When Nicole Lyman was asked to foster a child who needed an emergency placement, she immediately knew it was God calling her to grow their family.
“We’ve always kind of had it in the back of our mind,” Nicole said. “But we just thought, ‘well, this is just out of the blue. Probably God’s leading.’ So we decided to go ahead and get things ready for (the child) to come into our home.”
Although Nicole and her husband had never been trained to foster a child and especially during a global pandemic, the Lymans opened their doors without hesitating. A decision that Kelsey Hans, a caseworker from DHHS, wishes other families would make.
“But I feel like I’ve heard a lot of workers that I sit by at work or even my own co-workers who get placements, are disrupted. They’re having such a hard time finding other placements,” Hans said. “So I feel like we kinda have to reach sometimes and make exceptions. Just so we can get kids placed.”
The child’s previous foster parents had COVID-related health complications and needed to find a safe home for the child. Nicole’s family became that safe home. Since there was already an established relationship between Nicole’s family and the child’s previous foster parents, it was a quick kinship placement.
Kinship placements occur regularly within Nebraska’s foster and adoption system since federal law requires foster children to live with families or friends before living with strangers. Monika Gross, executive director of the Nebraska Foster Care Review Office, and Katherine Bass, research director of the Nebraska Foster Care Review Office, said kinship placements have been especially vital during the pandemic since COVID has made it more difficult to find a foster home for children outside of their family and friends.
“Those families’ relatives are more likely to be willing to take a child, especially during a time like this, when there’s a pandemic going on,” Gross said.
Kinship placements can also be with people who are not related by blood or marriage but are otherwise known to the child, like a family friend, teacher, coach or daycare provider. That’s how Nicole and her husband became the child’s foster parents.
Within a few days of getting the email requesting their fostering, Nicole and her family welcomed the child into their home on April 2, 2020. Nicole said the child and Nicole’s youngest son get along like siblings, which helped with the decision to submit the paperwork for adoption.
“We were thinking about it pretty early in the process. I would say I was within a couple weeks for sure. Then looking at what else is going to happen to (the child) if we decide not to do this. (The child) is a very, very sweet kid,” Nicole said.
However, the process of fostering and adopting was not an easy transition for the Lyman family. Nicole said the training to become a foster parent was quick since it was mostly done over a computer with the guidance of caseworkers at St. Francis Ministries in Omaha. But submitting the necessary documents for adoption took longer than expected.
“We had been hearing six months so we thought…we would be able to get the date right away and, you know, within a few weeks adopt. We’re looking at the beginning of December now, so that’s gone a little slower, but it’s moving along,” Nicole said.
Alger Studstill, DHHS deputy director of protection and safety, said the number of families available to foster during this pandemic has decreased in comparison to previous years. This has impacted foster children in need of emergency placements.
However, the pandemic isn’t impeding families adopting their foster children. Studstill said DHHS is working on a digital campaign to encourage foster parents to adopt their foster kids during national adoption month in November.
“If adoptive parents or potential adoptive parents are in the community, they see the commercial or they’re seeing stuff on social media, they’re able to call if they have questions and they want to start the process,” Studstill said.
With less than a month left until the child becomes a member of the Lyman family, Nicole said the child is excited to become a Lyman and can’t wait for their adoption day.
“(The child) was very really happy and just asked ‘so will my last name be Lyman?’ and we’re like, oh yeah. So, you know, (the child) was really happy about it, too,” Nicole said.
Although the child misses their biological family at times, Nicole said weekly therapy sessions and the positive interaction between the child and the soon-to-be siblings are helping the child feel more comfortable with the family.
“I think just to appreciate family that much more, just to see how God can bring things together.
And we’re going to be adopting it’s kind of like, you also see how God, Jesus has brought us into (the child’s) family, too,” Nicole said.