“It’s not about bringing a child into a the life of a family.
It’s about bringing a family into the life of the child.”
– Agnes Barnard, co-founder of KIN Culture on foster parenting
In January 2017, Kay, Holger and their three biological children (ages 13, 17 and 19) settled into a new home on the KIN Culture farm outside Stellenbosch. Within a week, five month old Ronald* joined their family and it wasn’t long before they had opened their doors and hearts to three more foster children: siblings Lisa* (6) and Alicia* (5) and three-year old Rosie*. Their lives would never be the same.
Learning to belong – one family’s journey
Growing their family from three to seven wasn’t an overnight decision. “It was a huge step for our family. We had been in conversation about it for about seven years,” says Kay. “When we opened our home to these children, we started an intensive, three-month journey to ensure that everything we did as a family was building a sense of belonging, building a culture of love and care. The language that we used was that we were ‘learning to belong to each other’. We acknowledge that we also belong to somebody else, but for now, this is our family.”
By September, the children had settled in and by December, the family had an incredibly rewarding holiday on the farm together, without the disruptions of court proceedings and hospital visits. “It was an amazing month of just being a normal family,” says Kay.
Creating safe spaces
Any child placed in foster care is a child who has experienced trauma. These are the children whose challenges, more often than not, seem more than just a little scary. These are the children who, more than anything, need a safe space and an endless supply of grace. These are the children who need families that understand this.
It was in 2014 whilst running a camp to help institutionalised children deal with psychological trauma that Kay and Holger realised that the only way to bring true healing to these broken young lives, is to place them in families. “We also noticed, however, that the children who were from foster homes where there isn’t trauma awareness or psychosocial awareness, weren’t faring too well either. That’s when we started thinking about therapeutic home care,” says Kay.
During this time, Kay and Holger crossed paths with KIN Culture. Founded in 2014 by Eric & Agnes Barnard and Simone & Martus Greyvenstein, the KIN vision is to care for orphaned and vulnerable children through long-term fostering. Both the Lorentz family and KIN Culture shared a vision to equip foster parents to be therapeutically-minded and trauma-aware when dealing with the fragile young lives entrusted into their care – and so their journey together began.
“Children will heal if we as a family remain therapeutically-minded; loving, calm and kind. When they are having a storm, you can’t storm. I just love watching safe spaces come together for kids.” – Kay
It takes a community
Even under the best circumstances, parenting is no easy task and offers no guarantees. Foster parenting brings its own set of ups and downs. Sadly, the mere thought of the challenges that lie ahead often keeps potential ‘forever families’ from signing up for a journey which could save a young life – and enrich their own.
KIN Culture and its community offer extensive support to the families in its network. From the tireless efforts of their social worker, Nandi Myburgh to a variety of fundraising mechanisms to cover schooling and medical bills, KIN Culture is doing everything it can to strengthen the families who are rebuilding young lives. The KIN vision also includes plans to provide families with training that will help equip them with the task at hand.
Kay gets quite emotional as she shares the stories of the KIN community of volunteers who offer hands-on support. “These children have a group of people who care for them – a community that says: your challenges don’t scare us. We believe in you. We’re going to see you through.”
In the early days of the Lorentz family settling in with their brand-new extended family, the community delivered home-cooked meals. Volunteers offer speech and equine therapy free of charge. One couple insists on babysitting once a month so that Kay and Holgar have a moment to catch their breath. Last year, KIN embarked on a fundraising drive to buy a mini-bus for the organisation. (One needs a bus to transport a family of five plus four!) And the list continues.
What about tomorrow?
“But what if I become so attached to the child that it breaks my heart to send them away again?” This is something one hears time and again when it comes to the world of foster parenting. And it is indeed a painful reality. Kay explains, “All four of our kids have at least one living parent, but they are very broken. When you foster, the first two-year journey is a plan of reunification. Parents have the opportunity to go to rehab, attend parenting classes, learn anger management. If they do this, there is the possibility that after two years, the children will be placed back in their care.”
Needless to say, this is an emotionally taxing process, but the Lorentz family has accepted the fact that ultimately, this is not about them. This takes a mind-shift. This is about the children and doing what they can, while they can to bring restoration. Legal proceedings and administrative processes are ongoing and time-consuming, but it’s all part of the journey. Regardless of how emotionally draining and time-intensive this process may be, one has to consider the alternative: children being institutionalised and not receiving the trauma-aware care that holds the power to change the lives.
You can do it too
If someone feels called to foster care, these challenges shouldn’t stand in their way. Social worker Nandi’s advice to families who are even considering the possibility of foster care – whether it be as a place of safety for between 1 and 90 days; short-term foster care; long-term foster care or fostering-to-adopt – should simply start the process. The paperwork and screening process alone usually takes at least three months to be finalised.
“If your papers are in order, you can respond to a KIN Shoutout for foster care help when and if you are ready and willing to do so at that point. But if you don’t have the admin done, you can’t help even if you wanted to,” explains Nandi.
Take step one. Simply start the conversation by contacting KIN Culture today.
This is how you can help
There are also other ways to help make a difference. KIN Culture needs support in the following areas:
- Therapy services: Pro-bono speech therapy, occupational therapy and play therapy.
- Baby products: Disposable nappies, baby Formula(Infacare 1 and +2, Nan 1), non-scented barrier cream and wipes, dummies, bottles, baby powder and baby shampoo. [Valcare’s office in Paarl is an official drop-off point]
- Telecommunication needs: Assistance with setting up reliable internet access on the farm (KIN head office).
- IT: Helping with IT equipment and assisting in general.
- Store: Regular Volunteers to take charge of the KIN store (e.g. managing donations).
- Horses: Volunteers who will take charge of their equine therapy project.
- Support KIN Culture’s online store and purchase some of their beautiful locally designed and manufactured clothes and homeware.
- Sign up for a My School card with KIN Culture as your chosen beneficiary.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Visit www.kinculture.org or get in touch with Valcare.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the children.
FOSTER CARE IN THE SPOTLIGHT – WORLD FOSTER DAY
This year, KIN Culture in collaboration with Kibwe Kids is launching World Foster Day on 31 May. “When we started researching, we realised that there is no special day which highlights this important aspect of alternative care for children and the great need for foster care worldwide. Our intention for this day is to create awareness of this important issue, encouraging families to take up the mandate to foster and also honouring those who are already giving selflessly in this way,” says KIN Culture’s Agnes Barnard.
To find out more about how you can participate in World Foster Day, visit www.worldfosterday.org