with whom she felt an instant connection.

“Taylor’s family was always capable of loving her,” Katie said. “They just had to be found.”

Today, Katie stays connected with Taylor and her aunt and checks in on their adjustment as a family. Nearly a year into their journey they’re doing incredibly well together, and Taylor’s mental health is making positive strides in her new environment.

At their most recent meeting, Katie was thrilled to share Taylor’s entire family tree with her and her aunt—just as Katie hoped she could. Prior to that day, Taylor had never seen a picture of her mom. So, Katie also gave Taylor an incredible gift—photos for her to remember her mother by.

In Katie’s words, finding a family for Taylor literally saved her life. While she continues to navigate various challenges as all teens do, Taylor now has a sense of hope for the future and feels deep love and connection with her found family.

She is now thriving because, as Bethany has seen time and again, family changes everything.

Taylor’s story continues to motivate Katie each time she searches for a child’s family. “In the face of adversity, you have to relentlessly pursue kin for kids,” she said. “Taylor’s story is a reminder that the next phone call can change things.”

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