From Mentor to Motherhood

From Mentor to Motherhood: The Bolling Family Spotlight

Kenyetta Bolling always knew she had motherly instincts. She came from a community-oriented family and has played the role of mentor, auntie, and godmother. So when she came to a point in her life that she realized she was not going to have biological children, she decided to approach motherhood another way. She knew that going from mentor to motherhood would give her the purpose she was seeking in her life.

In 2019, Kenyetta began her foster parenting journey. After attending an orientation with a larger agency, she was drawn to Arms Wide because of its small size and personable staff. “Arms Wide’s orientation was very personable, warm, unscripted, and more family-oriented,” Kenyetta said.

“I didn’t feel like I would be lost in the shuffle with a small organization.”

Waiting for Jaydagirl stands in volleyball outfit holding a medal in a gymnasium

Kenyetta continued the steps to become a foster parent, including the application, pre-service training, and the home study. In 2020, she officially became a licensed foster parent. That fall, she said “no” to two different placements because something in her said that it wasn’t the right time.

The third call came in December that same year. “I was sitting on my couch drinking cocoa, and I received a call about an emergency placement for a five-year-old girl.” As she sat next to the decorated Christmas tree by her warm fireplace, she felt like should say “yes” this time. So she said “yes,” hung up the phone, and began waiting the several hours that felt like an eternity.

Meanwhile, a 5-year-old girl named Jayda had just left an abusive home in Galveston and was riding in a caseworker’s car. “I didn’t know where they were taking me, but it was a long drive. Then, we hit a curb and I woke up,” remembered Jayda. “I was confused, but the happy thing is that I was at a new house.”

“Full of excitement and nervousness, I opened the door,” said Kenyetta. “There stood a tall gentleman who was the caseworker, and the little 5-year-old girl.

“In my heart and in my eyes, she was absolutely beautiful and perfect in every way.”

Jayda remembers her first impression of Kenyetta as well. “I saw this lady with a big smile, so I felt so much better,” said Jayda.

Temporary Becomes Forever

At first, Kenyetta thought that Jayda’s stay with her would be temporary. She saw foster care as an opportunity to serve in a motherly role for a child who needed her most, whether that was six days, six months or forever. Knowing that the goal of foster care is reunification, she was ready to give Jayda love and care until she went home.

“This was not about me; it was about her.”

“This was not about me; it was about her,” Kenyetta said, recalling how she overcame her initial anxiety of the possibility of saying goodbye to Jayda. “I had five short-term goals for her to make a lasting impact on her life. She was going to learn how to ride a bike, tie her shoes, and be able to read 100 words. She was going to know that she is a Black Girl, and she was going to know who God is.” Over the next few years, however, it became clear that reunification was not an option for Jayda. On May 10, 2023, Kenyetta and Jayda became a forever family and finalized her adoption.

From Kenyetta’s perspective, life isn’t much different now that they have finalized. But for Jayda, having that clarity was important. “Children need signs of closure, and the finalization gave that to Jayda,” Kenyetta said. “She seems to have more confidence, and she speaks with assurance like she’s part of a family.”

Find Your Village of Support

As a single mom, Kenyetta navigated the uncertainty of foster care adoption with the help of her village of support. “I grew up in Houston, and we have a very small family that is very community service oriented. So early on, I learned the importance of having a village.” Kenyetta realizes that she is one person, and it is okay to ask for help. That’s why Jayda has certain people who have different functions in her life: from Kenyetta’s educator friends who nurture her during summer vacation to her male cousins who serve as positive male role models.

She encourages other foster parents to join a foster care community, stay connected with your network, and take advantage of training resources. For other single parents, her message is that you don’t have to be superwoman to give a child what they need. “Don’t feel like you have to do everything above and beyond all the time. Kids don’t need Disney vacations – they are happy with your time and attention.” Simple things and quality time can go a long way.

Finally, Kenyetta wants people to know that you can be part of a village for a child in foster care, even if you don’t plan to adopt. “Just because you foster, that doesn’t mean you have to adopt,” said Kenyetta.

“Everybody’s purpose is different, and you can still fill an important role for kids no matter where you are in life.”

And that’s something that has rung true for Kenyetta throughout her journey from mentor to motherhood.