Foster Parent Spotlight: Kristen B.
Kristen B. is a mother of two biological children, ages seven and five, and Jay*, a twelve year old child in foster care she is in the process of adopting. Kristen, her husband, and the three children live at her parents’ house, and she speaks fondly of the community they have created. “Jay has a whole lot of people in his village. Even our neighbors love on him.”
Jay first joined the family in 2015 after Kristen’s parents welcomed a kindergartner in need of a foster home from the local elementary school. He stayed with the family for a short time before returning to his birth family. In 2019, when Jay was once again removed from his home, he specifically requested placement with Kristen’s family again. “He’s a really great kid,” Kristen explains. “We’re really lucky. We knew him from five years before, and it was really exciting to see him again.” Jay had some significant trauma, but you can tell that, from early on, he was loved. He’s incredibly loving.
Because Kristen’s two biological kids are younger, she often struggles with what is and isn’t age-appropriate behavior. That’s where she says Encompass has been critical. “Is this normal 12 year-old boy stuff? Is this trauma?” Kristen connects regularly with her trauma coach, Jill. “The trauma coaching has been really really helpful. Jill is really great. She works with DCF a lot. I didn’t know how often the lawyer was supposed to be checking in. Jill let me know that they should be checking in every 3 months. Because of her, I was able to reach out to the lawyer. Little things like that have helped me advocate for him. I didn’t know what [services] he was supposed to be getting.”
Kristen first heard about Encompass through her DCF Family Resource Worker who told her about a new program for foster parents. Kristen didn’t know many details, but she knew to take advantage of anything that’s offered. “Any help is worth it.” The first thing she did was begin weekly trauma coaching with Jill and participated in group coaching every other week. She says connecting with other foster parents has been an incredible opportunity. “Everyone has a different situation and we can all help each other. ‘Oh! I have experience with that. This is what you can do!’ No one else fully understands it unless they’ve done it.”
Since joining the Encompass program, the family has had meals delivered through Lasagna Love, and a volunteer comes to visit once a month to cook with Jay. “He LOVES to cook. He makes a mess. He’s a very sloppy cook. Every month, he’ll tell her what he needs for ingredients. Jay and I have a love for mac n cheese. The volunteer was laughing so hard because he sent a list of everything except the noodles. She called because she was SO confused. It was a VERY heavy mac n cheese.” Jay also laughed at this and clarified that they needed “cavatappi.”
Kristen recommends Encompass to all foster parents. “[Encompass] is very beneficial. Accept any help they’ll give you because it’s a learning curve. It’s all a challenge. It’s 100% worth it, but kids can be tough. I would highly recommend this program to anyone. The more you can learn, the better.”
Encompass: Community and Collaboration for Foster Families aims to utilize specially trained teams to coach foster parents in trauma-informed parenting techniques and to engage community volunteers to provide meaningful, tangible supports to foster families. Caring for children in foster care belongs to a community and should not be the responsibility of just one person or family.
Encompass is seeking community support volunteers to assist with an array of helpful opportunities such as once-a-month meal delivery, care packages, babysitting, and/or educational support for foster families in the Central Massachusetts area. Learn more about how to get involved at mspcc.org/encompass.
*Name has been changed to protect the family’s privacy.