The financial toll that our society must pick up due to children that suffer from neglect, abuse, or abandonment from their parents is staggering. Out of the $100 million budget for Lycoming County government operations, $10 million of that goes toward Children and Youth Services. As staggering as that sum is, another need is even more difficult to raise, and that is foster parents. Children need a home to live in, not an institution. The man now responsible for recruiting and qualifying foster parents in Lycoming County is Kyle Nielsen. Kyle certainly knows what he is doing, as he and his wife Kayla have been foster parents to 31 children in their ten years of marriage.
Kyle Nielsen’s compassion for abused and abandoned children stems from the fact that he was one himself. Growing up in Florida with a sister three years younger, he never knew his father, and his mother was a drug addict and alcoholic who sustained her habits through prostitution. She would often abandon them for days at a time, once even for two weeks. They were not allowed to leave the house and, during the two-week abandonment, survived by discovering a box of MREs that they carefully rationed. When neighbors would begin to ask questions, Mom would put them in the car, and they would travel to a new town, sometimes having to sleep in the car for days before Mom found a shelter or someplace to crash with her two children.
Kyle said he moved nineteen times before graduating high school. For him, school was a sanctuary compared to his life at home, and thus he worked hard to get good grades as well as becoming a rather outstanding athlete. At the Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Florida, Kyle was the starting quarterback until a new student transferred and took it from him — a young man by the name of Tim Tebow!
After graduating in 2006, Kyle joined the US Marine Corps and served for five years, which gave him his first stability in life. Yet, he knew he did not want a military career but one that would help children. He studied hard and acquired two bachelor’s degrees, one in Christian counseling and another in Developmental Psychology. His work caused him to move to Pennsylvania in 2012, where he met his future wife, Kayla, who shared his interest in foster care. They became licensed foster parents in 2016. Beyond the 31 children they have cared for, they currently have six children at home from ages four to twelve; three biological children of their own and two adopted children, and another child whom they have legal custody of.
Kyle has been employed by Children and Youth for several years, and in early January of this year, he was promoted to Resource Care Coordinator for Lycoming County Children and Youth Services. His new job is to recruit parents that have the same passion as he does. Yet, at the same time, he knows from personal experience how much help foster parents need when they take in these children.
It starts with basic needs. Through the years, he and Kayla saw children dropped off for their care that had precious few clothes, and these were often tattered or did not fit them properly or worse, soiled and stinky. So, Kyle networked with Dwell Orphan Care to have for each child a “pajama bag” that would have a set of pajamas in their size and gender, along with a stuffed animal, a book, a coloring book, crayons, and puzzles. Dwell supplies these items as part of their ministry for every child from newborn to age 16 for boys and girls, and it does not cost the county a dime. At Kyle’s home, he and Kayla had developed their own wardrobe for children through the years so that when children came, they could provide them with clothes that would be much better than the ones they arrived in. Kyle has now instituted that idea with Children and Youth, with a large closet of various clothing for all ages of children that is neatly organized. Kyle requires caseworkers to put down the gender and age of the child and the items they are taking for accountability purposes and also to ensure that these items are replaced.
Yet as important as these efforts are, it is critical that more men and women in the community consider becoming a foster parent for the county. To that end, Kyle is going on an all-out blitz of advertising this need. He is reaching out to organizations such as Kiwanis and popular events such as the Little League World Series and First Fridays, in which he could inform and hopefully recruit those interested in becoming foster parents.
So why wait? For those who want to know more about becoming a foster parent, call Children and Youth at 570-326-7895 and ask for Kyle at Foster Care.