The impact of foster care in a child's life

Killarney's story

By Killarney Sheffield

My name is Killarney. I spent my teen years in a foster home. For me foster care was the only alternative when I could no longer take my stepfather’s sexual abuse. I was taken from school one day and placed in a group home until a foster family could be found.

Like all kids going through such a traumatic experience, I was scared and felt very much alone. The group home parents, the Swindells, took me under their wing and I quickly formed an attachment to the mom, “Mrs. S,” as everyone called her. We had a lot in common, including being abused as kids.

She stood with me during a horrific trial, holding my hand and offering encouragement in the face of lawyers, police officers and my family who turned against me. God was important to her and through her I learned that faith was another unseen hand I could hold. There is something comforting in knowing someone is watching over you and that you are not alone or unloved.

After all was said and done, my mother did not want to face the situation so I was left in ministry care until I was 18. Eventually a foster family was found, but I had trouble adjusting to a family of five children, coming from a single-child home. I missed Mrs. S, and she missed me enough to change their status from group home to foster home in order to have me stay with them. My love of horses and love of reading were nurtured by the Swindells.

I always struggled in school and, in addition to being bullied, my grades were pathetic – except in fine arts (music, drama and art). In grade 12 I was told I have a mild form of dyslexia. My goal in life was to be a horse veterinarian, but I struggled so badly in math and sciences that I soon realized I couldn’t achieve my goal. However, I realized I could still work with horses, which I loved, so I took as many horse-related courses as I could. I am now a certified farrier, natural horsemanship trainer, level one English and Western riding coach, and a breeder of Appendix horses.

Eventually I met my husband on a farm, we got married and I had five great kids of my own. During the time I was having kids (I had five in seven years), I decided to dabble in a little writing. One day four years ago I got the courage to submit one of my historical romances to a couple of small publishers. Imagine my surprise and thrill to get offers for my book! Into the publishing world I jumped. I have since published 15 different titles, from full-length historical romantic adventures to short stories.

Many years ago I lost contact with the Swindells and I heard they have both since passed on, but I will always be grateful to them for caring for and nurturing me. Without their love I would not be where I am today. Without them, that lost little girl would never have grown into the confident, well-adjusted, successful woman I am now. Lost kids like me only need a little faith and someone who is there for them no matter what. Foster parents make a bigger difference than even they sometimes can imagine.