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Monday, May 4, 2020

National Foster Care Month

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Protecting, sheltering and loving at-risk children

“My babies came to me with a Winn-Dixie bag and a meth pipe.”

That’s how K.C. Kilpatrick’s story began.Fortunately, it has a much happier ending.

May is National Foster Care Month. Ironically, it was May of 2013 when Kilpatrick – who was a registered foster care parent – got the call she knew could come at any time. A young brother and sister in Webster Parish had been rescued from a criminal abuse and criminal neglect environment.

Kilpatrick had little time to prepare. “I got the call around 3 p.m. The children were at my house at 4 p.m.”

Hallie-Stella was two and a half years old. Jayden was 18 months old. Now, seven years later, they are 9 and 8 years old, respectively. Both are happy, thriving and have adopted parents.

“I would not have this family without foster-to-adoption,” Kilpatrick said. “I feel these kids would have fallen through the cracks, and they might not be with us today if we had not stepped up and stepped in to do everything we did. It took almost 1,300 days for them to be mine legally, but honestly, the first moment I met them, they were a part of my heart.”

According to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, last year, there were more than 6,000 cases of child abuse and neglect statewide. Not all of the children go to live with foster parents. Not all become adopted. But, Kilpatrick says, all need love and support.

“These are the most vulnerable children. These are children that are wards from the state. They’re not part of their biological family anymore because they’ve been taken from them.”

Kilpatrick’s journey to be a foster parent began out of a desire which could not be satisfied naturally.

“I always wanted to have children, but my body would not allow me to have children,” Kilpatrick explained. “The need to be a mother and find a different way developed.”

Kilpatrick and her then-husband tried fertility. But some $30,000 later, they were still childless. So, they began the process to become foster parents.

“You have to be a registered, licensed foster parent,” Kilpatrick said, “and that takes anywhere from six months to a year. You take about six months of classes – they dig all into your business – and they vet you, because that’s what you would want if children are going to someone’s house. Once you are on the list, they try to find someone when they go to rescue children, and you get that call.”

It’s “that call” which prompted Kilpatrick to start “Geaux 4 Kids,” a non-profit organization which advocates for children in foster care. Remember how Hallie-Stella and Jayden-Roland showed up with basically nothing but a grocery bag and a meth pipe?

“I got pissed,” Kilpatrick remembered. “I got mad. This is unacceptable. These are infants. Instead of getting mad at law enforcement who rescued them with the social worker, I said, ‘We need to do something for them ahead of time.’”

That “something” became Geaux 4 Kids’ signature project. “Geaux Bags” – provided through donations – include a pack of underwear, toiletries, pajamas, comfort items, a pillow, a blanket and a backpack.

“We buy in bulk,” Kilpatrick said. “We pack them up. They are all delivered and housed at the Department of Children and Family Services. That’s where they need to be. They don’t need to be pretty and in a closet. They need to be available for the Department of Children and Family Services and the first responders who grab and rescue children.”

Those items – that bag – provide necessities and comfort to a child who desperately needs both.

“It’s all new. It’s all for them,” Kilpatrick said. “You don’t want anything coming from these homes. Obviously, with criminal abuse and neglect, it’s not a good situation. Even if there are some things you are able to grab, it’s still not adequate. To be able to be there for children when they are emotional, and when they’ve been ripped apart from everything they know – good, bad and indifferent – that’s where these Geaux Bags really show them love in a practical way.”

This fall, Hallie-Stella will start middle school. She loves to draw and paint, roller skate, and eat chocolate and chocolate mint ice cream. Jayden loves his stuffed giraffe, wishes he had a baby bunny rabbit and really likes to eat spaghetti.

Thanks to their adoptive parents, Hallie- Stella and Jayden-Roland are living a much different – and much better – life than when they were rescued.

“You’re standing in a gap for children who desperately need you,” Kilpatrick said. “To put them first and to love them no matter what the situation might be. It might be they are your forever kids. It might be that you’re there for them for three to six months, or you’re there for several years. It’s complicated. It’s very complicated. If you can be there for them during that time, it can be the hardest thing and the best thing you’ve ever done in your life.”

MORE INFORMATION:

To learn more about foster care, you may visit www.dcfs.la.gov. To learn more about Geaux 4 Kids and the Geaux Bags program, you may visit www.geauxbags.org.

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