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GUEST COLUMN: Dear foster child

Shannon Kislat

Shannon Kislat lives in East Rome with her husband, Thomas, and son, Theo. By day she is a global project manager in pharmaceutical clinical research. The Kislats have been a foster family since 2016. Rome and Floyd County are in a foster care crisis. To become involved, contact 706-235-2272 or visit floydcasa.org

Dear foster child,

Monday is your birthday. You will be 4 years old. Exactly one year ago you came into our lives, sleeping contentedly on the chest of the DFCS worker who carried you in. Your peaceful state belied your natural energy, which is often barely containable. But after the day you had had, who wouldn’t be exhausted? Six hours earlier you were abruptly removed from your home, checked out head-to-toe by complete strangers without the comfort of any family member on hand to reassure you, then carried to yet another stranger’s house.

For months we had eagerly awaited your arrival, attended countless training sessions, been checked out from every imaginable agency and viewpoint, made our house and ourselves ready. We prayed for you daily even before we knew your name. We were so excited to share our home with another little boy. We tried to imagine what you would look like, how old you would be, your likes and dislikes.

Suddenly, miraculously, you were here. You looked so small and helpless. We tried to absorb all the information the DFCS people were telling us, but honestly it was difficult to concentrate. It felt so unreal, as I’m sure it must have felt to you as well. Slowly you opened your eyes and looked around. We smiled. You jumped up and you were off exploring.

On that first day you were wearing a diaper, and though you attempted to tell us many things, we did not comprehend. Our first priority was keeping you safe, which was a challenge due to your lack of boundaries. You did not even break stride before running out the door or running down the stairs. But we quickly learned what we needed to do to protect you: keep the external doors locked at all times, be ready to catch you when you climb onto the monkey bars, “hold the railing” became our mantra when descending stairs.

The past year has been a blur. You started pre-K, you can say your name and how old you are, you wear big boy pants, you use “please” and “thank you,” you know your colors and animal names and sounds. You have been beyond busy, growing, learning and always sharing your love with those around you.

You may not have realized it but we have been busy, too. You would not believe the number of calls we have made to the insurance company and to doctors’ offices, to ensure you received speech and occupational therapy. Asking everyone we could think of to help you catch up with other kids your age. We scheduled hearing and vision tests for you, drove you to doctors’ appointments, enrolled you in swim classes, found a play therapist for you. We made phone calls again when the insurance company said you did not need occupational therapy anymore. We have been fighting for you on multiple fronts every day. Although we don’t always win these battles, we think it is important to do everything we can to prepare you for starting kindergarten, which will be happening before you know it.

But the past year has not only been about hard work. We’ve had fun too. We built sandcastles at the beach, explored the woods on camping trips, found an imaginary world at puppet shows, and listened in awe to the thumping timpani of a symphony orchestra. We built fortresses of pillows and walked the plank as pirates. Each evening we gathered around the kitchen table for dinner together and talked about what we had discovered that day. You found puppies, red monsters and choo-choos in the books we read before bedtime. You warmed our hearts with a hug before climbing into bed at night. We reassured you that we were here and wished you a good night. Whether you know it now or not, you were learning during all of these experiences, too. You were learning how to interact with the world around you, learning to share toys, to be compassionate toward others, to apologize when you hurt someone’s feelings, to forgive when someone hurts you, to be cautious when trying something new and brave when you feel comfortable.

We’re so proud of who you are and see glimpses of so many good things that await you in the future. We had hoped to be there with you all along the way, but this time next year you will be someone else’s little boy. Our prayer is that they continue to provide you with an environment which will nurture you and not hinder you.

Will you remember us? That’s hard to say. But we hope that you’ll take a little of our time together with you as you grow.

You can rest assured you will have a forever home in our hearts.

All our love,

Your foster mom, dad and brother

Shannon Kislat lives in East Rome with her husband, Thomas, and son, Theo. By day she is a global project manager in pharmaceutical clinical research.

The Kislats have been a foster family since 2016. Rome and Floyd County are in a foster care crisis. To become involved, contact 706-235-2272 or visit floydcasa.org.