In the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, this story about new foster parent Kayla, stepping up to take in a child is just what we all need to have faith in our strength as a community. Kayla has been referred to as saint by Vice Mayor Jane Bolin, as an angel by Oakland Park Kiwanis President Rick Melillo and as a superhero by Lisa Cohen, Program Director of South Florida Cayuga Centers.
Around mid-April, during the peak of pandemic, Lisa Cohen reached out to Jane Bolin in regards to a 9 month old foster child in need of necessities. The baby boy had been exposed to COVID-19 in his current foster home.
Within 24 hours of Vice Mayor Bolin sharing the need for baby supplies on her personal Facebook page, our community pulled together and donated items needed to care for this baby. Jane Bolin writes :
“I called Cara Lynn Cathey knowing her big hearted family had lots of young ones. Her incredible mom David Colleen Schroder had a stash of baby items ready for the moment. A stroller, a pack and play, a changing table, clothes and toys! We still needed a car seat and more diapers and food. Oakland Park Kiwanis stepped in and is making that happen as I type! I am profoundly moved by the kindness and love I see every day. We are truly better together.”
Her post has over 50 comments, with wonderful locals wanting to give what they can to help Kayla and the baby.
Unfortunately many foster families throughout Broward and West Palm were unable to take in this child in need due to a fear of exposure. Kayla, a young, single woman living in Oakland Park accepted the placement with enthusiasm and no second thoughts. She was the newest licensed foster parent at Cayuga Centers and she had not yet had a placement. Kayla made her decision to help this baby with no hesitation.
In a typical foster placement, the child is transported with all their belongings to their new foster home. In this emergency placement, no one was comfortable or able to transport this little baby boy to his new home. Kayla took it upon herself to drive about 40 minutes on a Friday night to pick up her foster child. She was unable to take any of his necessities due to the risk of exposure. So she picked up this precious boy in nothing but his diaper and brought him home. In this unconventional foster situation, Kayla went above and beyond for a baby in need.
When Kayla decided to foster a child who is potentially COVID-19 positive, she signed up for a regiment of around the clock care. She has had to take the baby’s temperature frequently and document all information frivolously. Lisa Cohen confirmed that the baby is doing well and Kayla is a wonderful foster mother.
I had the pleasure of having a wonderful chat with Foster Mother Kayla. She is an inspiration to say the least, even though she is very modest and humble. Kayla is a single, professional young woman. She has been successful in her career and has decided to share her success by fostering children in need.
Kayla chose to foster through Cayuga Centers. She informed me that they prioritize the foster family as a whole rather than just the well being of the child. She started the process of getting her foster license in October of 2019 and completed the training by December. She is so committed to fostering that she has moved to a bigger apartment and purchased two cribs to give herself the opportunity to foster multiple children at a time. She has proved that it is possible to foster children as a single, full time professional.
On April 10th, Kayla received the call that she had been hoping for since December. She was told that a potentially COVID-19 positive baby boy needed emergency placement. She decided to take him in, regardless of the risks and challenges that she would face. She felt that she was in the perfect position to care for the child with no other people in her household that could potentially be exposed. Kayla picked up the baby the same evening in nothing but his diaper. Her and the baby had to quarantine for 2 weeks to be safe. Kayla and her foster child did have some symptoms during that period, but the pediatrician confirmed that it was bronchitis and not COVID-19.
Kayla did not anticipate the love and support of the community. There was an overwhelming positive response to Vice Mayor Jane Bolin’s post that led to an abundant influx of baby supplies. Kayla would normally be provided with the necessities and government assistance such as WIC, so that she wouldn’t have to pay for everything out of pocket. Due to the pandemic, most of these programs are very difficult to access. She said that she received hundreds of dollars worth of supplies and Amazon gift cards. Kayla told me that she is so grateful for the community and to everyone who donated. She mentioned that it made this process less stressful and more enjoyable for her. It warmed my heart when she uttered the quote “It takes a village to raise a child”, and Oakland Park is her village. Kayla feels that she is sharing her home and care with this baby, but everyone in the community is helping to foster him.
Amazingly well. He is sleeping at night and feeling all better. He is now 10 months old and just took his first steps. Kayla was just as excited as any new mother would be to boast about this special moment. Surrounded by his new foster family, including Kayla’s mother and sister, he practiced walking to and from each one of them. She knows that she might not be a part of his life forever but she is grateful for the moments she has with him. She said that it would be worth all the pain and sacrifice that sometimes comes along with fostering, to know that she can let him know years from now that he was loved by her.
I asked Kayla about her experience becoming a licensed foster parent and she was completely honest with me. As with any adventure in life, every decision has its pros and cons. For Kayla, the pros outweigh the cons. She shared that fostering is a big decision that comes with self-sacrifice and occasional heartache. If you feel that you have a calling and the resources required to foster then the first step is to get in touch with a placement center for training. Currently, the Cayuga Centers is allowing potential foster parents to do the training online since there are so many children in need of placement at a time like this. With the tension at a peak during this pandemic, many abusive situations have come to light.
Lisa Cohen, Program Director Cayuga Centers South Florida, said that their Facebook page has information for those interested in learning more and would possibly want to join the virtual training sessions.
If you do not have necessary means to become a foster parent, yet you still want to help children in need the best way is to donate. All donations to the Cayuga Centers South Florida will be used to purchase supplies that foster parents and children need. The link to donate is: https://bit.ly/DonateCayuga.
Annie Knott is a South Florida Native and is proud to call Oakland Park her home. She is the mother to 4 young children. Annie has taught gymnastics, dance, art classes, and directed summer camps for over 15 years. She currently teaches nature-based guided play classes in the community. If Annie isn’t attending one of Oakland Park’s fun-filled events with her family, she can be found gardening in her exotic fruit orchard, paddle boarding on the Middle River, or photographing nature & wildlife.