Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Home for the Holidays

If you enjoyed hearing some of our Iowa foster care adoption stories this past November, then you won't want to miss this:

CBS will air its 14th annual "A Home for the Holidays" special on Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. (Central time), featuring powerful foster care adoption stories and musical performances by an all-star cast.

Brought to you by Wendy's, the Children's Action Network, Triage Productions and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Save the date!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Leslie's Story

Thank you to all the families who shared a National Adoption Month reflection with us this November! It's been truly powerful to read the unique and personal perspectives of families who have adopted through the foster care system. 

Today's story is from a mother who shares how becoming a foster and adoptive parent is an adventure of lifelong learning,

Leslie's Story

"My family has a mission field in our home.  We have two biological children and two adoptive children currently at the ages of 7, 6, 5, and 4.  Our adoption journey with Iowa began a little over a year ago, and we've been blessed to have a foster placement and adoption finalization all in that time.  It is not without its challenges.  While we had few legal battles, we have our share of meeting emotional needs of all of our children.  People talk about how flexible children are, and while they can endure, there is still hurt.  

We try to discuss those emotions of leaving families, moving, sharing time and attention with new siblings, and kind words, to name a few, before they become behaviors.  Even in those days where everything seems to be balanced (you know, contentment, smiles, and playing together among the laundry piles and dirty dishes), we realize how fragile the memories are under the surface.

Our adoption journey has challenged us to do things we'd never dreamed of.  I now homeschool one of our sons in order to work on the attachment and behavior training that he didn't get when he was younger.   The conversations I have with my young children are some I'd never planned until my children were much older, but their history requires me to do this for them.  I have learned to discipline with empathy and words.  Not that I had ever wanted to use corporal punishment, but this gave me the reason to learn new discipline strategies.  And finally, it is a huge challenge to be a parent who has to directly teach a child to trust you.  

We've only been doing this for a year, and there are days when I wonder how I'll ever make it through.  I look up to the families who have done this for years, and especially those who continue to help child after child.  I assume the joys will bring us through all the tough lessons that it is our responsibility to teach. I delight in watching my children have new experiences as we travel with them. It is wonderful to see them learn about Jesus and his unconditional love that they yearn for. I am glad that my children will learn to empathize and serve others through what goes on in our home.  I can't imagine what other life lessons are in store for us after this first year."

- Leslie

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Shirley's Story

Today's National Adoption Month story is an inspiring reflection by a family who didn't expect to adopt, but ultimately ended up forming a meaningful and permanent bond with both a sibling group and their biological mother.

Shirley's Story

"Back when my oldest son was in high school, my sister asked me if we had ever thought about becoming foster parents.  We were so busy with our own kids that I didn’t consider the thought, but the seed was planted.  I started working at school as a paraeducator (teacher’s aide) about that same time, and I knew about some of the kids that were in foster care.

Later, I presented the idea of becoming foster parents to my husband.  Our daughter was in eighth grade and the others (we had two boys and five girls until we adopted) were out of the house. So, here we sat with a quiet, almost empty, five bedroom house and Katie (our eight grader and only one home at the time) was excited about the idea.

We got our license in June of 2007.  We got the three kids that we have adopted a year and a half later and have had them ever since.  

I can remember a conversation that I was having with my sister at one time earlier. I said to her, “Don’t you think that a child would be better off taken out of the birth family’s home?” and I will never forget her answer. “That is all that child has ever known and that is all they want, no matter how bad we think it may be," she said.

That comment has stuck with me throughout the years, and it is so true.  No matter how good of a life we think we can give these children, it may not be what they truly need or want.  

The birth mother of the three children we eventually adopted had gone away for intensive rehabilitation due to domestic violence and drugs.  When she came back, I could see she was struggling, getting back into the same crowd, not showing up for appointments, making excuses why she couldn’t call or do visits as expected. 

It was very evident that she loved them and they loved her. I could see so clearly what she needed to do to get her kids back, and to me it was so simple. I would ask myself all the time, "Why couldn't she put them first?" I told my social worker once what I would do if she was my daughter. And he put it into perspective for me, reminding me that she may not have had a mother who supported her. That is when I started having empathy for her situation. I would tell prospective families to keep an open mind. Don't be judgmental, and be open to a birth family's differences for that is all the kids know and they love their parents. I always try to think that if it was my daughter in that situation, I would want someone to help her out.

Eventually, we asked her if she would ever think about giving us guardianship or letting us adopt the kids.  She was very appreciative that we would do that for the kids and would give it some thought.

