Ms. Wingate knew that she could not allow her nephew to grow up without his family, and she made the difficult decision to apply for legal guardianship and began raising a child, all over again.
“I always thought I was a good mother to my children, but as an older caregiver of a child in a very different time, I was at my wits’ end!”
“If I had not found Family Support Services, I don’t know that Trey and I could have survived. He has a mind of his own, is very smart and energetic, and I felt like I was not keeping up! I thought I had done such a good job raising my own kids and I couldn’t understand why what worked then didn’t work now.”
The Kinship Support Services Program at Family Support Services was the first step to developing new life skills that made raising Trey feel possible. Ms. Wingate joined the Agency's regular weekly support group for Kinship caregivers, and developed a community of peers who were going through many of the same experiences that she was encountering for the first time.
“Finding the Kinship Program’s weekly support group was a life saver. Almost everybody in my life thought I had lost my mind when I told them what I was about to do (take in Trey), but the support group understood. They had been through it. This allowed me to say things without judgment.”
As Trey grew, his Aunt struggled to manage some of the behavioral issues that stemmed from his feelings of abandonment by his parents. She was referred into the Family Preservation Program at Family Support Services, where Trey began working with a therapist who specialized in early childhood issues. The effect on Trey, she says, has been tremendous.
“The young and playful therapist from Family Support Services was able to reach him. Now he is able to articulate his feelings - he is respectful of his friends, as well as adults. He is resilient and can move forward.”
Managing Trey’s needs was only half the process of creating a nurturing, stable family. Ms. Wingate knew that her own needs could not be pushed aside forever, but she had to learn how to make space for self-care. The Respite/ Child Care Program at Family Support Services made it possible for her to take time for herself.
“The break that I got gave me a breather, so when he came back for round two I would be rested. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. Respite gave me a chance to recharge, to do what I enjoy, like talking on the phone, being alone, or going shopping. It was a lifesaver.”
When Ms. Wingate was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, one of her first thoughts was for Trey’s future. She knew that it was important to make plans for his security, and she began the process of establishing legal co-guardianship for Trey, with her daughter and son-in-law. The social workers at Family Support Services explained the process, referred her to appropriate organizations, and went with her to her legal appointments.
Meanwhile, the friendships Ms. Wingate had developed in the Kinship Support Group were an integral part of her recovery process, and her peers supported her through this challenging time.
“When I was diagnosed with cancer and had surgery this summer, they came to visit me and even took me home from the hospital when I was ready.”
With her cancer now in remission, Ms. Wingate plans to spend many more years raising Trey. She feels good knowing that whatever happens, he will remain with his family.
Want to learn more about the families we serve? Watch the video above to hear Angela Davis tell her touching story.