Our foster parents are very special people—with hearts so big they want to share their love with children who need extra care and attention. Ms. McKay, a veteran foster mother of 30 years, has parented four of her own children (all now grown) as well as more than 32 foster youth.
Currently, Ms. McKay is fostering three boys, Brandon, who is 15 years old, as well as brothers Anthony and Solomon, aged 14 and 19 respectively. All three have special therapeutic or medical needs.
Ms. McKay and her husband are from Jamaica and hospitality is ingrained in their souls. They live in a big house with lots of rooms, which they fill with love for their “grandkids” – that’s what Ms. McKay calls her foster children. When introducing new foster children to her home, she helps them acclimate, get comfortable, nurtures them, and lays down the rules.
“You want two cookies? You go take the cookies. If you have a question or need something, you can always knock on my door and ask ‘can I have some of this lasagna, or whatever.’ I want them to feel like my family. So, I treat them like family.”
Since early March, Ms. McKay’s house has been self-isolating due to COVID-19. It’s presented new challenges, because the boys really wanted to go out, play basketball, see their friends; and she had to put her foot down to protect them and herself from the virus.
Brandon was especially hard-hit with being locked-in. He came from a broken home, but he thrived in his foster home. During the 11 months he was there, he engaged in several extracurricular activities and advanced at school. “He’s a really smart kid,” said Ms. McKay. “We became really tight over the last few months because he wanted to go out so much, but he couldn’t.”
Unfortunately, the longer he was isolated from his activities and friends, the deeper he slipped into depression. Already a chronic issue, it became clear that his depression was not situational but ongoing. He wasn’t sure how to deal with his feelings and began acting out—leaving the house for hours at a time without telling anyone where he was going, while not taking proper protective measures, potentially exposing his foster family to COVID-19.
Children’s Aid stepped in to assist, helping Brandon go to a crisis residence where he worked with a counselor. The whole time, Ms. McKay stayed in contact and collaborated on helping Brandon get back to a good place.
“We’re all together again, spending quality time. That’s the best thing you can do for your foster kids —spending time together,” said Ms. McKay.
She’s happy that she can dole out hugs and cookies to her “grandkids,” even more so in these most challenging moments. “If I can give them a hug, they’ll have a good day and so will I, it’s so beautiful,” she said.