Aaron Sidwell has always carried two great loves in his heart – music and children. And he is happiest when those two loves connect. It wasn’t until recently, though, that the Maize, Kansas, teacher experienced a merger so radical that it changed his life forever, along with the lives of two young boys.
On Nov. 19, 2021, two little boys – Benjamin and Rylee – understood just a few things. One was that their last name was finally going to be just like that of the two people they have been calling Mommy and Daddy for two years. Another was that there was one heckuva celebration with a lot of happy people.
Saint Francis is pleased to announce the selection of Melanie MacKenzie as the Executive Director of Capacity Building for Texas.
After four decades in one of the toughest professions going, Robert “Bob” Brunner insists it’s his colleagues and the kids who have kept him positive. “It’s been a privilege to be part of this system where you can help make a little one’s day a bit better, especially when they’re dealing with one of the worst days you can imagine – suffering from the trauma of being separated from their parents.”
When children are removed from their homes, it is usually through no fault of their own. They may be awakened in the middle of the night, wrapped in blankets, and driven to another house to spend the night with strangers. Most of their toys and clothes are often left behind. Whether a toddler or a teenager, they have little control over what happens to them. But one part of the court process is designed to give children a way to know that their perspective is heard as they enter into a complex system. This representative is the guardian ad litem, or GAL.
Thirty years ago, Betty Rush had a vision of how to build services that would help more children and families in Kansas. And 25 years ago, she made her vision a reality by establishing the first therapeutic foster care program at Saint Francis Ministries.
Riding in her warm car on her way to gymnastics class, Caroline Avery could only imagine what it must be like to live on the streets during last year’s brutally cold February in Wichita. So, rather than spend her birthday money shopping, the 8-year-old said she wanted to use it to help people. Her first thought was to donate to the homeless, which would itself have been a thoughtful gesture for a child her age. But when her mother asked if she wanted to help adults or children, she immediately replied, “Kids!” Children, it seems, possess a natural empathy for other kids that demands expression.
That Sunday … well, it was both strange and chaotic. For Anika Pfannenstiel, it began with church and ended with a runaway sister and a trip to the police station. By the afternoon, officers had removed Anika and two sisters from their home as the three entered the Kansas foster care system. Monday, they went to court, where the judge awarded temporary custody to their older brother. In a matter of hours, 12-year-old Anika’s life had turned upside down.
Check out the second edition of our Hi-Lites e-zine. Read about our 25 years of providing therapeutic foster care, guardians ad litem, our foster and kinship families of the year, a generous young donor, and a whole bunch more.