All in the family

YoungFamily1cmyk.jpg
YoungFamily1cmyk.jpg

Skye and Brad Young enjoy a lighter moment with their 12-year-old foster son and 3-year-old adopted daughter Alyssa, who have joined with the Youngs? biological children, April and Allister, to form an unconventional but loving family.

Kansas has a lot of children waiting to be adopted, but becoming a foster parent is just as important.

Saundra Hiller, who lives in Canton and is president of the Kansas Foster and Adoptive Parent Association, said more than 5,000 children are living in one of the 2,500 foster care homes in Kansas.

Most of these children have been abused, neglected or suffer from some other behavior or emotional issue, she said.

Considering what these children have gone through, Hiller said, the job has its rewards and challenges.

In some extreme cases, foster care can mean 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

For Brad and Skye Young of Hillsboro, caring for their newest foster child literally demands that around-the-clock attention.

In order to protect the privacy of the child, his name is being withheld. But both Brad and Skye were willing to talk about their foster son and others they have cared for during the past six years.

?Our foster son is the 53rd child we have cared for since we started doing this,? Skye said.

When the Youngs took in their 12-year-old foster son seven months ago, they knew they would face some difficult days and there were tough decisions to make.

Someone needed to be home all the time and they knew he would require a lot of extra care.

Skye works as a registered nurse at Memorial Home in Moundridge and Brad is the full-time homemaker.

Her medical expertise enabled them to deal with the boy?s high medical needs, but Brad would need to understand the basics.

?Skye works 30 miles from home,? he said, ?so I had to learn too.?

In preparing for his arrival, they also were required to make changes to their house.

?We needed to widen the doors in our home to make room for his wheelchair and we built a ramp outside at our expense,? she said.

Their foster son, who was born with cerebral palsy, entered the state system after his caretakers couldn?t keep him anymore.

He was living with his grandparents and the older he got, the heavier he was to move from his wheelchair to the bed and back, she said.

?He has gained 25 pounds since he came and we do everything for him,? Skye said.

Their foster son also has a feeding tube inserted directly into his stomach and every so often they need to suction things from his mouth.

?He needs to be turned over often to avoid pressure sores and he cannot walk because he has no strength in his legs or arms,? she said.

He has no control of his bodily functions, so diapers are needed and Skye and Brad take turns staying up with him.

She takes the day shift and Brad takes the night shift.

?I cannot imagine a lay person taking care of him,? she said.

As for nights out alone, the couple know those will be few and far between, but it?s part of the commitment.

While some foster parents might receive respite from their foster children, it?s hard to find someone who can take care of their foster son.

?We understood that when we accepted the responsibility,? Brad said.

The couple has two biological children, a daughter, April, 17, and a son, Allister, 16.

Three years ago, they also adopted a newborn girl and named her Allysa.

?He knows when Allysa is around because when he sees her he will giggle,? Skye said. ?Allysa likes reading to him too.?

Although the Young family consists of six members at the moment, that can change too.

?We have a lot of calls through the agency (TFI Family Services),? she said. ?I listen and first learn what the need is and then try to decide whether or not we can take a child in,? she said.

The major concern is age. For obvious reasons, she said, teenagers wouldn?t work because she already has two teenagers.

Prior to their newest foster son, Brad and Skye have had foster children of all ages.

Their first foster child was 14 and stayed with them for almost two years.

The Youngs also took photographs of memorable times with each and every one of their foster children at Christmas or other holidays and kept school photos, and special event scrapbooks.

Many of their foster children would later go back to their biological families and those photo albums and scrapbooks went with them as well.

?We kept copies of photographs too, though,? Skye said.

Although families like the Youngs try to keep their foster children as long as possible, sometimes they are moved multiple times.

According to Hiller, who in addition to serving as president of the foster and adoptive parent association, also offers training to families wanting to become foster parents or adopt a child.

Statistically, she said, six out of 10 children in foster care will be adopted and four will remain in the system or be returned to their biological parents.

?In Marion County, there were 23 foster families in 2007,? Hiller said.

Marion County is considered to be in Region I, she said, which means the placement agency is TFI.

?We have such a need for foster and adoptive parents in the state,? Hiller said, ?and right now placement is sporadic.?

Hiller said most foster children have problems, but these young people don?t deserve what has happened to them.

?These children are craving structure,? she said.

Skye and Brad Young agree.

?Our purpose,? Brad said, ?is to make sure they are fed, loved and happy and can take something good with them when they leave us.?

The Youngs also said they would not ever accuse the biological parents of being bad, but rather just lacking in the kind of guidance necessary to help these children succeed.

For more information, contact the Children?s Alliance website at www.childally.org for the latest dates and locations of classes in the area or call toll-free 877-345-6787.

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