Mom Muse | Kim Vehon
With Thanksgiving just a few days away, we are busy planning a memorable meal to give thanks for what we’re most grateful for in our lives. Family is always at the top of the list. Most of us can’t imagine what it would be like to be a child growing up in the foster care system. Being moved around to different families and homes, not having a permanent place or mom and dad to call our own. And, likely having gone through a traumatic event or situation to end up there. As moms, our hearts break for these children… especially when we think about our own kids and how a child’s outlook and life would take a very different turn under these circumstances.
After experiencing being a foster parent, our mom muse Kimberly Vehon was motivated to take action. She put her talents in video production to work with the goal of helping foster kids find forever homes. Her idea of using video and storytelling worked, leading Kim and her husband to start Foster Arizona in 2013. Foster Arizona is a non-profit focused on educating, encouraging, and empowering Arizonans to positively impact the lives of kids in foster care. The organization’s mission is to engage the community in ways that allow the over 16,000 children in Arizona’s foster care system to thrive.
Prior to starting Foster Arizona, Kim worked in local churches doing both video production and worship. She is passionate about helping children find loving families because she has experienced the personal joy that comes from being both a foster and adoptive mom. Today, Kim and her husband are parents to seven kids — ranging from ages 3 to 9 — and four of them are adopted.
While the successful results – more kids in homes — are her reward, this year Kim was honored for her inspiring work with a very special Angels in Adoption award from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. This deserving mom is an angel, indeed.
MSL: What inspired you to start Foster Arizona?
My husband and I had been fostering a sibling group of two and, at one of the court hearings, we found out that our kids’ case plan would be moving to severance and adoption. I had a lot of big feelings to process – sadness for them and for their birth family, relief that it would mean a sense of permanency for our kids in the near future, and this uneasy feeling knowing we could not walk away from the world of foster care while so many kids in our community still needed help. I knew we could not take in every kid that needed a home, but I also knew there had to be something more we could do. For years, I had worked in video and production as a part of my job and thought I could make some videos to bring awareness to the need for more families to get involved. And, that is what we did. What started with one video of a kiddo waiting for a forever family has turned into so much more in the five short years Foster Arizona has existed.
MSL: Tell us about the direct impact Foster Arizona has on kids in foster care.
In 2017, we have had more than 1,000 kids in foster care participate in our Kid Connection Events, which provide activities and normalcy, meet real needs, and help them to connect to the community. Within the past year, more than 450 adults have participated in these events, to demonstrate to kids in foster care that they do not go unseen and they matter to the community. We have shared the stories of 24 adoptable kids and have a 57% placement rate for the kids we’ve featured. In March, we opened housing for teens who are aging out of foster care, and we have provided housing for 14 teens who were at-risk for homelessness.
MSL: What has been your proudest moment since the organization’s inception so far?
What I am most proud of is that Foster Arizona is so much more than me. It is not about one person deciding to make an impact in the community. Instead, Foster Arizona has truly become a vehicle for Arizonans to positively impact the lives of kids in foster care. We had a baseball clinic this year because a retired baseball pitcher, Ken Roberts, called us and had a vision for impacting kids’ lives. We’ve had Thanksgiving dinner for kids in foster care because a local business owner, Nick Goodman, reached out wanting to positively impact kids’ lives. We have fully-furnished every apartment and given welcome baskets (including bikes) to every teen entering our housing program because the community heard their need loud and clear, and responded. Volunteer mentors work daily with teens in our housing program to prepare them for fully-independent living. Our volunteers step in, take the lead, and make it possible for kids to forget their troubles, laugh, and just feel good about being a kid.
MSL: Long-term plans for the organization?
We are currently under contract for an acre of land that, once developed, will allow us to expand housing to have 38 beds for teens who are transitioning out of foster care. Our five-year goal is to have 200 beds available throughout Arizona. We are also working on an open-sourced, online platform of resources for champions of at-risk children called Foster Cooperative. Our goal is to empower those who are caring for foster children by giving them the resources they need to be successful helping kids who have gone through adverse childhood experiences. We’ll accomplish this by increasing community connections and peer supports, and providing access to quality resources. This will help us to see a decrease in failed adoptions, foster and kinship parent placement disruption and home closure, and need for removal. We are committed to continuing to look for holes that need to be filled and collaborating with the community to make a positive impact on one of Arizona’s most vulnerable populations.
MSL: What’s your favorite part about being a mom?
There are so many things I love about being a mom. I love watching kids grow and experience new things for the first time. I love late-night snuggles and one-on-one dates. My heart sings when kids use their imagination and their creativity comes to life. My favorite moments are having real-life conversations that cause their minds and hearts to grow — when I watch them subtly change before my eyes. Words cannot express how proud and blessed I feel to be a mom.
MSL: What challenges do you face as a foster mom, and what do you find most rewarding?
There have been a lot of challenges in our journey. Parenting is tough in general and parenting through trauma is a special kind of tough. Although we are no longer foster-licensed, I can still remember the daily struggle of feeling completely out of control. You have to learn to live in a world filled with uncertainty. You have to love fiercely while holding on loosely and you have to believe the seeds you plant today will go with the children you love; whether they are with you for a season or forever. The most rewarding moments for me have been the moments when I watch something we have spent endless hours working toward take root in their hearts. It has taught me perserverance. To love a child means you never stop pursuing their heart, especially when they seem the least open to being pursued. Too often kids in foster care are viewed through the lens of how they act instead of who they are.
MSL: Any tips you can share for achieving good work-life balance?
I think this is a constant struggle for most moms. I have found that playing hookey from work and spending unscheduled time doing something that is just fun with my family is really important for me to feel balanced. This time is also really important to my kids. I read a book last year, Grace, Not Perfection by Emily Ley, as well as listened to Juliet Funt talk about WhiteSpace; both really helped me to think about ways to better balance my life.
MSL: What is the one item in your closet you can’t live without?
My cardigans. It is really rare that you will see me without a cardigan. Arizona may be hot outside, but we make up for it by keeping it freezing inside.
MSL: Your best style advice for other moms?
Find friends who love you and will help keep you in the fashion loop. I don’t like being trendy. I really like feeling eclectic and am obsessed with different textures. So I try to find ways to somewhat comply with fashion rules while still being me. I think my best style advice is to not be afraid to wear something that reflects your personality.
Learn more about Foster Arizona and how you can help.