Saint Francis Kansas Foster Family of the Year: Emily and Shawn Mason
June 2023 · Foster Care / Adoption, Foster Family Features, Kansas
Emily and Shawn Mason believe in second chances, so much so that building strong relationships with birth parents virtually defines the way they foster parent. The Lebo, Kansas, couple began fostering more than three and a half years ago so they could keep caring for a baby they’d already had in their home for a while. The mother, a relative, struggled with mental health issues and agreed to place her child in foster care so she would get the care she needed. The Masons didn’t want her to go to strangers, so they got licensed and eventually adopted Blakleigh, who turns four in August.
Emily and Shawn could have stopped there, but instead chose to keep fostering because, as Emily says, “so many kids out there need a place, but also moms and dads need support and help in getting on their feet.” And perhaps that’s what sets the couple apart from many other foster parents – their desire to serve the parents as much as the children in their care.
“It takes a village to raise these kids,” said Emily. “I love the fact that we can build relationships with the bio family and then maintain those relationships if the kids go home. And if they don’t go home, we can still maintain healthy connections. That way, the kids don’t lose out on so much. If anything, they gain.”
The Masons are so dedicated to the reintegration process that they’ve opened their home to birth mothers so they can spend more time with their children in a comfortable environment. They enjoy collaborating with case teams and birth families to help make reintegration possible, forging personal relationships with birth parents. Emily is always eager to share news and artwork with parents and to offer advice and support. The Masons have also provided respite, emergency care, and PPC placement to ensure that children in need have a warm bed and a safe place to stay.
Yet, they still find both the time and energy to provide high quality care to the kids they foster. An LPN, Emily gave up a full-time job in healthcare to take on another from her home. Besides, Blakleigh and their 2-year-old birth son, Weston, they also foster five other children – an 11-year-old girl and four boys, ages 12, 7, 4, and 3. What’s more, some of the children they foster are high-needs and medically fragile. That means transporting children to multiple appointments at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Overland Park. Four days a week, they drive 60 miles just so the children can receive therapeutic preschool services. They also make trips to Oklahoma so one of the boys can spend time with his grandparents. In short, they treat each child as their own. And although they don’t specifically ask for children with special needs, they find it hard to say no.
“We don’t want kids moving from placement to placement,” said Emily. “So, if that means we get a child straight out of the hospital and take an eight-hour training course for an overnight stay, we’re going to do it.”
That can make life a bit chaotic.
“The day-to-day uncertainty can be a challenge,” said Shawn. “Every day is different, whether it’s something to do with a case or with a new kiddo coming into or leaving our home. But it’s also opened my eyes to the world around us. Lots of children are in need of a safe place to stay, food to eat, health care, or mental health services – things often overlooked.”
“Fostering has changed me in so many ways,” added Emily. “I always thought nursing was my calling, but for some reason, God has decided that my heart and soul belong in fostering, in taking care of these kids until they make it home or find their forever home. I never would have imagined my life this way eight years ago as a nurse, but here I am, loving every minute of it.”