Interview On Kinship Care
Kayla Kohlman interviewed by Christopher Winston
This series presents first person perspectives on foster care, kinship care, and adoption, from individuals who are now young adults. The following interview offers insights on one aspect of the foster care experience.
Kayla is a hard working college graduate who dreams of one day becoming a nurse. She works as an intern at Three Rivers Youth, providing vital administrative support in the areas of human resources, fiscal management, and communications. She is very passionate about helping others in need and looks up to her grandmother and older sister who cared for her and her siblings throughout their time in the child welfare system.
Kinship care is commonly defined as "the full-time care, nurturing, and protection of a child by relatives, members of their Tribe or clan, godparents, stepparents, or other adults who have a family relationship to a child." (U.S. Department of Health and human Services Administration for Children and Families)
CW. How would you describe your relationship to the foster care system?
KK. I lived with my grandmother from age four until I graduated from high school, then I lived with my sister for two years, and then I lived with my aunt until I graduated from college.
CW. What was the hardest part about growing up away from your parents?
KK. I grew up with my grandmother and my sister. My parents came around every few months. The hardest part was not seeing them more often. I missed having that parent-child relationship. Everyone wants to see their parents, right?
CW. What were holidays like?
KK. My parents would come around sometime during the holidays. Sometimes when we were younger, some of my friends would mention that “mom got me this” or “dad bought me that,” I didn’t experience that. So sometimes I was sad, but you live and learn, and you get over it.
CW. In what ways do you think people take being raised by their birth parents for granted?
KK. It’s hard to develop close relationships in the foster care system because you move around so much. I moved around, but l was lucky to be able to stay with family members, first my grandmother, then my sister, and then my aunt, so I wasn’t placed with strangers.
CW. What resources did you benefit from while being in foster care other than those provided by your family?
KK. When I was in high school, I had help getting through the college application process and I was able to go on a HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) tour, which was very helpful. The DHS caseworker helped me with housing, and schooling, and was very supportive of my college career. She knew that was what I wanted most to achieve; she kept track of my grades; visited me in school, brought supplies and did other things that gave me a big push.
CW. Do you feel closer to people who have been in the foster care system?
KK. When I meet people who have been involved in foster care in some way, I usually find that we have lot in common, and it is a little easier to converse about personal experiences and opinions. But, I don’t have any opinion of people who have been involved in the foster care system that is different from those who haven’t.
CW. Did you feel any stigma about being in foster care?
KK. When I was little I didn’t think of myself as part of the foster care system, I just lived with my grandmother. It wasn’t unusual and I didn’t feel a stigma because a lot of kids I knew lived with their grandmother or a family member instead of with their parents.
CW. How did being a foster child influence your relationship with your parents?
KK. When I was younger, I didn’t understand what the foster care system was and why I couldn’t see my parents. I saw them from time to time, but I don’t think our relationship was as strong as if I had seen them every day. I felt something, I guess it was a form of resentment, because they didn’t raise me in the way that I thought parents should.
CW. How did growing up as a foster child affect your goals and dreams?
KK. I think it made me strive harder to achieve my goals. You don’t want to be a statistic. So when you hear that people in foster care don’t graduate from high school or that we have no ambition or hope for success lives. I always felt that I had to be better than the next person and try extra hard to prove myself worthy of a job or going to college and other things like that.
CW. Who has had a positive impact on your life?
KK. I think my older sister is one of the most influential people who have impacted my life so far. She’s four years older than me. As soon as she turned 18, she got a job and an apartment and moved out of my grandmother’s house. She was self-sufficient at the age of 18, and that impresses me. My older sister is like a mother to me.
CW. What are some of the qualities of good parents?
KK. A parent doesn’t have to have a biological connection. In my opinion, a parent is someone who takes care of you, helps you develop as a person, has solid expectations and helps you achieve them.
CW. In what ways do you think the community could have helped you to get through your foster care experience?
KK. A lot of people didn’t know that I was in the foster care system, and I really didn’t tell people until I got older and understood what it was. Maybe if more people knew that many children are living away from their biological parents there would be more support.
CW. What is the most important thing a foster child needs?
KK. A child in foster care definitely needs support, material support of course, but equally as important is someone who has their back and is in their corner rooting for them to be successful.