It takes some driving beyond the town shops to get there. After a few miles on quiet back roads, you pull up to Keondra’s house in a quiet country setting with a river nearby. One definitely gets the feeling not much happens in this part of Connecticut. But one thing is certain: there’s a lot going on behind the doors of Keondra’s new home. Though she just moved in a few weeks earlier, there’s nary a box in sight. The place is organized and spotless. And Keondra’s welcome is genuine and unhurried, despite her busy lifestyle.
Still in her 20s, Keondra is one of the younger licensed foster moms in the state, but she has already made her mark on Connecticut’s child welfare system. She has been a foster parent for seven years now and during that time has had more than 50 children live in her home.
“I started out babysitting but found myself wanting to do more,” Keondra says. ” I’ve always enjoyed taking care of kids.” When she began her training with the Department of Children and Families (DCF), she was single, holding down a job in addition to babysitting, plus going to college. It was a lot for a young person – or any person – to handle, but she made it work.
Today Keondra is married and a registered nurse. Her specialty is caring for medically complex foster children, which means she has coped with everything from feeding tubes and tracheotomy tubes to caring for a baby prior to an organ transplant. She takes comfort in knowing that she can provide care for such difficult-to-place children. She is committed to providing a home for these foster kids. “No child should have to live in a hospital,” she says, ” and I’ll do whatever needs to be done to give them a home.”
Caring for the children means Keondra typically must commute to and from the Connecticut Children’s Hospital between one and four times per week. She doubles up on appointments when possible to cut down on the number of trips, but that means spending as long as four hours at the hospital each visit.
As a tireless advocate for the children in her home, Keondra has traveled all over the state to find the medical care her foster children require. Over the years she has managed to put together a team of physicians, therapists, pharmacists, medical equipment specialists, and social workers with whom she feels comfortable and whose care and judgment she trusts. Her dedication and her commitment has been recognized by DCF, which awarded her its Outstanding Foster Family Award in 2007.
For Keondra, the true reward of her work comes from seeing the children thrive in her home where they also receive the love and care of her husband, Corey, and her grandmother, Regina. Keondra’s biggest disappointmentis the time it takes for so many children to achieve a permanent placment, as their cases slowly work their way through the judicial system. Although some have gone on to be adopted , none of the children she has cared for have been reunited with either of their biological parents, due in part to the complexity of their medical needs. “DCF will provide the training birth parents need,” Keondra says, “but that sometimes is not enough. It’s a sad situation for everyone involved – and especially for those children who don’t quickly find a person or family willing to adopt them.”
Children have stayed in Keondra’s home for as long as two years. In addition, she and her husband have adopted one foster child, a boy, now age three, and are in the process of adopting a one year old girl currently in their care. She does what she can to stay in touch with all children who have lived in her home , maintaining an open door policy should any of them need to return.
Keondra encourages individuals and couples to explore adopting children in Connecticut rather than only looking overseas: “It costs nothing to adopt a child who is in foster care. It would be great if more people would reach out to the local children who so badly need a loving, stable home. I know there are excellent homes out there.”
This article was written by Alan Murphy for Annie C Courtney Foundation. All rights reserved.