October is Foster and Caregiver Month in Alberta, and we want to introduce you to a pair of grandparents who are equivalent to heroes in the eyes of their grandchildren who desperately needed support.
On November 7, 2017, Kevin and Taralynn Byrne’s grandchildren were apprehended from their parent’s home, and they suddenly found themselves responsible for their five grandchildren aged one, two, three, six and nine. It was just the beginning of a long and challenging road.
Both of the children’s parents struggled with severe mental health issues, which caused each child to experience significant trauma, causing varying levels of emotional and behavioral issues.
Both Taralynn and Kevin were determined to support their grandchildren and give them the best life they could. They quickly accessed Hull Services’ Kinnections program. Our Kinnections program provides services to kinship caregivers and their families so children in the government’s care can experience safety, wellness and permanence with relatives and significant others with whom they share a special bond.
Services include an overview of kinship care, assistance with meeting kinship care requirements, support with permanency planning, caregiver training, and help accessing the services and resources caregivers and their families need. Services are individualized and take into account the family’s voice and culture.
“We were very fortunate to have had excellent case workers and kinship workers as they made the process easier for us,” says Taralynn of accessing our Kinnections program. “We had lots of support which I have learned doesn’t
As of April 21, 2023, Taralynn and Kevin have received private guardianship of all the kids. A “big day” for them, she says. However, the parents are still connected to their children and visit every weekend and are doing much better.
Taralynn feels incredibly grateful that they were in a position to take in and care for their grandchildren.
“Although our retirement future took a wild turn, I am now 55 and my husband is 61, I can’t imagine not taking our grandkids in,” says Taralynn. “There was no option in our minds. However, I do appreciate that not all grandparents are in the position to do so, but it is shocking to hear how many grandparents are raising grandchildren.”
Even though taking in her grandchildren as a kinship caregiver didn’t even require a second thought, she never thought of being a foster parent to other children before – a sacrifice she never truly understood and appreciated until now.
“I am in awe of foster parents as they make the unselfish decision to raise non-family children as their own,” says Taralynn. “All kids have the right to a safe, healthy, stable upbringing and it is thanks to foster and kinship caregivers that many of the children in care are able to have a home.”
And there are many more kids in government care who need people to step up and care for them.
“Having spent six years in the system, I have been shocked and saddened by the sheer number of kids in care,” says Taralynn. “As an outsider, you hear about it, but you really don’t know.”
Taralynn says that despite the challenges that come not only with potential trauma these kids have, but also all the logistical aspects of care such as home checks, home studies, criminal checks, monthly meetings with social workers and kinship workers, lots and lots of paperwork, recounting the history over and over, etc., it will be all worth it.
“It is very rewarding when you see the kids thrive and you know you have made a positive change in their lives and given them a chance at a great future,” says Taralynn.
A future Hull staff have witnessed again and again, thanks to all the kinship caregivers and foster parents who step up and we are so thankful.
“It’s truly heartwarming to hear the stories of caregivers who selflessly provide care and support to children, even in challenging circumstances,” says Kayla Thomson, Kinnections Program Coordinator. “Their dedication and compassion make a significant difference in the lives of these children. It is an honour to work alongside these caregivers. Thank you to the caregivers who continue to provide love and support to children especially in unexpected and challenging times.”
In the eyes of a child, being a hero doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have superpowers; sometimes, it’s as simple as being there for them when they need you the most.
Taralynn thought it was very important to mention this because her grandchildren’s mother was recently diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and is currently on trial chemotherapy treatment. All the children shaved or cut inches off their hair in honour of her.
Our Therapeutic Foster Caregiving (TFC) program is a culturally responsive, family-based service for children and youth with complex care needs, who would benefit from therapeutic and specialized services delivered by skilled, trained, nurturing caregivers and the youth’s therapeutic team.
If you have a passion for working with children and youth and are interested in becoming a foster parent, our Therapeutic Foster Care team could use you!