Veteran & Kinship Caregiver Teaches Children the Value of Family
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of children in care.
Shane* has been caring for his kinship child Jamal* for almost two years, and he works hard to ensure Jamal is able to maintain a close relationship with his family.
“I also have Jamal’s baby brother, and I am trying to keep the family together so he could be close to one of his siblings,” Shane says. “That is one of the reasons why I decided to take them in. I love kids, so that is another reason why.”
As a U.S. veteran, Shane believes he has been adequately supported both as a kinship caregiver and a veteran to best meet his family’s needs despite having a disability.
“I was an aviation ordnanceman attached to the USS Independence as a carrier. I was in the service for almost three years, and I got a medical discharge from the military,” he explains.
“The VA has been outstanding. They helped me out immensely. They were the first people I called and within the week [of being discharged], they were sending clothes, sending cards, and everything else just to help you out and listen. They gave me information on who I need to get in contact with. The VA has been great, and I can never say anything bad about them.”
Shane has a strong family background in education, and he prides himself on ensuring Jamal excels academically with support and advocacy from their family.
“My uncle was actually a principal at a school in Jersey. He was one of our first family members who graduated from college. He has always been big on education and so that was put into me when I got older,” Shane offers. “With Jamal, the first thing I wanted to do was make sure he got his education in order because when I first found out about his grades, he had straight Es, and now he has straight As!”
Maintaining a relationship with Jamal’s birth mother is extremely important to Shane, as he values family more than anything. “His mother, she calls and talks to Jamal daily,” he shares.
“I come from an immense family, my mother’s side and my father’s side. And throughout the years, nobody has ever questioned anything—whether somebody was married into the family, or if they were adopted. It was just like, ‘OK, you are here. You are family. There is no question about it.’ It has just been instilled in me ever since I was younger and seen it. There was no question about it. So, for Jamal, I look at it like, ‘Listen, you are home now. You are family. That is the way it is.’”
While they may face some challenges, Shane loves being Jamal’s kinship caregiver and is grateful for the opportunity to help him grow in life. He advises other prospective kinship caregivers that it takes empathy and patience.
“True patience,” Shane insists. “That is the main thing [children need to have]. Patience and understanding on why the child may lash out at one point or another. They have to have true patience.”