In 1997, Kim Tresvant received a predawn telephone call from the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA). She soon realized it was her goddaughter Mya* calling from CFSA. “The social worker had to take us from Mommy. Can you come get us?” Mya asked. Confused about what was happening, Tresvant drove to CFSA.
She would learn that CFSA had removed Mya and her two sisters from home and that they needed a safe place to live while their mother worked to overcome difficulties. Tresvant knew that becoming an instant mother to three children in addition to her birth son, 5, would be a challenge, but keeping Mya and her sisters together was more important. Tresvant agreed to take Mya, 12; Lisa, 8; and Destiny, 6, as her foster children.
“Before, getting the girls, I was a mother to one son, working, and attending college,” Tresvant remembers. “I was an only child, and my son was an only child. I always enjoyed having company when I was a child, and I knew my son would enjoy having the company of the girls, but more importantly, my goddaughter and her sisters needed me. That made the decision to take them easy.”
Before officially becoming a foster parent to the girls, Tresvant had to complete foster parent training through CFSA. Her determination to provide a secure environment for the girls provided motivation. “Going through the process of becoming a foster parent required patience and persistence,” said Tresvant. “But knowing that I was doing it to provide a home, where my goddaughter could stay with her younger sisters, made it all worthwhile.”
Tresvant fostered Mya and her sisters for four years. During that time, CFSA worked to safely reunite the girls with their mother. Six years after the three girls returned home, Tresvant continues to be a foster parent.
“I’ve been a foster parent for 10 years, and I’ve learned these kids are much like me,” said Tresvant. “I’ve had some bad experiences, but I’ve had so many more good experiences. Sometimes you have to go through several rough drafts before you get to the masterpiece. Foster children are rough drafts waiting for someone to take the time to edit them.”
As the daughter of an English teacher, Tresvant often uses writing as a way to get her foster kids to express themselves. “It’s important for parents to keep an open mind and listen to what their children have to say,” said Tresvant. “Keeping an open mind helps you to keep an open heart. Through an open heart and mind, you can find ways to help every child.”
Tresvant has asked her foster children to write about various topics including: why you deserve respect, why you are special, what would have been the better decision, and your future goals. Through reading their writings, Tresvant gains insight into the children’s feelings and state of mind. One foster teen wrote, “I am alone and hungry. I need someone to make me feel important. I would like to have someone to have fun with, someone to make me feel safe and secure. I need someone to love me and take care of because they think that I am special.”
“That letter was so overwhelming,” said Tresvant. “I would never want to feel like that. I’d never want anyone else to feel that way, especially a child. I won’t give up on helping these young people who are desperately looking for guidance.”
Currently, Tresvant is a foster parent to sister and brother Chanda, 13, and John, 11; a set of twins, Melanie and Michael, 15; and Melanie’s six-week-old son. Tresvant is also in the process of adopting a medically fragile young woman, age 14. “I’m adopting her because she doesn’t have anyone else,” said Tresvant. “I know I matter to all the young people I foster. Because I took the time to give them support and stability, one day they will do the same for another young person in need.”
*Names changed to protect confidentiality
*Photography by Ezra Gregg www.ezragregg.com