We eventually did adopt them, and after adoption, their birth mom continues to visit once a week for approximately an hour. This has helped tremendously in keeping the kids stable.  She has expressed her appreciation for what we are doing for her kids many times.  We had an adoption party the day of the adoption and she came before the big crowd of people showed up. 

She had voluntarily decided to terminate her parental rights, and about a week before the termination court date she and I sat down with the kids to tell them.  

I think she said it perfectly: “This isn’t the perfect solution, but you will only have that many more people to love you. Shirley and Ed will take good care of you."

And she is so right. If we can keep working together, they will have a whole tribe of people to love and care for them.  

The ultimate goal for my whole family is to make a difference in the life of a child, in this case being, the lives of our three special children!"

- Shirley

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Kaylynn's Story

Today's National Adoption Month story is a beautiful reflection from 19-year-old Kaylynn on what it meant to be adopted by her aunt and uncle and her admiration for the impact they have had on her life and in the lives of other kids. 

Thank you to the many relative families in Iowa who come forward when a child they love needs a home!

Kaylynn's Story

"I came to their home in 1997 as a frightened, scared little 3-year-old. My brother, a newborn, had just been discharged from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I think at first we were all frightened. They had three children, ages 14, 13 and 10. They were so excited to welcome us!

Our new foster parents were also our aunt and uncle. They watched us play; discover new experiences, loved us and made us feel secure. They sought therapy for me, and helped me to overcome issues I had suffered from my past. Our birth parents continued to work on parenting and addiction issues; to this day they’ve never been able to overcome. The weeks turned into months, the months into years and we were not reunified with our birth parents. 

Our foster parents became mom and dad to us and we don’t remember any different. We were adopted when my brother was two and I was five. Our parents have never shown partiality between any of us five children. We all were loved the same, had the same opportunities in life and they continue to be there for all of us.

I have never thought of my new family as any less than my real family, my mom, dad, brothers and sister. I am so grateful for foster parents (aunt and uncle)! I continue to have an admiration for what my parents have done for my brother and I and continue to do for other children and families in need.

I am currently 19 years old and recently became a mother to a beautiful daughter! I am so grateful I had the opportunity to live in a home where unconditional love was shown and experienced firsthand the difference a healthy mother and father can make."

Thank you for letting me share my story!"

- Kaylynn 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bonnie's Story

In addition to a supportive home, sometimes additional resources, such as counseling or skill-building, are needed to help children in foster care gain stability or build new skills for success. That's part of the reason why Iowa offers a unique post-adoption support service to help families and children weather challenges long after an adoption is finalized. For today's National Adoption Month story, an adoptive mother shares her family's journey of patience, advocacy and love to provide a trusted environment for a child to succeed.

Bonnie's Story

"When our little girl  came to us, she was only three years old. Her diagnosis of severe Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) was soon substantiated. This little girl did not want to be touched, held, or rocked. If we tried to read her at bedtime story, she would push us off her bed. It took us a bit of time to figure out her boundaries and the triggers that would cause her huge meltdowns. We soon learned that transitions were very hard for her – whether it be shutting off the TV, taking a toy out of her hands when it was time to clean up, or basically any change in activity. At times, these triggers would send her into repeated screaming fits that could last up to an hour. I cannot even begin to tell you the number of times that I considered giving my 10-day notice. Her behavior helped explain why I was home #4 in the short 18 months she had been in foster care. 

However, there was something about this little girl that immediately captured our hearts. Day by day we began to learn more about her and see the sweet little innocence that laid beneath her thick exterior wall. I soon discovered that she was ticklish so I would swoop her up, blow on her tummy, and immediately set her back down so I wasn’t in her personal space too long; she loved our new little game and would giggle every time I repeated these actions.  This is how she began learning that our touch was ok. I also began researching RAD and attending as many foster care trainings as I could find about this disorder. It simply broke my heart to think how this little 3-year-old gorgeous blue-eyed child was fearful of close relationships and letting anyone into her tiny little world to love her. 

A note from Bonnie's daughter

But we did fall in love with her and as an experienced parent with years of parenting under my belt, I also knew that emotionally she would not survive another move.  Although I knew that she came with many challenges (including some developmental delays and ADHD), it didn’t take us long to decide that we wanted to adopt her once discovering that she would need an adoptive home.  We wanted to be her forever family and home. I remember approaching this then 4-year-old with the idea of becoming part of our family and having me be her new mom.  She looked at me with some apprehension in her eyes but still said she thought that would be ok (which I think was the best she could do). I promised her that I would always love her and that we would always take care of her. Then I held my breath until the adoption was final.

