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Raised to Care: The Kowal Family

Many of you may know the story of our family, but for those of you who don’t, I would like to take a few minutes to share it with you. For myself, this story began many years ago, but I am only aware of that now.  As a young child, my parents became foster parents. We had many different children pass through our home, some for only a day or two and others for a more extended period of time. Three of these children became permanent residents of the Supernault home and family. If you asked my family how I felt about the idea of my parents originally becoming foster parents, they would probably tell you that I was not a fan and that I even told them not to do it.

Through the process, though, my heart changed. Initially, I became a fan of this new experience because I thought it was kind of fun to have different children in the house to play and hang out with, but as I got older, I became more attentive to the reality of what was happening and commend my parents for doing what they did despite the challenging experiences.

So fast forward to my college years, and my experiences with the foster care system as a child shaped my education and future employment. I presently work in child welfare and feel that this is exactly where I am supposed to be.

Bryan and I got married in October of 2013.

We both discussed our intentions to eventually start a family and desired for foster care and/or adoption to be a part of our future story—future being the keyword.

In May of 2016, my parents hired an employee who was only slated to work for them for a brief period of time prior to going to prison. This employee approached my father one day and explained to him that his girlfriend was pregnant, but that the child was going to be removed from himself and his girlfriend at birth. He asked my father to consider taking this child in when she was born.

This employee also informed my father that his girlfriend had four older male children that may also be in need of placement. You can imagine the conversation that occurred between my parents at this point as they were about to become first-time grandparents and did not see this as a part of their retirement plans.

Fast forward to April of 2016

Bryan and I welcomed our first child, Noah, into the family. Then on July 2, 2016, Kyleigh was born. As predicted, the department became involved, and she was sheltered from the care of her parents. Kyleigh was born positive for methadone and required extra care at birth to assist her with the weaning process, so she was not immediately released from the hospital.

Following many tears, prayers, and conversations, my parents decided to accept her into their care, and my mom walked out of the hospital with a newborn on July 18, 2016. At this point Bryan and I were clearly preoccupied with Noah as we were new parents, and I should inform you that my sister, Dana, was pregnant at this time and due in August of 2016.

If you ask my parents, I’m certain they would tell you that the first several months with Kyleigh were hard. Not only due to her exposure to substances, but also because they had not been parents to a newborn in 27ish years.

Dana then gave birth to Levi in August of 2016.

You should have seen the looks people would give my mom, sister, and I when we went out in public as all three of us had newborns. We would frequently joke about publishing a pamphlet to pass out when people would inquire or appear confused so we wouldn’t have to keep explaining our story.

After many months of visits with her biological family and the ups and downs of the dependency system, Kyleigh’s biological parents signed their rights away. Kyleigh was going to be placed up for adoption, and my parents were faced with the decision to adopt her, keep her long term, and know that she will be forever loved and cared for, or let her go to another family with the hopes that she would be safe and happy.

After raising her for over a year, it was difficult for our whole family to imagine letting go.

Bryan and I began talking about the potential to adopt Kyleigh, and we initially struggled with the decision. While we had always intended to do foster care in the future, we were not sure this was a part of our story so soon. Again, after long talks, prayers, and maybe some tears, we decided it would be best for her to remain a part of our family. In March of 2018, Kyleigh officially moved in with us. Prior to her moving in, people were always asking if Noah and Kyleigh were twins, but the questions continued even more so as the process continued.

On July 19, 2016, Kyleigh officially became apart of our family with the finalization of her adoption.

Fast forward again to February 19th, 2019.

All was well with the world, and we were adjusted as a family of four. I remember this like it was yesterday. At 4:18 p.m., my phone rings. I was still at work, so I don’t answer it, but a message popped up. The voicemail transcribed, and I see a name I recognized through work. The message reads “this is Beth Mason, Child Protection Investigator, and I was calling to talk to you.” She requested that I give her a call as soon as possible.

I immediately return her call and recall asking her if this is about a work-related situation or a personal situation. She informs me that it was about something personal, and proceeded to explain what was happening. She explained that she is presently in the field and in the process of removing a seventh-month-old child. She informed me that my name was provided as a possible placement for the child.

