As a long-time foster mother, adoptive mother and guardian to many children and volunteer teacher and helper to even more, Anna Kagley also deserves recognition.
Anna Kagley is single-handedly responsible for turning my thoughts about being a foster parent into action. I met Anna at a retreat for families of kids with a combined vision and hearing loss. That was nearly two decades ago. Meeting her seriously changed the trajectory of my life. She taught me that a full-time career and an already full house and life are not reasons to keep you from finding ways to help kids in need. Simply put, listening to a woman like Anna takes away all the excuses. She challenges you to really evaluate yourself if you’re not involved in some kind of child-safety advocacy.
Anna's involvement with children has run far longer than our relationship. She and her husband, Robert, have tried to help the children in his family since they first got together. Robert is Native American and sadly, as is the case for many Natives, addiction issues ran strong in his family. He had several siblings caught in addiction that couldn't take care of their kids safely. Even though they didn’t engage with any state or private services, they helped out on a casual basis with them for years. When Anna got pregnant with her first born son they got a call about their nephew Gage.
Anna and Robert had sheltered and helped Gage’s parents when they were younger, and now the state was involved. They were nervous to help because of how unstable the family was but later on, when they got a call about Ethan, Robert's nephew, they just couldn’t say no. Ethan’s mom was a severe drug addict and he was born addicted to drugs and dramatically delayed because of her use. Additionally his vision, hearing, motor control and cognition were all damaged. He needed care and Anna and Robert stepped in and loved and cared for Ethan until he passed away in February of 2021.
They took Ethan in, and like my interaction with Anna fired me up to child safety advocacy, their family interactions with him sparked the flame for them. Anna and Robert and their whole family have participated in countless advocacy opportunities. From Deaf-Blind sensory disability services, to fostering and lobbying, Anna’s done it all and then some. She helped to organize and operate a Foster Closet in Snohomish county to provide clothing, toys and supplies to foster families and parents living in poverty. Anna has lobbied congress at our state level for better services and rights for foster parents and people with special needs. She has helped with Walk Me Home events and public school co-op science classes. Their family has been a foster home to over 2 dozen children and they’ve adopted children as well.
It is a tireless, and often thankless endeavor. Though there have been regrets along the way Anna is still a huge advocate for helping kids. As she put it, “On the Pollyanna side of things, I think my kids are more appreciative of their own parents because they've heard and seen what abuse is. It has built compassion and empathy for others in them. They’re not just sympathetic, they really know and feel what these kids go through. I don't think many kids their age have that strong empathetic response the way they do.” Anna’s proud her kids can celebrate even the smallest successes in other people’s lives and links it, as well as their understanding how poverty influences poor choices, to seeing it first hand, reflected in the kids they’ve taken in over the years.
On the negative side she’s regretful that the exposure has taken away her own children’s innocence. She knows the choice to shelter and foster abused and neglected kids introduced them to a level of trauma they wouldn't have otherwise known. Anna believes strongly that home should be a safe place and worries that her desire to offer sanctuary to some kids actually took it away from her own.
The other challenge and strain on foster families is the lack of stable respite. She goes to far as to say it is crippling to the foster care system. Foster families of even normally functioning children get burned out, for those with special needs kiddos the attrition is even higher. Good stable respite would go a long way to helping keep up the number of foster parents. She postulates, and I concur, that making foster parenting a respected profession of its own would probably help too.
Even with all the emotional pain her service has caused her family she’s quick to point out that for all the bad examples there are so many good ones too. She uses the example of her adopted son Kian. He is a treasure to their whole family. Kian was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, is developmentally delayed, and deals with a slew of symptoms. He is also an overcomer and amazes them every day. When he masters a simple task or goal it's a celebration for their whole family. He is not a bitter or angry adolescent, he embraces each day with joy. Anna says, “Kian is the reason I get out of bed every morning.” Even Ethan, who could give nothing back filled her up with no strings attached.
Anna encourages everyone to please, please somehow get involved. Do something to help stop the cycle of childhood abuse and neglect. She will be the first in line to tell anyone that fostering or adopting isn’t for everyone and shouldn’t be attempted without serious thought and family discussion but each of us can do something.
There is so much need and so many areas where one can advocate. The obvious is to “be” a safe person in the lives of abused and neglected children. Whether that’s fostering, adopting, or even just showing up at their school for a lunch visit regularly, being a safe person can positively impact a child for life. People can vote to support more mental health services, early intervention services, parenting skills services. You can volunteer time or offer financial support to organizations helping kids.
I personally appreciated Anna’s admonition to Pro-Lifers. She feels strongly, as I do, that if ease of abortion is taken away, child abuse and neglect will skyrocket into an even bigger social scourge than it already is. If we do not allow abortion as an option then society, and especially the pro-life sign holders and financial contributors, must also make the time and energy commitment to keep kids who would otherwise be aborted safe.
All in all, given the ups and downs, the sadness, tears and treasures in between, Anna continues to be a giant in the child advocacy arena. She has my respect and always inspires me to be a better, safer human!
Last book read:
Understanding Methods of Fish Biology – for work
Braiding Sweet Grass - leisure but she said she didn't love it. It was too touchy-feely for her.
Understanding Jane ~ Ruthie Rayburn
All Creatures Great and Small w/Kian ~ James Herriot
A Planet of Viruses ~ Carl Zimmer
Book recs for us:
Apple: (Skin to the core) ~ Eric Gansworth
Brainstorm: The power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain ~ Daniel J. Siegel
Parasite Rex ~ Carl Zimmer
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