I cannot even begin to tell you of all the joys this darling little girl brings to our lives! This now 11-year-old is bright, loving, compassionate, and displays a terrific sense of humor. We give many thanks to the private Christian school we chose because the teachers and staff have been outstanding. We knew she needed a small student teacher ratio and teachers who were willing to build a close loving relationship with her because of her RAD and general trust issues. She has done so well that I many times forget where she started.  

Medication management is still a part of our daily routine and certain challenges can still arise but these are small prices to pay for the many blessings we receive. Two years after her adoption, we adopted another foster child who is as much her younger sister as any biological sister could be. Both of these girls are not just a part of our family; they are part of our hearts just as if I physically bore them myself. Don’t ever doubt what a loving home, proper medication management, counseling, and a trusting safe environment can do to heal the hearts and lives of these wounded children. Our lives would not be complete without these special children in our lives and in our hearts."

- Bonnie

Monday, November 26, 2012

Micaela's Story

"Don't give up hope. Instead, make hope for others."

Many people may not know that sometimes, for various reasons, an adoption does not work out as hoped. For today's National Adoption Month story, we received a brave reflection from a 17-year-old adoptee, Micaela, who went through a difficult journey in finding a family. Here is her perspective on how her story unfolded, in her own courageous words.

Click each image below to see Micaela's story.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Friday, November 23, 2012

Kathy's Story

You might be surprised at how much you have to offer as a foster parent! Today's National Adoption Month post is a story of how a family was unexpectedly asked to open their heart and home to two children who needed an adoptive home and the journey that then unfolded.

Kathy's Story

"We were the parents of three biological children. Life was clicking along and we thought our family was complete, even though we both had feelings of not being ready to be “finished." We had family members and friends who had adopted through foster care. We used to talk of adoption in these very unrealistic terms: “If we ever won the lottery, we’d have more kids!” Little did we know the “more kids” were coming, even without the lottery win!

Our friends, who have had many foster children in their home throughout the years, called us around Christmas time in 2001. They had two little girls in their care who were going to need a “forever family” and would we want to consider adding them to our family?
We asked if we could meet the girls and so our families got together the week between Christmas and New Year's. All it took was looks from their big blue eyes and smiles from their beautiful little faces during that one brief interaction to know that God had intended these two girls to be our daughters, just as he had intended our other three children to be ours. We asked, “What do we have to do for them to be ours?” and the process was started right away for us to take our classes and become licensed foster parents. It was a HUGE leap of faith for us, as that fall we had five children from a kindergartener to a high school senior. Adoption Day was just over a year later, on Valentine’s Day!

So here we are over ten years later. Our little girls are almost grown! The road has had its share of twists and turns, rocks and pot holes, joy and happiness. But no matter what, they are forever ours and we are forever ever changed because of them. No, we didn’t know they were coming, but words can’t describe how glad we are they came!"

- Kathy

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Randall, Steven and Daniel's Stories

Happy Thanksgiving! For today's National Adoption Month series, we have powerful reminders from three children, all who were adopted by the same family, about what it means to be thankful for family.

My Family is the Best

My mom is the best cook.
My dad is the best Nerf gun shooter.
My brother Steven is the best bike rider.
My brother Daniel is the best swimmer.
and I am the best diver.

I love my mom,
my dad,
my brothers
and my cousins.
We are the Best Family

My life was not always the best.
I had to move around a lot.
My first family could not take good care of me.
I had to be in foster care.
I Hated That!

I miss my first family.
I miss my sister from foster care.

My forever family is so nice to me.
I love my forever family,
My mom,
My dad,
And my brothers.

We Are The Best Family!!!

- Written by Randall, at age 7

My Early Years

"My terrifying early years. I was born in the year 2000 (that was in the 20th century in case you didn't know) in Winchester, Virginia, at Winchester Region Hospital. I am not aware of what time I was born because I no longer living with my birth parents. When I was 20 months old, my older brother Randy and I were taken away because of neglect. I spent the next few years in foster care. I moved 10 times within 2 years. When I was 4, I was placed with my current family Joy and Brian Linn.

When we came to live with the Linns, they had a little toddler who was also from foster care. They also had a teenage girl who was also in foster care. I was very hard to adjust at first, because I was scared I would have to move again. But the Linns became my forever family. Today I really enjoy playing sports and spending time with my family."

