Brad, 19, and Shawn, 17, were only nine and eight years old when they entered child protective services and the State of Missouri foster care system through Saint Luke’s Crittenton Children’s Center. They both had autism and cognitive disabilities. Shawn was pre-verbal, mostly communicating with grunts, and Brad didn’t respond much and was glassy eyed.
“Because of their special needs, they spent time in shelters until we were able to find the right person to take them in and to really give them the care and attention they needed,” said Michael Bisacca, Foster Care Licensing Specialist at Saint Luke’s Crittenton Children’s Center, and Brad and Shawn’s Foster Care Case Manager for the almost the entire decade they were in the system.
Each year, Crittenton Children’s Center provides foster care case management and adoption services for hundreds of children in Jackson, Johnson, and Cass counties in Missouri. Crittenton Children’s Center’s foster care and foster-to-adopt programs work to place children in suitable homes, either temporarily or permanently.
After multiple homes, being separated for close to two years, and brought back together, little did they know what was in store.
Katie and Jon Lyday say they felt a calling from God to look into fostering. With a two, four, and six-year old at home at the time, they talked about fostering infants and toddlers since that was the stage of life they were the most familiar with.
“We have felt that if we are Christians and if we say we are going to follow Jesus, we should have a sense of giving and purpose, and do what we feel He is leading us to do,” said Katie.
In the Fall of 2019, while checking the Missouri Heart Gallery website, a page dedicated to creating awareness about Missouri kids who are awaiting adoption, as Katie did at least once a year, she came across Brad and Shawn’s biography and photos.
“God stirred something in my heart,” said Katie. “I thought there is no way we can do teenage boys, let alone TWO teenage boys.”
She saved their photos and prayed that they would find their forever family. Jon and Katie decided to wait until the holidays were over before starting the process to become foster parents. During this time they learned about Saint Luke’s Crittenton Children’s Center from a family friend who was currently fostering through Crittenton.
“So, I got online and started to do some research,” said Katie. “And, when I went to Crittenton’s page and scrolled down, I saw Brad and Shawn. It was a different picture, but I recognized them immediately. That just seemed like too much of a coincidence; that I have been praying for these boys and now I knew they were local.”
Katie reached out for more information. Within 24 hours, she had a response, and this is when she discovered the boys both had special needs.
When her husband came home from a hunting trip, Katie told him about the boys.
“I wouldn’t want to take on normal teenage boys, but these boys sound okay,” said Jon.
And so, they continued to learn more about Shawn and Brad.
“We set it up to have a non-introduction introduction,” said Michael. “I had them come meet the boys at our Christmas party without the boys knowing. Then, we started having day visits where they could interact and dip their toes in the water of how things might be.”
The Lydays eventually would have overnight visits once a week before the pandemic started. They started their training in February 2020. They were able to finish through virtual classes and completed their home study during the pandemic and were licensed in May 2020. Brad and Shawn moved in with Katie, Jon, and their three kids in July 2020.
“They were tickled to death to be able to move in,” said Katie. “And, our little kids have been great, welcoming, and accepting the boys and sharing their toys and parents.”
“For kiddos that have had a rough go in life and don’t have the support of connections, you provide a permanent place for these kids to go and heal,” said Michael. “That next ‘I love you’ is unconditional and you can help them go fly. The kids don’t feel broken anymore.”
“It was an adjustment for Jon and me. We went from three kids to five,” said Katie. “It was our first foster care experience, our first experience with teenagers, and our first experience with special needs. It was a lot of figuring stuff out. The special needs part is kind of hard knowing that we will need to be very pro-active their whole lives but behavioral wise, they are good kids! That part is a huge blessing!”
On March 24th, the Lydays officially became a family of seven.
“As a case manager this is what you work for,” said Michael. “Being with them for 9 ½ years, and to see what they have gone through, and now to have them at Jon and Katie’s being happy. I can go to sleep at night and not worry about Brad and Shawn. It is a good feeling.”
“I really wanted to foster to adopt to invest in a kids’ life,” said Jon. “Coming along side these two boys and investing in the rest of their lives is so important. For me it is about giving them a permanent home, someone who would be there for them after they would age out and beyond.”
“These two kids didn’t ask to be in the position they were,” said Michael. “They didn’t have a family for a long time because of their needs and obstacles to overcome, and Jon and Katie stayed on whole-heartedly and now they are their parents. Brad and Shawn have been searching for someone to love them for ten years, and now they are a part of a forever family.”
“It was very clear that God opened all the doors in how everything worked out,” said Katie. “I feel like we were really able to be successful because of all the help and support from our friends, family, and everyone at Crittenton. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. But it is worth it!”
Brad and Shawn experienced huge growth and success during their time in foster care through Crittenton.
"Thanks to the Crittenton staff and the incredible foster parents who helped raise them over the past ten years, they are now flourishing at home, school, and in the work force. They are fun, happy, and social young men who enjoy new experiences and meeting new people. We are so proud of the accomplishments Brad and Shawn have made so far, and we are excited to see what the future holds as the boys transition into adulthood and take on new responsibilities," said Katie.
Learn more about Saint Luke’s Crittenton Children’s Center Foster Care and Foster-To-Adopt services and how you can help foster children in Kansas City.