As she was talking, I recall shaking and trying to rack my brain of any friend or family member that we know that could be involved with child protection and in the process of having their child removed. After asking a million and one questions and being explained most of the situation, Beth informs me that the child is Kyleigh’s half-cousin, and our name was provided to her by Judy Sebastian, Kyleigh and William’s great great grandmother. I ask her if I could have some time to talk to my husband prior to making a decision regarding placement, and she said this would be fine, but they are going to need an answer soon or placement would have to begin looking for a foster home as there was no additional identified family members that were appropriate.

At this point, I immediately leave work and call Bryan and tell him to meet me at my parents. Again, I recall the exact conversation between Bryan and I, and us trying to decide within the hour or so if we were willing to be placement for this child. After trying to weigh the pros and cons, praying together, and informing my parents and sister of the situation, we call Beth and agree to be placement.

I did not recall this conversation until later

Several weeks prior, Ms. Sebastian was visiting Kyleigh at our home, and she nonchalantly mentioned that she has another grandchild whose parents are not doing that great. Because of my employment background, she informed me that she was recently a part of a safety plan and cared for the child for a two-week period of time while the investigation was ongoing due to the concerns for the child’s safety.

Without thinking much about it, I commended her for taking on such responsibility based on her circumstances. At the time, she was caring for her elderly mother, running her own business, attempting to help manage other family members, and then care for this newborn child—all while being in her sixty’s or seventy’s. The conversation concluded and no other mention was made about it.

So after we agreed to placement, Beth informed us that she would be at our home within two hours with the child to complete the home study. Panic mode immediately set in, and we rushed home in anticipation to greet our newest family member. My family was such a big help that night as they brought over food, helped set up a room, and helped distract the other hoodlums (Noah and Kyleigh) so that all of the necessary paperwork could be completed.

As Beth pulled up with the child in the driveway, we all met her at her car. It was not until this moment that we are informed of his name, William. I got him out of the car with only a small bag of supplies that was provided to us by the investigator; he came with nothing. Following the many questions, paperwork, and signatures, Beth left our home, and we were left in a whirlwind of emotion with a new child.

I want to tell you that this journey has been nothing but unicorns and flowers, and some of it has been, but it has certainly come with its challenges and emotions.

The first week especially, but really the first several weeks with William were really hard. Despite my experience, I was naïve in thinking that this transition would in no way impact William. I thought, “How hard could this be? He won’t know anything has changed. We will adjust to a new routine just like we did with the other two,” but boy was I wrong. I specifically recall the mid to end of the first week he was in our care.

We were all sleep-deprived, the house was a disaster, and a mountain range of clean laundry was growing out of our couch. It was Sunday afternoon, and I was attempting to get William to take a nap. I had tried everything with no success, I found Bryan, who was in the living room and cried. I told him that he was going to have to try and deal with William because I couldn’t do it. Even before he agreed, I laid face down on the mountain range of laundry, crying, and fell asleep. This was the turning point, for me in particular.  I began to view the situation more from William’s point of view and began to extend a bit more grace.

Despite the challenges, sleepless nights, milestones, and relief that came with the finalization of both adoptions. Bryan and I are both in agreement that we wouldn’t go back and change a thing.

From the first several weeks of sleep deprivation to the million doctor and Department required appointments we had to attend, to William’s first visit with his parents; to a point in the case in which it appeared that his parents were going to get their act together and regain custody, to the relief when they signed their rights away, until their last visit, ever, with their child, things have not always been a walk in the park.

This is clearly not how we pictured our lives playing out at this point; however, it is amazing to see the Lord’s orchestration of our family.

As I’m sure you are aware, Bryan and I have a heart for foster care and adoption. There is such a need for good people to love on these children and help ensure their safety and well-being. While we know this is not everyone’s calling. We would encourage you to pray and seek the Lord’s will surrounding this need.

Would you help us provide our foster children a safe and loving home?

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