Monday, November 22, 2010

Finding a forever family at 19

Yesterday the Des Moines Register ran a terrific feature about a 19-year-old  in Des Moines who was adopted this year, after aging out of foster care and wondering if she would ever have a permanent family. It's similar to the story we shared last week about another young adult, Larry, 21, who will be adopted this month.

I had the privilege of talking to Sam in the weeks leading up to her adoption this summer, and she's an amazing young person. Congratulations to Sam and her family as we celebrate National Adoption Month!

My favorite quote from her in the Register's story: "Now you have a family. Now you have somewhere to go for the holidays, someone to call for advice, to celebrate birthdays," Sam said. "For the first time ever, I have someone to call Dad. I have someone to walk me down the aisle. My children will have a grandpa."

Powerful stuff. You can read the full story here.

Want to learn about how you can support youth aging out of foster care? Two great places to start are Foster Club and Elevate, a local youth advocacy organization here in Iowa.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Balloon release video

Thanks to everyone who made our balloon release for National Adoption Month a success! Check out the video of some of the celebrations around the state.

Adopted at 21

Some stories truly melt your heart.

Last Christmas I had the opportunity to talk to a family in western Iowa who was in the process of adopting their former foster son, now an adult. Sometimes these journeys take time, and so I was so excited this month to hear from the mother, Renee, that her family will be finally be adopting Larry this Thanksgiving.

It's pretty rare for a teen in foster care to be adopted, let alone a 21-year-old. Larry came to live with this family when he was just 13, facing some tough issues. "He was only our second foster placement," said Renee, "and he was in residential care at the time, waiting to be adopted. We drove 3 and half hours every weekend to visit him before he came to live with us."

Larry and the family still had a tough road ahead of them. He had greater needs then the family could meet at the time, and so he moved back to treatment and other homes for several years. But he always managed to keep finding his way back to Renee's family. And now he's finding ways to help others.

"I was an EMT when Larry first lived with us," said Renee, "and he would always tell kids at school that he was dispatching his mom to calls."

 Larry's the one being dispatched now, after he recently earned his EMT certification and a job with the ambulance crew at his local fire department. It's easy to see who inspired him to achieve that dream.

"It's amazing that something could have such an impact in such a short amount of time," said Renee.

We hope this family has a seriously amazing Thanksgiving together and a time of celebration. Each year 29,000 youth age out of foster care without ever finding a forever family or having the support of a caring adult in their life to help them succeed.

Here's the truth of National Adoption Month. Everyone deserves a permanent, safe and loving place to call home. Larry's story reminds us that we're never too old to find family or create that family with the people who are closest to us.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A coffee break with Jason

Today we’re excited to share another family’s foster care and adoption journey with you! Jason and Chuck have adopted five children from foster care in the past four and half years.

Hi! Thanks for sharing your great story with us! Tell us a little about your family and how your journey began.

Jason: We’ve fostered seven children in the past four and half years. We adopted five of them. The other two were infants and we wanted to adopt them also. Their mother was sick from child birth, but was able to get well enough to get her children back. It was wonderful she got better and we were happy to help. When they were able to go home, we sent them home with bags of new clothes. The parents were grateful for everything we did for those girls. Sometimes people tell us they could never foster because it would break their hearts to ever see the kids leave and go back to their birth parents.

I learned that this is a backwards way of thinking. We do not foster just to make ourselves feel good. We foster to give children a safe and loving home. Sometimes that can be for a lifetime, but sometimes it is just for a few weeks. The truth of the matter is that even though we fostered those girls for just a few weeks, we felt good knowing we helped them and their family in a time of need.

How did you end up adopting?

We got a phone call about a baby girl and her one year old brother. They were in a foster home and in need of an adoptive home. We drove to their town to meet them. A couple of days later they were in our home and a year later we were in court adopting them! Besides these two children, we also adopted three other boys. Two of these boys are biological brothers, and the third boy is their cousin. It was important to us to keep those family connections.

What advice would you give to other people considering becoming foster or adoptive parents?

I remember getting my hair cut by a young woman at Cost Cutters and telling her about my kids and the adoptions. She and her husband had no children. She always wanted to adopt, but her husband feared if they tried to adopt a foster child the child might go back to the birth parents. He didn’t want to risk that pain. Every time I got my hair cut I told her about the free classes to learn more about fostering and adoption. I explained that sometimes there are children in foster care who are already available for adoption, and there is no fear of those kids returning home.

I always wondered if this woman took my advice, and about a year later I ran into her at a rummage sale. She came up to me all in smiles, and she was excited to tell me they were in the process of adopting a baby girl! Last week I ran into her again and her two year old daughter was with her. I felt so happy inside knowing this child would be raised in such a loving home. I always wonder how many other loving families would adopt or foster if they knew the facts about it. And if they knew the blessings.

Make no mistake. It takes a lot of hard work. Parenting any child is work. But when you adopt children from the foster care system, they often have more issues than your average kid. They need a safe and loving home and parents they can depend on. It’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done in many ways. But it’s also the best blessing we’ve ever had in our life.

People always say to us, “Thank God that these children were lucky enough to get you as parents.” I always tell them they have that backwards. We are the lucky ones to have these children in our lives!

Iowa's truly lucky to have some amazing foster and adoptive parents. If you're on Facebook, be sure to check out our Blind Side giveaway today. Each Wednesday in November we're giving away one copy of the hit film The Blind Side. See details here on Facebook. Thanks!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy National Adoption Month!

Happy National Adoption Month! Today's the first day of a month-long whirlwind of raising awareness about the 114,000 children in the U.S. who are waiting to be adopted from foster care. It's also a time to celebrate the people who make a difference in their lives - foster and adoptive families, caseworkers, advocates, volunteers, mentors and many others.

I've already had the privilege of hearing some great adoption stories today. Hopefully we'll have the chance to share some of these with you throughout the month!

As we start this month of celebration, enjoy this video from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, reminding us of what it's all about:

P.S. To say thanks for helping us spread the word this November, we'll be hosting a fun little giveaway on Facebook. Join us on Facebook each Wednesday in November for the chance to win a free copy of the movie The Blind Side. Hope to see you there!