Three of Carrie Decker’s five kids, who joined the family through adoption in 2014, need an extended network of support. This includes a team of doctors and therapists helping the siblings cope with the emotional and behavioral aftermath of five years in foster care.
“I know firsthand what kind of trauma being removed from your home can bring, and the system isn’t set up to support them enough when they are moved away from their birth family,” says Decker, who moved from central Pennsylvania to Northeast Ohio with her family in June 2017.
Decker and her husband Eric fall into a growing group of trained foster parents who felt called to expand their family through adoption but then go on to advocate for changes in the flawed system their children were once dependent on.
As Kinnect’s newest board member, Decker brings a maternal perspective and nonprofit experience. She is a former board member at Habitat for Humanity Northumberland, PA. She is deeply passionate about Kinnect’s vision for a world where families, agencies and children work together to ensure that every child is nurtured in a permanent, chosen family.
When it comes to programs, such as the new 30 Days to Family Ohio pilot being implemented in eight counties over the next year, Decker isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions. “At what point are we just continuing the cycle of poverty and substance abuse?” she asked Mike Kenney, Kinnect’s Executive Director, voicing concern for children impacted by the opioid epidemic. This is a common concern expressed around the idea of kinship care, and Decker was pleased to learn about a growing body of evidence indicating that children placed with relatives are more likely to live with siblings, have fewer behavioral problems, are less likely to change schools, are less likely to run away and are less likely to re-enter foster care.
Decker is already an excellent spokesperson for the organization, explaining that “If you can find family members of the children, maybe they’re not suited for long-term care, but they can host holidays or gatherings,” says Decker. “So they have ties to their kin, whether it is a placement or just having a relationship. Not everyone might have someone who is perfect for placement, but they can rally around and help the foster parents or birth parents succeed.”
She imagines how much better it would have been for her own children if their extended family (an aunt and family babysitter) were given more support when the children were placed in their homes.
Decker also extends this new level of empathy and understanding to her children’s birth parents. “When I thought of foster care, I always thought of the mom and the dad as the ‘villians’ in the story,” she says. “I had a negative view of the birth family. As I’ve learned more about the system, I’m a lot more angry about how the children are treated once they’re in the system.”
She goes on to say that if children are taken away from their families, then we owe them a better future and better outcomes. “Eleven homes in five years? That’s what my kids went through,” Decker says. “That’s not better. It’s just traumatic.”
Describing her first Kinnect board meeting, Decker says she looks forward to hearing more success stories, like a recent experience when a county avoided foster care placement by working out a new custody arrangement with the family. “Those kinds of stories really give me hope that we’re going in the right direction,” she says.
As an advocate for her children, Decker encourages them to focus on their strengths and helps them develop skills that will lead them to a better future. As an advocate for children in the foster care system, she’s hopeful of our power and responsibility to make change. “The more support we can give to county agencies, and to birth families, and to foster families – the better the outcome for all these kids will be,” Decker says.
We couldn’t agree more, Carrie, and we’re pleased to welcome you to the Kinnect family