Tags: Featured Story, Parenting
Local author Heath Kelsey uses his personal experience, imagination, artistic talent, and a little cave boy named Duke to help raise money for the foster care system.
In Heath Kelsey’s recently published book, Duke and the Dinosaur Family, he tells the story about Duke, who loses his family and is fostered by a dinosaur family. This book was written and illustrated by Heath and edited by his wife Jill for Duke and other foster children everywhere.
“I hope this book helps children cope with the fear of being placed with a family that’s different from theirs,” Heath says. “I want them to know that it doesn’t matter what they look like as long as it’s a loving family.”
Over 700 children are placed in the foster care system every day in the United States by no fault of their own. Heath says they are scared, lonely, and in need of love. He wants this book to help foster and adoptive children cope with the fear of being placed in a new family. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go to charities that help and advocate for foster and adoptive children.
Because most foster children enter the system with only the clothes on their back, Heath says the main portion of the proceeds from this book will go toward funding placement packages for these kids. A placement package is an age-and-gender-appropriate package that includes items a child will need like clothes, pajamas, undergarments, hygiene products and more. It also may include toys, games, dolls, or stuffed animals.
Heath and Jill feel strongly about fostering children and helping when and where they can. Heath has first-hand experience, as he grew up in a foster home from the age of 12 throughout high school. He says the adage their family lives by, which he also printed in his book, states, “No child can have too many people who love them.”
They have been married for 13 years and have three biological children, ages 17, 11 and 9, one adopted daughter, age 15, and two foster children, ages 22 months and one month. They first started fostering children about three years ago when Jill, a junior high school teacher, learned one of her students needed a home. Their biological children were on board to help too, so they stepped in, and have since adopted her.
Heath says they take their parenting job seriously. When it comes to their foster children, they go above and beyond to include the biological families because their ultimate goal is reunification. “We try to build that bridge to reunification. We mentor the mom, babysit, give rides. We are very active in their lives,” Heath says.
In fact, these two have been awarded 2019 “Parent of the Year” from Kern County Board of Supervisors’ Foster Care Awareness Month Proclamation. In Kern County Department Human Services Director Dena Murphy's nomination of this couple, she writes, “I nominate Jill and Heath Kelsey for their unselfish devotion to their past and present foster children in their home. The Kelsey family has had placement since 2015, first to Jill’s student in her classroom that was recently adopted by the Kelsey family in October 2018. The Kelsey family continuously engages with the biological families for the best outcomes for the foster youth in their home.”
Duke and the Dinosaur Family is a fun read that also helps support a good cause. This book is available for purchase at www.amazon.com, www.lulu.com, and www.barnesandnoble.com.
For more information on how you can become a foster parent, contact www.kerncounty.com/dhs.