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“He was the stinky kid – I didn’t want him to live at our house,” Brittany McCaskey, who is the Hannibal Area Coordinator for Coyote Hill, said as she reflected about a time when her mother, who was a foster parent, got called to take a child into their home.
This stinky kid was Brittany’s classmate. She was a seventh grader and didn’t want him moving into their house. He wasn’t liked, he was a troublemaker at school, and he smelled. But, Brittany’s mom knew they needed to step up for this child.
Brittany remembers her mother saying, “Then isn’t that why we should take him?”
That statement, said to Brittany when she was in 7th grade, changed her perspective on the situation. This and other things that happened in life instilled in her the desire to help others.
This classmate of hers who stunk needed a home filled with love and support. Brittany knew her mom and step-dad, who were foster parents, would provide that for this classmate of hers.
Brittany learned more about this classmate and other kids that moved in and out of their home over the years her parents were fostering. The situations these kids were facing were tough. Brittany found herself frequently shocked when a kid she knew from school would move into their home. She would have no idea about the very hard and tragic things kids were facing.
These situations opened her eyes and helped her look at how she could use her life to benefit others.
“I knew I wanted to help people in some way, but I had no idea what that would look like,” said McCaskey.
In every role McCaskey has held since, she has been helping others.
Upon graduating from Palmyra High School in 2008, McCaskey left the Palmyra community and went to Dallas Christian College in Dallas, Texas.
Her journey in Texas led her to working as a Resource Specialist for a Single Parent Ministry helping single women get connected to the resources they needed to be successful.
McCaskey went to Honduras for a year where she taught elementary school at a children’s home and tutored children in math.
Life then led her back to this area where she worked at Chaddock in Quincy, Ill. as a therapeutic alternative classroom manager and a child welfare specialist helping the many children and families she interacted with daily.
It was while working in Quincy, McCaskey met her husband, Josh, in January of 2015. Josh was about to trade in his career in athletics to also become a servant helping others.
On the weekend that Josh and Brittany got engaged in March of 2016, they attended a wedding. It was the first time Brittany learned about an organization Coyote Hill.
At the wedding reception, Brittany and Josh sat with a former co-worker of Josh’s and his wife, Kari, who happened to be the Chief Operation Officer at Coyote Hill.
Brittany learned that Coyote Hill, located just north of Columbia, Mo. in the country near Harrisburg, was a 300 acre facility with beautiful homes filled with loving foster parents who had extensive training. There was an equine therapy barn, baseball and soccer fields, two fishing lakes, a large beach with swimming area and dock, mountain biking and horse-riding trails, a campsite, and so much more. The entire organization operated with the goal to provide children in foster care with a safe place to be a child.
Brittany loved to learn that an organization with this as a focus existed and instantly felt connected to it and its mission.
Brittany shared with Kari about her experiences being raised in a home with foster children. She shared about her various experiences working with struggling children and families. Brittany’s experiences led her to understand how significant a place like Coyote Hill could be for children in foster care.
By the end of the wedding reception, Brittany was following the organization on social media and wanting to learn more about their work.
A year later, Josh and Brittany got married. They were drawn to Coyote Hill and saw that the organization needed house parents. They applied, interviewed, and were offered a position.
“We were terrified,” laughed Brittany. The idea of being newlyweds and being thrown into a home with a house full of kids was terrifying. The couple declined the position, but kept feeling called to Coyote Hill.
In February of 2018, the couple once again interviewed for a position as house parents and were hired. This time, they took the position.
In May of 2018, the McCaskeys, who had just been married a little over a year, moved to Coyote Hill and became relief parents. In this role, when house parents had something they needed to attend to, the relief parents stepped in to take on the role of parents. This helped the McCaskeys get used to the position and get their feet wet with raising kids.
In October of 2018, the McCaskeys took over as full-time house parents. They moved into a home with six kids.
Amongst those six kids was a sibling set of three children – two girls, ages four and seven, and one boy who was nine at the time. These children had been placed into foster care due to their mother struggling.
Their mother was trying to get life in order to regain custody of her children. The McCaskeys built a great relationship with their mother and encouraged her to get to a place where she was stable. They supervised visits with her and her three kids. They would keep her updated about things going on with her kids. They would talk with and built a positive relationship with her.
However, she struggled to do what was needed and ultimately it was determined that the three children needed to be adopted by a family. The McCaskeys stepped forward.
“We had such a positive relationship with their biological mom that she was happy we were adopting them,” said Brittany.
In December of 2020, the McCaskeys adopted Coby, Roxy, and Charly. Ultimately, the McCaskeys decided their time as foster parents at Coyote Hill was ending and they moved back to Palmyra in April of 2021.
In January of 2020, Coyote Hill expanded their operations and added another program to the services of their organization. In Columbia they were now recruiting, licensing, and supporting quality foster homes.
Brittany knew there was a need for this same kind of program in Hannibal. Brittany took the steps needed to become licensed to license foster homes and the Hannibal branch of Coyote Hill was officially opened in October of 2021.
Brittany now is the Hannibal Area Coordinator for Coyote Hill. She recruits, trains, licenses, and supports local foster families. Since opening Coyote Hill – Hannibal, McCaskey has now recruited and licensed nearly 30 foster homes.
She has coordinated support groups and trainings for these foster families and other professionals that work in the foster care field.
Through her work with Coyote Hill, Brittany is bringing the mission of Coyote Hill to life within the Hannibal Community and she exemplifies what it means to BE A LIGHT.
Coyote Hill was selected to benefit from United Way of the Mark Twain Area’s BE A LIGHT Campaign to ensure people in our community are empowered to achieve their potential.
Community members and businesses are encouraged to partner with United Way to be a light to individuals who rely upon the programs United Way helps fund. Individuals interested in financially supporting the efforts of United Way can give online at unitedwaymta.org or by mailing gifts to PO Box 81 Hannibal, Mo 63401.
This year’s BE A LIGHT Campaign will provide support to the following United Way Community Impact Agencies: AVENUES, Birthday Blessings, CHART Teen Task Force, Coyote Hill, Douglass Community Services, Families and Communities Together (FACT), Hannibal Free Clinic, Hannibal Parents as Teacher, Harvest Outreach Ministries, Hannibal Alliance for Youth Success, Heartland Resources, Inc., Learning Opportunities/Quality Works (LOQW), Monroe City Food Pantry, Northeast Community Action Corporation (NECAC), The Salvation Army of Hannibal, The Child Advocacy Center of Northeast Missouri, and the YMCA of Hannibal.
The United Way of the Mark Twain Area works towards the mission, “to increase the capacity of people to care for one another.” This is done by creating opportunities for individuals to give of their time, talents, and treasures to local organizations that work to empower all individuals to achieve their potential through education, financial stability, healthy lives, and equity.