The big block words on Kim's t-shirt say it all: YOU CAN'T SCARE ME, I HAVE KIDS. It's a phrase that speaks volumes for Kim and her husband, David.
Married for 12 years, with no children, but with plenty of love to give, Kim and David longed to be parents and knew they could provide a good home (and unconditional love) to children who needed both. David suggested foster care, and after much prayer and discussion with their immediate families, a decision was made five years ago. "Let's do it," said David.
The irony of Kim's t-shirt is that other parents may have been intimidated by the extreme emotional outbursts shown by some of the foster kids in their care.
Kim and David are licensed for specialized foster care through Cunningham. This means they help children and youth who have behavioral and emotional needs that stem from traumatic experiences, such as abuse, neglect, separation, or loss. They are helping children and youth learn new skills to express their feelings appropriately. The decision to become foster parents has changed their lives, and the lives of kids like Jack (age 19), Matthew (age 14), Charman (age 13), and Ryan (age 11). Originally not intending to adopt, their journey in foster care has led to a forever family. Kim and David adopted Ryan in 2015, Charman in 2016, and Matthew's adoption is expected to happen in 2017. A few years ago they established guardianship with Jack.
Adoption has not eliminated issues caused by the boys' past traumatic experiences. However, by attending family therapy sessions at HopeSprings Counseling Services, healing continues to occur. Last fall Cunningham started offering its counseling expertise directly to youth and their families. The Snows meet weekly with the boys' therapist, Carrie, who introduced Theraplay, a child and family therapy based on the natural patterns of playful, healthy interaction between parent and child.
"Theraplay worked for the Snows because it facilitates basic bonding opportunities which typically occur in infancy and young childhood, between a youth and their current caregivers," explains Carrie. For example, Ryan did not receive much physical touch when he was an infant, but Kim learned that rubbing lotion on his back communicated love, joy, and safety to him. It helped Ryan feel secure, cared for, connected, and worthy.
Carrie recalls that Ryan had a lot of trust issues due to his early childhood experiences. He lacked some of the basic emotional regulation and relationship skills due to the unstable attachments and relationships in his early life. Theraplay helped Ryan learn to trust that the Snows were not going to hurt him and it allowed their bonds to grow to the point where Ryan could accept nurturing care from the Snows, which helped him regulate his emotions.
"These boys have been given an opportunity to belong and to be accepted," shares Carrie. "This is a family."
So for the Snows, a once-empty house has now become a home, full with four boys, love and hope.