Have a Heart for Kids Day 2020

My Story - We're Counting on You

Submitted by Kathy Bernier, Spokane - We are a family of five. Andy and I are full time working parents. We are struggling to make ends meet on our very middle income. We care and love three very diverse children.

Our oldest is Caitlin. She is our 13 y/o, biological daughter.

She is counting on you to continue provide her a stimulating education that keeps her excited to learn. She also requires a safe community to allow her to expand her horizons beyond her family. Lastly, she needs to know that her goals to attend college to become a teacher are attainable. She is counting on you to provide cost effective higher education for her in 5years.

Our second child is 10 y/o Cody. Andy and I had to make the extremly difficult decision to not adopt him. Instead we fought the child welfare system to allow us to keep parent him as a long-term foster care agreement. We made this decision because we know Washington's addoption support program is insufficient to meet his many special needs. The rpogram places too high expectations on middle income families to provide the intense services to meet the needs of a child with a traumatic brain injury secondarily to shaken baby episodes at 5month old child.

He is counting on you to fund DDD services (therapuetic recreation and MPC), foster care subsidies, caring faster care caseworkers, licensors and support staff to support our family's efforts to care for Cody. he is also counting on you to fund the programs he requires for special education, Medicaid coverage that is responsive and accessible to meet his needs and to eventually re-design the adoption support program so a middle income family can adopt a special needs child without jepoardizing their family's economic situation. Without this support Cody would be placed in an much more expensive long-term residential foster care program that would meet only his physical needs.

Our third son is 5 y/o TaiJon. We adopted him at the age of 18m.
He was exposed to many damaging substances while in-utero: high levels of stress hormones, alcohol, illicit and seizure drugs.

He is beautiful child but unfortunatly he has special needs are difficult for many to see or understand. He has social/emotional deficits that are commonly mistaken for the "bad child sydrome or why won't he change syndrome." TaiJon is counting on you to provide the training, education and time to teachers so they are capable of understanding and responding to his special needs. In addition he is counting on you to provide quality afterschool childcare to all families, not just low income that is flexible enough to meet his higher needs for sensitive and responsive care givers.

Andy and I are doing out part by taking care of the three lives that have been entrusted to us. We are counting on each elected official to do their part to ensure the services needed are there so that all children can mature into self sufficient and productive adults.