It can be a long road to finding permanent homes for kids in the New York State foster care system, but many find it worthwhile.
Megan Battista is a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter who saw this in Merriah, a child in a temporary foster home that wasn’t on the path to permanency.
Battista said she knew Merriah was longing to settle past traumas and knew finding her a mentor was the best thing to do. The hope was to have someone who could work with Merriah on her goals and guide her in navigating certain challenges.
She found a mentor in fellow Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter, Emilie Kenneally. After awhile, Kenneally decided to adopt Merriah.
Battista said this wasn’t always the plan, but she had an idea it might happen.
“I think that you can tell when a resource is ready to be permanency when they start to be, like, really concerned about wherever that kid is,” said Battista. “So, I think there were some things that came up where she was like, ‘I’m just really worried. I want to make sure that Merriah’s getting the best’, when she was not going to be a placement for them.”
Kenneally went from mentor to mother. She and her husband John became certified foster parents to do respite for Merriah, and adopted her after a placement fell apart.
Battista said she feels that while Merriah is unique, her circumstances aren’t. She said it can be easy to not want to rock the boat when placing an older kid, especially when they’re not eager to be in a certain placement.
It was an interesting experience for Kenneally to be on a different end of the foster-care spectrum. Although she’s worked in child welfare for many years, this was quite a different experience.
But, after getting to know – and later adopting her – Kenneally noted that Merriah has changed for the better since they first met.
“After being adopted, she can finally dream of the future,” said Kenneally. “She knows that she has a safety net and people who care about her and that she can lean on, no matter what. And, so I think having that has really given her the opportunity to think of what her life could be and to have dreams, and not have to focus on just making it through the day.”
One piece of advice Kenneally has for others is to manage your expectations. She said acknowledging what foster kids come from and have been through can be helpful to potential foster parents.
She’s learned that things may not go the way a parent plans, but it still is likely to turn out all right.
Edwin is a reporter and producer in North Tonawanda, New York. He’s previously reported for the Niagara Gazette and the Ithaca Times. Edwin got an early start in radio interning for WBFO-88.7FM, NPR’s Buffalo affiliate. In 2018, he graduated from SUNY Buffalo State College with a B.A. in Journalism, and in 2022, graduated from Syracuse University with an M.S. in Communications.