- Written by Steven, age 12

Why I Want a Foster Sister

"Hello, my name is Daniel, and I am 10 years old. I like playing with Legos, playing on the computer and watching TV. My brothers like to play sports all the time. I sometimes get bored playing sports with them. They are more into sports than I am. I would really like to have a foster sister to play with. I think having a foster sister would be fun. I will play with her and I will tell her about the Bible. I would always be kind to her. I could push her stroller when we go on walks. I will help her buckle her seatbelt and I will hold her hand when we cross the street. I will comfort her if she was sad. I know what it is like to not be with my birth parents. I will try to help her feel better. I will struggle up with her and give her one of my stuffed animals. I will try to cheer her up by acting crazy and making her laugh. I think people should be foster parents because then your kids will have friends to play with. Foster children should have nice homes with good foster parents. It is hard being away from your birth parents but having good foster parents makes it easier."

- Written by Daniel, age 10

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sandra's Story

Some of our foster families have told us that being a foster parent is the "hardest job you'll ever love." Today's National Adoption Month story is a poignant reflection along these lines.

Sandra's Story

“No!” My heart was screaming. “I’m not ready for this! I can’t take another loss!”

I can still feel the ache in my chest when I think about that day…….about that phone call almost two years ago.

It was March, and only 31 days earlier I had experienced the most excruciating loss of a little boy– a boy who called me “mom” and my husband “dad." He was the most amazing little boy, who although he had severe special needs, had captured the heart of all who had met him and most especially of our family. He had been our foster son for almost two years and we had been asked to adopt him. But in a painful twist of the system, he and his 7-year- old brother had gone home, and my heart was hurting.

Then, a month later I answered the phone from Iowa Kids Net…..hoping it was them needing to return my son. But it was for another child - a 3-year-old girl. She had brothers who were being placed with another family, and she needed a home, they said, for six months. I wasn’t sure I was ready to put so much of myself into another child and experience the agony of loss again.

But being a foster/ adoptive parent is not about me. It’s about the many hurting children who need a safe place to call home…...for two days, for two years or for forever. And I knew that God had not called our family to foster for selfish gain, but to be His instruments in the lives of those who needed to know LOVE.

And so I took a deep breath…...and I said “yes”.

I met this little girl, her two brothers and their foster parents in the ER that night. She seemed so fearless and outgoing. But the fear and terror that gripped her when she had to say goodbye to her brothers in the parking lot when we drove our separate ways will be etched in my mind forever. On the drive home, my mind was screaming “I know her pain! I can relate to her loss!”

That night and for many nights to come, I lay next to that little girl, rubbing her back, and soothing her to sleep. She had big losses to overcome. Ones that were not her fault and she couldn’t control. And I knew that even though my heart was breaking, I could choose to offer her comfort and patience and understanding, because in many ways I knew her pain.

It has now been almost two years since that March phone call. That little girl is now our precious daughter.

As I type this, my tears are flowing and my heart still hurts at the loss of our “sons." But I sit here with a list of blessings that far outweigh the pain. My daughter is safe. She is loved and she is healing.

We had an amazing Adoption Day. Our two foster families shared the same courtroom and experience. We had so many friends and family attend our celebration that we were moved to another courtroom…...and we filled that one too.

That day our family didn’t just grow by one. We grew by many! All eight of “our” kids consider each other family. And I love my new sister and her husband. We live only minutes apart and we have visits with each other every week we possibly can.

Our daughter experienced an unbelievable loss that March, but our two families knew that fostering and adopting was not about meeting our own needs, but doing the absolute best for those who needed us.

I will always be thankful for my two years of mothering my “sons,” and today I am learning to say that I am thankful for that painful loss. Because I know that God had a bigger purpose for us. He knew our daughter needed us as HER “Mommy” and “Daddy,” and that together we could help each other heal from our painful pasts."


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sue's Story

We've been thankful this month to have adoptive parents share their family stories and personal perspectives with us for National Adoption Month. Here's another family story for our "30 Days of Adoption" series!

Sue's Story

"I’ve always wanted to be a parent, but as a single, 35-year-old woman, I wasn’t sure how best to go about it.  Luckily, someone mentioned foster parenting and it stuck with me.  It was a long road through the licensing and training process, but God nudged me along the way a couple of times.  I’ve been fostering for 8+ years now and have seen many kids come and go. 

