Gold medalist’s story sheds light on impact of kinship care

Record-setting gymnast Simone Biles’ domination and prowess in the gym has rightfully landed her in the national spotlight, but her personal journey to Rio has also garnered significant attention. Simone, 19, and her sister were adopted from Texas foster care by Ron and Nellie Biles, her maternal grandparents, when she was 5 years old.

While her athleticism is remarkable, Simone’s family journey is not unique. 37 percent of all children in Texas foster care are living with and being cared for by relatives, also known as kinship care, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS). Kinship care and adoption is a growing trend for the state and for Buckner. Kinship adoptions in Texas have more than doubled since 2005, and 16 percent of children in Buckner foster care in 2016 were or are in a kinship placement. Even more children live in informal relative care, cases managed independently through agreements among family members.

Formal kinship care is rapidly expanding for a couple of reasons. Research shows that children in kinship placements spend less time in foster care. Relative care situations also tend to offer kids a greater sense of belonging and acceptance, helping them feel attached, loved, connected and confident.

“Kinship care allows children to continue to maintain and keep important connections with family members, so they know their identity,” says Cristian Garcia, director of Buckner Foster Care and Adoption in Lubbock. “The goal for every child in foster care should be that they be placed with appropriate family members who can support them.”

Jackie Livingston, the mother of six adult children, and her husband, James, are currently caring for her two great nieces, ages 2 and 4, and becoming licensed foster parents through Buckner.

“Other people would take them in, I’m sure, but I think family’s the best,” Jackie says. “I never planned on having any more kids, but they’ve been through enough. I just couldn’t stand them going anywhere else.”

Like Jackie, many kinship caregivers didn’t set out to become foster parents or are already juggling commitments and responsibilities when they welcome a relative’s child into their home, leaving them feeling overwhelmed.

That’s where Buckner Foster Care and Adoption can help. Buckner supports kinship families by helping them become licensed foster parents and connecting them with resources like counseling, support groups, training, case management and service referrals.

“Buckner has been such a blessing,” Jackie says. “We’ve learned so much about kids with trauma, and Buckner has helped me every step of the way.

If you are caring for the child of a family member or loved one and need support, contact Buckner Foster Care and Adoption today

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