Celebrating Families and Commitments to Connection
By Hannah Carroll, Communications Specialist
From left to right: Kayden, Andrew, and David with Kayden's mother, the Sommers family, and the Yumaira Saavedra-Mozo
Having just wrapped up the holiday season, we are reminded it is a time for families to come together in celebration and connection. As a permanency network, we know that families come in all shapes and sizes and are built in an infinite number of ways. At last summer’s annual Pennsylvania Permanency Conference, we celebrated three families, each of which had a unique kinship or birth family connection that became integral to helping children thrive.
Andrew & David
Andrew Kellner and David Kasievich first learned about their son, Kayden, from a child-specific recruitment flyer. While Andrew and David had an adoptive family profile ready, Kayden’s case had not yet progressed to the point of termination of parental rights, meaning they would need to become foster parents in order to welcome him into their home. They completed the requirements to do so in record time. Then, in 2022, they finalized the adoption.
From the beginning, it was very important for Kayden to maintain a relationship with his birth mom, and Andrew and David understood and supported this wholeheartedly. They established a relationship with Kayden’s mom and, when he moved in with them, Andrew and David had already framed photos of her and placed them in his room. Since his adoption, their relationship with her has grown and included travelling to Georgia to visit her. Lana Jones from Delaware County Children and Youth Services, who nominated Andrew and David for recognition, summed up the family beautifully, saying, “His biological family has become theirs, just as their family has become his.”
Brian & Danielle
Brian and Danielle Sommers became kinship foster parents in 2019 to two children—Layanna and Ashton—and then again to Oaklynn, their children’s sister, in 2021. The Sommers have since adopted all three children and have also taken in a fourth sibling, who was born in 2022. What sets the Sommers apart is their unwavering commitment to maintaining a relationship with their children’s birth parents. They took care to build a trusting relationship, acting as mentors when needed, hosting visits with the kids in their home, and being present for the birth of the youngest child. Jamie Batman of Union County Children and Youth Services, who was one of the multiple people who nominated the Sommers for recognition, remarked, “What a wonderful way for the children to experience a loving, stable, safe home with their adoptive parents and each other, while also having the opportunity to have their birth parents in their lives!”
Brian and Danielle’s permanency journey has been somewhat unconventional. On the surface, it’s not immediately evident why they’d be considered a kinship placement for the kids, but Danielle and her parents have known the children’s birth mother and have had a supportive, helping relationship with her. Between the placement of Ashton and Oaklynn, Danielle’s parents legally adopted the children’s birth mother as an adult, so now she and Danielle are officially sisters, cementing her as part of their family. The Sommers are a shining example of the compassion, patience, and love that kinship families can provide.
At age 20, Yumaira Saavedra-Mozo came home from college and learned that her seven siblings were enduring abuse.[MT1] Her siblings range from age five to 22, and her older two brothers are on the autism spectrum and intellectually disabled. She sprang into action immediately, removed her siblings from the house, and notified authorities.
By age 21, Yumaira had taken on caring for all her siblings—cooking meals, washing clothes, getting everyone to school—and all around being their advocate. Yumaira’s dedication to her family is an incredible example of selflessness and love. Paula Griffin, who nominated Yumaira for the award, said, “I don’t know many twenty-year-olds who would step up and do this for their siblings. Yumaira is a true hero.”
Andrew and David, Brian and Danielle, and Yumaira all have vastly different permanency journeys, but they are tied together by the shared dedication they have to their unique and beautiful families. They are putting the needs of children before their own and nurturing the necessary relationships to help their children grow and prosper.