In the days and weeks after Kayden, Kylee, and Shawn Sawyer* were taken into child welfare custody, the teenagers repeatedly asked if they could live with their maternal uncle, Jesse. However, based on previous legal charges, child welfare workers quickly discredited Uncle Jesse’s ability to provide support, and the siblings were placed in foster homes. Due to extenuating circumstances and agency procedures, fourteen-year-old Kylee was moved four times in three weeks, deeply compounding the trauma of being separated from her brothers and mother.
When the Sawyers’ case was transferred to the 30 Days to Family® Ohio program, all three teens and their mother again mentioned Uncle Jesse and his girlfriend, Lauren. In fact, the kids stayed in touch with Jesse and Lauren through social media. Even after Jesse was told the children couldn’t be placed in his home, he maintained a supportive connection with his niece and nephews.
Anna, the 30 Days to Family® Ohio support specialist noticed the strength of this bond. Rather than let old case files guide her decision-making, she conducted records investigations and home visits to explore the possibility of placing the children with their uncle. “The more I kept hearing the kids, interviewing the family, and conducting home visits, it was clear that these charges were things he took seriously, addressed, and resolved. He’s a stable parent of two teenagers now. He showed proof of treatment and relapse prevention.”
Anna presented this perspective to county agency staff during a “barriers meeting,” a strategy session to overcome obstacles to placing a child with family, and the children were placed with Jesse and Lauren. As part of the Sawyers’ genogram study, Anna also uncovered 313(!) kinship connections that could provide additional support to the children.
This story is a perfect example of what a difference the the 30 Days to Family® Ohio program makes! The teenagers are now thriving in their new home, where they are supported by loving relatives and able to maintain connections to other family members as well. And, when Jesse and Lauren were unable to afford to take their expanded family on their annual trip to a local amusement park, several extended family members—who had been identified as part of the 313-person family tree—stepped in to help cover the costs. The Sawyer family recently celebrated Kayden’s birthday together with waterslides and rollercoasters — a welcome escape from the ups and downs of life in foster care.
“Our 30 Days to Family® Ohio Specialist helped us locate services in our area, offered support and answered our questions as needed. All kinship caregivers need and deserve an advocate who understands their family’s unique needs. Everyone in our family knows that without the 30 Days to Family® Ohio program, my niece and nephews would most likely still be in foster care” –Jesse
*All names and identifying details have been changed