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Episode 174: The Messy Journey of Healing (w/ Kristen Thomas)

By March 13, 2023March 29th, 2023Podcast

TW: There are brief mentions in this episode of abuse, self-harm, and suicide, which we wanted you to be aware of before listening.

There are some episodes of the podcast that simply pack so much wisdom into a short conversation. This is one of those episodes.

Children enter foster care for many different reasons. And despite some of the hard work we do to overcome and heal from the past, our stories can still be messy. My guest knows this all too well!

Kristen Thomas entered into kinship care after suffering abuse, but experienced deep-rooted challenges when she felt misunderstood, unsupported, and became homeless after aging out of care. As an adult, Kristen has taken the time to move towards healing those parts of her past. Today, she is going to grad school for Counseling and is an adoptive parent to her daughter, with only a 10-year age difference between them.

Kristen is very well-spoken and I greatly appreciated her coming onto the show. I know you will be encouraged by her story!


1. Our childhood (and past experience) impacts our life.

Even if you had a “happy” childhood, how we were raised and what we experienced affects our behavior and beliefs. For Kristen, growing up experiencing abuse and feeling unsafe led to her nervous system always running on overdrive. As a result, this created behaviors and underlying beliefs she had to work to overcome as an adult, also leading to some painful interactions with those who didn’t understand. Kristen also shared how her premature birth due to abuse has created physical health challenges that still stick with her as well.

“At that time in my life, silence was my best friend. And when it wasn’t silence, it was chaos and abuse.”

2. A lack of information can cause unintentional pain.

We live in a broken world. There are times when people intentionally hurt others and cause further trauma due to poor training, lack of information, or just the brokenness of our system. For example, it could be getting labeled as a “trouble maker” because an adult doesn’t understand that your behaviors were formed out of a desire to stay safe. It can happen when kids enter foster care and have to sleep in a CPS office while waiting for a foster family to say yes. It could be getting bullied in school because you struggle to pay attention in class. Whatever your role in the foster care community, we have to take the time to raise awareness and seek out additional training and skills to assist the children in our care.

“If we are not trained in a way that sees the failures, we are just going to keep repeating the same mistakes… There isn’t an evil person in my story; it’s just a lot of failing of our systems and understandings.”

3. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

We’ve said this before: We can’t do this alone. Kristen said, “Wounds have to be healed in relational community.” She is exactly right. We need to have a community of people around us who can relate to our struggles. We need people who support us when we are struggling, people who cry when we cry, and remind us why we do what we do.

“There is this deep breath that you get when you are around people who know what you have been through and all the nuances.”


We hope this episode has helped you wherever you are on your foster care journey. That’s the goal! If so, will you tell others?

Share this post or rate the podcast on Apple Podcasts (or wherever you listen) and leave us a brief review

Meet Our Guest

Kristen Thomas is a former foster youth, adoptive parent, and is currently in grad school for counseling. Kristen entered kinship care after suffering abuse. The trauma as a result affected her behaviors and what she believed about herself. Through the grace of God, Kristen has been hard at work to heal. She lives in Raleigh, NC with her 20-year-old, adoptive daughter. Kristen loves dinosaurs and homemade sushi.

Foster Parents, check with your agency to see if listening to this podcast will count toward your foster care training hours!

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