It’s funny, because after a few years, I had decided not to take any more girls (too much drama).  But then Iowa KidsNet called, and I felt a strong nudge to at least meet this little five-year-old girl.  When we met, she was shy, but sweet, and we just clicked.  She moved in a week later, and she’s been with me ever since.  We look so much alike that the kids at school accuse her of lying when she tells them she’s adopted.  I’ve even had other parents tell me she’s telling stories about being adopted and they are astonished when I tell them she truly was adopted.

She’s like me in other ways too, both a bit picky and headstrong.  But we both carry on trying, no matter what, too.  We never give up, even if something is hard.  She told me just last night that she hasn’t yet found anything she wasn’t good at.  I explained that there have been tons of things that she wasn’t good at, at first (it took her nearly a year at five to learn to ride a bike as she didn’t have the proper muscle development).  But she doesn’t give up and then she gets better at it.  It’s one of the things I love most about her. 

The process is sometimes painful, saying goodbye to kids you love is hard.  It hurts deeply.  But finding one you get to keep forever is worth everything you go through and more.  I am forever changed by it and I’m so thankful to have my beautiful daughter.  I love her more than I ever thought was possible.  She is a rare child and she was old enough to appreciate the differences in her first home life and mine.  She wrote a short autobiography paper recently for school.  In it, she says she is thankful that her parents let me adopt her.  Given their own situation, it was the best thing they could do for her.  I’m convinced God made her for me.  It just took five years and a few nudges to get us together."

- Sue

Event this evening

If you're in the Des Moines area and would still like to attend a National Adoption Month, we'll be holding our final candlelight ceremony this evening in Urbandale! Time and place here. This event raises awareness about the need for children to have permanent connections to a caring, supportive adult and the bright potential that shines in every child.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"I don't want to move no more"

Iowa's waiting children are lucky to have a wonderful advocate in Iowa, Ron Steele of KWWL-TV, who has been airing stories about children who need families for over 25 years. Today's "30 Days of Adoption" story is a wonderful reflection by a family who was initially inspired to help by Ron's "Iowa's Child" segment.

"I don't want to move no more"

"We felt ourselves blessed when our biological son was born into our family 10 years ago.  However, we knew that having a second child would not be an option for us.  When he was 3, we started learning more about foster care as we began to research Iowa's Child on KWWL.  Wouldn't providing a home to a child be a great opportunity for us?

As we began doing foster care we quickly discovered this wasn't about us.  This was about children.  They were in need of love and a safe home.  What an impact each child has had on us.

Our biological son was 5 when our two adopted sons (2 and 4 years old at the time) came into our home. We adopted them 9 months later during National Adoption Month.  The judge said we'd be back - apparently he knew more then than we did.  

The boys had two older biological sisters whom we were asked if we could also foster.  Our first inclination was to say no, we have to think about the boys who are now part of our family and we couldn't possibly care for two more children.  The girls came for a visit and all seemed right.  They needed to be together.  They needed to be part of a family with their brothers and we needed them to balance, what I call blood (boys) and drama (girls). It actually wasn't more difficult to care for the additions. Instead, it was a great fit for all.  The clincher was the note we found that our oldest daughter wrote.  It read, "Thank you God for my live that I have.  But, I have to move alot and it was not fun for me.  But I can't stop moving.  But, I don't want to move no more.  Amen."
Together we make a family.  Life certainly has its ups and downs, but we wouldn't change how our family was created.  We have a daughter who has a smile that never quits and an aspiration to own a bakery (also means she loves to help in the kitchen).  A son who knows more about technology and how to manipulate mom than most of us will ever know.  Another daughter who takes time to watch the butterflies while she is playing a ball game and, of course, makes sure we notice.  Another son whom we may never figure out, quiet, smart, and very athletic.  And last, but certainly not least is our youngest child, he knows how to put a smile on your face.  However, being the youngest means he also takes absolutely no responsibility for anything.  Life is good!"

(This family would like to remain anonymous.)

National Adoption Day stories

On Saturday's National Adoption Day, approximately 4,500 children across the country were adopted from foster care! Here's a few great stories from Adoption Day events right here in Iowa:

Local ceremonies celebrate National Adoption Day - Omaha World-Herald

Creating forever families - Webster City Daily Freeman Journal

Davenport celebrates Adoption Day -

Davenport celebrates Adoption Day - CBS 4

Siouxland kids celebrate new families during Adoption Day - Sioux City Journal

New homes found for 11 Siouxland foster children - KCAU

Kids get 'forever families' - Fort Dodge Messenger News

Families welcome in new members, taking part in Adoption Day, KTVO

Once an orphan, teenage girl finds new home in Iowa, KWWL

Adoption Day celebrates new beginnings, Quad-City Times