As Director of Foster Family Services for Boys Town Nebraska, Matt Priest works with heroes every day. May is National Foster Care Awareness Month and Matt is using this opportunity to showcase one particular foster family that has been sharing their home with children in need for the past 20 years.
Andy and Kim Schnatz are the epitome of quality foster care. When I was a young 25-year-old just entering the challenging world of foster care, Andy and Kim were the first foster parents I met. Walking into their home, I discovered an environment of calm, structure and consistency. I essentially learned how foster care should look and operate simply by observing how they cared for kids in their home.
As a successful blended family, the Schnatzes provided children with the stable routine they needed after a life of turmoil. Andy and Kim embraced each child and had a tradition of displaying a framed photo of each child on the wall of their family room. Every child wanted to be on this wall and be part of the family. Andy and Kim have opened their home to a variety of children, from challenging teenagers to sibling groups. They stay in touch with their foster kids after the kids leave their home, and selflessly put others before themselves. Their former foster children often return to say hello and the Schnatzes never turn them away. These homecomings are most evident at Thanksgiving and other holidays, when extra tables and chairs are set up throughout the house to welcome and accommodate the many extensions of their family.
When I became a new father in 2004, Andy and Kim were the first ones to welcome me to parenthood with a basket of diapers and other parenting supplies. They have a way of finding their place and excelling. Over the past five years, they have been less active as foster parents due to the ever-changing world of child welfare. But they have remained active, parenting a developmentally disabled adult in their home as well as supporting the Boys Town Nebraska foster care staff. The Schnatzes routinely bring snacks and food to the offices of our team, a small gesture that gives everyone a tremendous lift. They have set the standard for bringing a team approach to foster parenting, and while they have never claimed to be experts in how foster care works, they are, in reality, exactly that. Andy and Kim have shared their experience with support groups and have supported new foster parents who were just getting started. They've done all this by staying out of the limelight and never making their efforts about them. Which is exactly why they deserve this recognition.
One of the Schnatzes' biggest attributes is staying calm in the middle of the storm. Quite literally. In 2019, a record flood ravaged Nebraska. The small town of Valley, where the Schnatzes live, became an island, surrounded by water with no way in and no way out. Through preparation, planning and structure, the Schnatzes calmly continued to care for the two young foster children in their home until the flood waters around them receded. When I checked in with Kim during the flood, she matter-of-factly said, “The ducks have never had so much water to play in." It was just another example of her and Andy's endless positivity. Children cannot help but react calmly when they see how calmly Andy and Kim handle a situation. Calm. Consistent. Structured.
The foster care world needs more families like Andy and Kim Schnatz. They have taught me everything I needed to know in my 20-year career in foster care. And they have taught me to be a better father.
Learn more about becoming a foster family.