Helping Them Heal: Foster Parenting Medically Fragile Children

Category(ies): Foster Care

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Posted on November 22, 2011 at 9:08 am

lagneaux The seed was planted four years ago. Angelamarie and Ron Lagneaux were running the homeless shelter for St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Austin, TX, and every night they sat down to dinner with the shelter residents. The stories, cycles, and backgrounds that led these individuals to homelessness were the same “99 percent of the time” according to Angelamarie. They had all been in the foster care system and said, “If we only had a family to love us” their lives would be totally different.

The Lagneauxs took it as their mission to do everything they could to help stop the cycle. In 2008 they became foster parents for Lutheran Social Services and the Foster In Texas (FIT) program in the Austin area. They recognized that the children in the most need were those with serious medical issues – the “Primary Medical Needs” or PMN children who were hardest to place because of their complicated medical problems and the demands required of those who care for them. Angelamarie says, “God chose me to do this … and it’s easier to go with God’s plan for your life than to fight him every step of the way.”

Although Angelamarie does not have a formal medical background, she began helping with her cousin’s recovery following an auto accident 15 years ago, and today still cares for the cousin, a quadraplegic. She also has taken care of her mother, who has severe rheumatoid arthritis, since she was 18.

In the past three years, the Lagneauxs have fostered six children for LSS, five of those PMN. Currently, they have two PMN children in their care (ages 2 and 5) plus their 20-month-old biological daughter Francesca and a baby on the way. Medical crises are a way of life for the Lagneauxs, as their foster children have required such procedures as kidney transplant and brain surgeries, feeding tubes (both nasal and gastric), and home dialysis.

The ongoing need and search for foster parents—particularly those willing to care for PMN children―is unrelenting, which is why foster parents like the Lagneauxs are treasured by our agency. Angelamarie sings the praises of LSS family services worker Kristen Ellis, who is always available to them in the middle of the night when any of the children has been hospitalized. She said the support they receive for their foster children is a “family approach” and Ellis always keeps them informed of new foster care laws and developments.

When we asked Angelamarie what she would say to other parents who are considering fostering, especially PMN kids, this was her response:

“These children are basically alone, and with their huge medical problems they not only need someone to love them but they need someone to advocate for them and navigate through the medical world. Being alone in this environment, with no one to question the medical staff or help understand their condition, is very scary. Because things can go wrong and often do.”

“I get to take care of the most amazing children and learn so much, and I love to do the research.

Being a PMN home is the greatest reward. You may have been up for two days straight with no sleep, with your child in a medical crisis. And then they give you a smile … it all makes the long nights worth it. And the smile you receive is a gift from GOD.”

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