• To develop permanent family connections for youth in foster care who cannot safely return home
• To center recruitment efforts on each youth’s individual desires for family support
• To prepare and support families before and after each permanency placement
Sometimes the best adoption placement decision for siblings is within two separate families that can give them the individual attention and support they need, while at the same time preserving and nurturing their sibling bond. Kelly and Joseph (who now goes by Joe) are two such youth.
Kelly's family dream was fulfilled in May of 2009 in the form a single dad. He has two older adopted teenagers. These older brothers proved to be positive role models who understand how Kelly feels and have helped him transition into a new community, new school and a life filled with the family activities and sports he loves.
Joe was matched about one year after his brother. He wanted to be adopted by a family with other children still in the home. He now has an adoptive sister close to his own age, and they are described as "two peas in a pod" and have become very bonded playments. Joe's family lives just half a day's travel from Kelly's. More important than the physical distance is the easy communication that flows between these two brothers, by e-mail and by phone, and all of this with the approval of both families.
Kelly's father, Bernie, and Joe's parents listened to caseworkers and counselors and agreed that these brothers should stay in contact after the transition to their adoptive families was secure.
Bernie said, "That became an important role...for me to facilitate that. I find that they are encouraging each other. Joe would say, 'I'm really struggling with school, 'cause it's so different.' And Kelly would say, 'Yeah I had that same problem when I got here.' There were problems related to the past that they were each working through; school, friendships, etc." According to Bernie, listening occasionally to these conversations as the boys talked to each other on the car's speakerphone, he gained insight into what each boy had experienced in their birth family and how it had challenged their ability to function normally as siblings. Now, within the security of separate families, separate focuses, they were beginning to forge healthier bonds with each other. "It's so much fun to hear them laugh together and encourage each other."
Joe's adoptive parents, Heidi and Mark, report that their son is looking forward to baseball, swimming and a visit with his brother, Kelly, this summer. They said Joe's conversations at least once a week with Kelly have been tremendously positive. Joe has been able to take a new turn academically and socially. He is active in scouting and enjoys many new activities that boost his self-esteem. Joe's ADHD is an ongoing challenge. Heidi and Mark report that keeping him involved in multiple extracurricular activities is helping this boy rise to those challenges and build his feelings of competence. His continued relationship with Kelly has definitely enhanced those feelings.
At the conclusion of an interview by phone with Kelly's dad, Bernie, we asked him what advise he would give to families who are considering adopting a teenager. He replied, "I always acknowledge their past; where they came from. Kelly was playing basketball the other day and I was enjoying all the mannerisms and different things he does and recognized that those came from experiences with someone else. I acknowledge and appreciate those things." Bernie also shared the ways he embraces each boy's life, before and after they entered his life.
"Another thing an adoptive parent can do, whether it's a younger child or a teenager...because every individual wants to hear their story and know that they have worth. I've created a story in the third person. Then you read this story back to them. 'Once upon a time there was this boy who...' and you insert some of the things they've experienced. Every one of them likes to hear his story and you can bring in healing parts that acknowledge their strengths, problem solving and ability to adapt to different situations. Storytelling is a great way to get through, and you don't have to find a way through barriers that they might throw up otherwise. It can be very therapeutic."