May is Foster Care Awareness Month. Foster care is a system in which minors are placed into a group home or the private home of a state-certified caregiver (foster parent) when their parents abandon them, pass away or lose their parental rights or when minors no longer have any type of guardianship.
Some children are born into this system, but others, like Hurricane High School senior Kadin Ezra Steadman, enter much later in life. Kadin, who is 19 and has two siblings – a 17-year-old brother Arizona (who goes by Sky) and a 22-year-old half-sister Kasey – did not become part of the foster care system until his late teens.
So, let’s rewind and see how he got there.
Kadin was born at Women and Children’s Hospital to Mickey Steadman and Melissa Tackett. In his early childhood, he lived primarily with his mom, while his dad had limited visitation.
This was consistent for a while, until his mother started leaving him and Sky at daycare for weeks at a time. The daycare workers would take the boys to their own homes for a while, until their mother would eventually pick them up.
However, one day, she dropped the boys off at a babysitter and never came back. Because of this, her parental rights were terminated under law. Kadin was 5 years old at the time.
His father then took full custody and moved the boys to Marina Park in Teays Valley until he could no longer pay rent, and they were evicted. At this time, Kadin was 11, and his father decided to move back to his hometown of Grafton in Taylor County.
However, after camping there for a summer, Mickey remembered why he left Grafton in the first place and moved the family back to Hurricane, where they lived in a farmhouse on Route 34. This is the last home Kadin ever shared with his dad.
He and his brother lived there for a while until odd things started to occur. Mickey would disappear for long periods of time, and strangers would stay at their house – even with Mickey was not there. There was also suspicion of drug abuse. The boys decided it was no longer safe to stay there and lived with some close friends for a while.
Finally, when they tried to go home, even more strangers were there, living in their rooms. The suspicion of drug use was confirmed.
Their father had been arrested for a revoked license and resisting arrest. Later, he was charged with neglect, but because of a decision made by Kadin and Sky his parental rights were not terminated.
All of this devastated Kadin.
“I am too old to remember when I lost my mom; I just remember the pain,” he said. “Now that I am older, my memory is more profound. I never thought one person could feel so many different emotions at once.
“I never understood why the one man I looked up to more than anyone and loved with all my heart could choose something else over me and my brother. For a while, I didn’t think I could cry any more tears.”
At this point in Kadin’s life, it was clear that he and Sky could no longer live in that house and needed to move elsewhere. So, last June, their aunt and uncle became certified foster parents and obtained legal guardianship of them, while they still remained in the state’s care. This is how Kadin entered the foster care system.
You might assume that at this point his life improved and became more stable. It didn’t. Kadin started to notice tension and family conflicts between his aunt and uncle. He felt resistance towards him and Sky, so in January, he moved out.
He spent a few nights with his friend, Jacob Manoni, until nights became weeks, and one day Jacob’s father, Joe, asked Kadin if he wanted to live with them. Kadin said yes, and this is who he lives with now.
The Manonis are among the people Kadin considers family at this point in his life.
“My family now is my brother Arizona, everyone that supports me, and my girlfriend,” he said.
He hasn’t ruled out reconnecting with his parents at some point in the future, though.
“One day I want to have a connection with my parents again, when they are better,” he said. “I still love them both.”
In fact, he had emotional messages for them when asked about what he would say to his parents today if he could say anything.
“Dad, I always looked up to you,” he started. “I still do in some ways. I love you more than I can ever explain, even through everything that has happened. You are hardworking, caring and loving. I miss you.
“Mom, I’m not familiar with what you put me through as a kid, but I am guessing it was close to what my dad has put me through now,” he continued.
“It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, and it doesn’t define you in my heart. Mistakes can be made; that’s been proven. But problems can be fixed with some effort just as easily. You’re my mom, and I will always love you unconditionally.”
Having undergone these hardships, Kadin has lived a different life from most. When asked, he reflected on the hardest and easiest parts of his life.
“The hardest part was losing my dad,” he said. “The easiest was having moved past all the court hearings, the crying and now being more capable of dealing with problems.”
Despite all that has happened, Kadin said he has no regrets about being in foster care.
“Of course the situation resulting of me being in foster care is traumatizing, but I’ve always believed that God has a plan for me,” he said. “Foster care offers very beneficial help to those who need it, and I am more than blessed for what they offer.”
The foster care system assigns children to a social worker, who checks in regularly to make sure they are safe and are being provided with the means necessary to survive. The Department of Health and Human Resources sends monthly payments to the foster parents in order to support the children’s needs.
When children turn 18, they age out and are no longer bound to foster care. They are free...unless they decide to sign back in, like Kadin did. This means they agree to stay in the state’s custody until they turn 21 and continue to receive the benefits foster care provides.
One of these benefits is the Modify program, which Kadin plans to utilize for college.
“I plan to attend WVU, study exercise physiology and possibly volunteer to do missionary work or the Peace Corps,” he said.
Modify is a program that benefits foster kids when they are on their own. After they turn 18, if they don’t live with anyone, it pays for their college tuition and gives them a monthly allowance for living expenses. It also provides the option of taking basic life skills and money management classes.
Speaking of foster care, and Foster Care Awareness Month, Kadin said, “I think foster care awareness is a good thing. People should know what it is. However, foster kids don’t want to be labeled as such. They just want a happy life.”
He continued, “My advice for any other kids like me is work hard, have faith in God and do what is right for you.”