As always, our work in foster care and adoptions is ﬁlled with much cause to celebrate as well as pain and grief. Quite often these diﬀerent threads are woven into the one fabric of a life. In the United States 129,000 children are awaiting adoption and TLC has done its part in ﬁnding adoptive homes for 33 children so far this year. We are also very excited to report that four of those 33 adopted children were teens! Teenage adoptions are still rare and we at TLC believe every child deserves a permanent, loving family no matter what their age. Last year 26,517 children turned 18 and left the foster care system without a family to support them through that incredibly diﬃcult transition to adult independence. It takes courage to adopt a teenager out of foster care and it takes courage for a teenager who has led a diﬃcult life to want to be adopted.
- When Matt and Jennifer Stevens followed their hearts into the Fost-Adopt Program at TLC in 2008, they met the outstretched hand of Jordan, then 15, who bravely opened her heart to what had in the past led to great pain: adoption. What she got instead of pain is a family with loving parents, adoring little sisters, and an extended family. With the support of TLC social workers and staﬀ to help the family negotiate the complicated road to adoption, they became a legal and forever family on October 9, 2009! Jennifer, the proud mother, said, “I’m not wealthy and I don’t have a bunch of money togive to help people, and I don’t have a lot of skills, but I can take care of kids, so that’s what I do.”
We react with horror when we learn of babies discarded in dumpsters or born addicted to drugs. We wonder how a mother could do such a wretched thing, and we worry about what is in store for the infants. One tiny victim of such a beginning may now have a bright future. Christian took his earliest breaths in a dumpster on a cold November day. For over seven and a half hours, the newborn fought to survive. He suﬀered a stroke. Blood coagulated in his brain and left a hole. By the time he was rescued, his body had begun shutting down. He wasn’t expected to live, but if he did survive, he would likely have serious brain damage. But he was a ﬁghter, and before long he was in a foster home awaiting adoption.
-Laura and Francisco Cousineau began the adoption process with the thought they would consider only children with mild or no disabilities. But when Laura saw a photo of Christian, she saw her son, and his list of disabilities and longterm prognosis didn’t scare her or Francisco. Christian was six months old when they met him, and he went home with them a month later. From the minute he came home, Laura and Francisco knew their son was capable of more than his medical records indicated. They were told he wouldn’t walk until he was maybe four, if at all. They were told he might never talk. He would always need a tremendous amount of care.
“I used my head and my imagination to come up with things for him to do and I gave him lots of love,” said Laura.
She began moving his arms and legs and pulling him into the sitting position. She talked to him as if he were capable of understanding. She read to him. Within weeks of coming home, Christian was able to sit up and reach for things. He could say “daddy” and a few other simple words. By his ﬁrst birthday, he could say quite a lot. At 14 months, he started walking. He celebrated his second birthday last month and Laura says he is almost completely potty trained. He is developmentally “normal” for his age! But more than anything, Laura says, he’s a happy little boy. Christian wasadopted on March 26, 2008 and in October there was a new source of happiness for Christian: seven-month-old Jasmine. He calls her his sister, and likes entertaining her by singing and dancing. Jasmine was exposed to drugs in-utero and survived a traumatic birth: she has brain damage and global developmental delays. Laura and Francisco give her the best of care and adopted her on October 16, 2009.
-Our decision to have teenage foster children was years in the making. When we were ready and started doing the research -TLC stood out as best suited for our family. The staﬀ was incredibly patient with our questions. They walked us through the process of readying our home and doing the paperwork. When it came time for placement of children, Rolf was reassuring and responsive. In our minds (and hearts) we knew we were in good hands!
Fast forward to now … we’ve added 2 beautiful, teenage, foster sons to our home and our social worker, Alexandra, is loved by the entire family. She’s a knowledgeable resource, helps navigate the system, and has been there for us to share in the laughter and the tears.
We really enjoy attending TLC’s ongoing events and classes because they’re held in a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. It’s a kaleidoscope of families all coming together in the name of love.
Because of TLC -the good times far outweigh any of the “bumps in the road”. We consider ourselves so lucky to be foster parents, thanks to TLC!
-Michael and I have enjoyed doing foster care for TLC now for the past ﬁve years. We adopted an 11-year-old boy in 2006 and are in the process of adopting two more children, ages 8 and 7. Since becoming foster parents we incurred much personal growth in knowledge and wisdom in helping children from diﬀerent backgrounds. TLC has provided us with much needed understanding, guidance, patience and the tools foster and adoptive parents need in order to be successful. Michael and I are both gifted in passion and commitment to family and are glad and thankful to be working with TLC.
-I have been a foster care mom for six incredible years. I am a pediatric nurse and have taken care of all kinds of sick children and occasionally physically abused children. More and more I began to realize the need for people to open their homes and embrace some of these children who needed homes, to show them love, security and what a family is all about… …Each child that came into my life was a precious gem, a diamond in the rough. Each child is so diﬀerent and so beautiful, they are precious gifts from God. When a child enters my home, I do not know how long I will have with him or her and just want to give them as much love and nurturing as I possibly can.
One evening, I picked up this beautiful, little 9-year-old girl. Doctors reported that she had many medical problems and took a lot of medications. She had numerous surgeries and wore diapers because she had a colostomy. All of this could be very overwhelming to the naked eye, but when I looked at her, I saw this beautiful gem just waiting for her chance to shine.
I took her home and my adventure with her began. She was the victim of a caregiver who had Munchausen Syndrome by proxy (a caregiver who lies to doctors about illnesses in the child). As time went on with her in my home, the doctors began to wean her oﬀ ALL medications! Eventually the doctors even reversed her colostomy so that she no longer needed a diaper!
I can’t describe her joy when she was able to wear regular underwear like other children! It was such a gift to see how excited she was when she started to realize that she wasn’t diﬀerent from other children. What a joyful moment when she received a phone call for her ﬁrst sleepover at a classmate’s home!
My heart burst with joy that I could be a part of this transformation! Just to know that I am making a huge diﬀerence in their lives warms my heart. Even more so, the huge diﬀerence they are making in my life is incredible. Through the tough times, diﬃcult decisions and tears, there is so much joy to be had and to share with these young children. There is also a lot of support along this path with good friends, neighbors, family and the support of TLC social workers. It is a journey that enriches all of us.
We applaud the eﬀorts of Matt, Jennifer, Laura, Francisco, and all the TLC parents whose acts of courage and love make astounding diﬀerences in the lives of children.
They are our heroes! TLC currently works with 88 families who are adopting or providing a foster home to children in need. A national survey in 2007 revealed that 48 million Americans have considered foster care adoption, yet too many have misperceptions about the process and the children who are eligible for adoption. We know that the adoption process might appear to be complex, confusing and daunting. We continue our outreach to the community to let them know that children need homes, it is not too diﬃcult to adopt and WE CAN HELP!
So many children in our North Bay Counties still need loving families.