Thirteen years ago, when Jennifer Kaba began her career as a foster care social worker with Lutheran Children and Family Service (LCFS), she had no idea how one family would impact her professional life. Today, Jennifer says, “It was my defining case.”

The five Contrell children were removed from their home and placed in foster care because they were living in an abusive domestic environment precipitated by their father. Foster Care is a temporary living arrangement for abused, neglected and dependent children who need a safe place to live when their parents or another relative cannot take care of them. Until the conditions changed, the Contrell children were not safe in their own home

For Jane Contrell, mother of the children, the placement was devastating. “I felt helpless and hopeless,” said Jane.  But after meeting with Jennifer, it was the first time in the midst of so much turmoil that she believed her children would one day return home.

“It is always the goal of foster care to strengthen and rebuild a family.  Each family’s situation is unique, and our job is to find the resources necessary to make the family whole again. I could see that Jane possessed the qualities to succeed at reunification. Her commitment was clearly evident,” said Jennifer.

As with many domestic cases, it became necessary for Jane to move out of the area and away from her children. As often she could she flew into Philadelphia for supervised visits. She also videotaped them to watch during the times when she felt discouraged. The visits and videos helped. “They’re everything that I’m fighting for,” said Jane.

Jennifer said, “It was evident to me that the children absolutely loved their mother, and their mother, despite her distance, showed unconditional love.  Jane demonstrated courage and faith and never gave up.”

A year and a half later, Jane and her children were reunified. “I thank God for Jennifer. I love her so much because she believed in me, and I thank God for LCFS. They were so kind to my children,” said Jane.

Today, the Contrell children still keep in touch with Jennifer and their foster care families.  For Jennifer, foster care is about making a Vital Difference in the lives of children and families in need. For more information about foster care contact Jennifer Kaba, Intake and Foster Care Manager at jennk@lcfsinpa.org

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