Giving Older Foster Children a Family

by Kidsave International
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Giving Older Foster Children a Family
Giving Older Foster Children a Family
Giving Older Foster Children a Family
Burrito and avocado used in Throw-Throw game
Burrito and avocado used in Throw-Throw game

Despite the blazing Texas heat, seventeen kids in foster care in the Houston area met seventeen families considering forming a meaningful, long-lasting relationship including adoption through Kidsave’s Weekend Miracles Houston event!

For many kids in foster care, their life has been full of sudden changes, heartbreaking goodbyes, and starting over. This can create feelings of loneliness and abandonment, feelings we want to help eliminate.

At Houston’s event, it was raining burritos and avocados as everyone played, “Throw-Throw” -- a dodgeball/food fight/card game that lets you pelt others with soft toys shaped like food items. And yes, it is as fun as it sounds – and a great icebreaker! Some families and kids were shy initially, but that shyness melted away quickly in all the fun. There were some competitive spirits, but everyone made peace over pizza afterwards.

Growing up in foster care, kids can feel forgotten. At these events, Kidsave always try to help them feel special. One way is by celebrating their’ birthdays and giving them a unique birthday cake. At this event, we had two birthdays – Skyler celebrated his 15th birthday, and Tracy celebrated her 13th. We all gathered around to sing them the happy birthday song, gift them with a special cake, and help them experience a wonderful feeling of joy and inclusiveness.

New friendships started to form and blossom, and the seeds are now sown for these children to begin to trust adults again and open up to the idea that they are loveable and deserving of a caring family.

Playing Throw-Throw
Playing Throw-Throw
Getting to know you!
Getting to know you!

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Larry, Charles, and Kidsave staff on Adoption Day
Larry, Charles, and Kidsave staff on Adoption Day

For kids in government care, aging out can be a nightmare. It means being thrown out into the world without a solid support system and with limited resources. An overwhelming number of kids who age out find themselves homeless. This was a big fear for Charles, age 16.

Then he met Larry. Larry wanted to adopt for a while and had been a foster parent. He  was interested in mentorship since he'd often been placed in leadership roles growing up. “I didn’t run, but I was voted Vice President of my Little League,” he says. His desire to help younger people has continued and he always dreamed of adopting.

Charles and Larry met at a Kidsave event in July 2021 and instantly bonded over a love of nature. Larry has a background in law enforcement and military—two career paths that fascinated Charles. Larry was happy to answer Charles’ many questions about Army life.

From July to September of 2021, they met every weekend. They went fishing, hunting, and hiking, and had mid-week Zoom calls. Through these visits, they were able to get to know each other. Then in September, Charles left foster care behind and moved in with Larry.

Charles' life immediately changed for the better. He began laughing more, performing better in school, and working to pursue his dream of joining the Army. He began ROTC training to become an officer, and he says he couldn’t be happier.

Charles’ adoption was finalized on April 1st, 2022—Charles’ birthday! “I can finally put the past behind me and start all over again,” he said. When thinking of other kids in foster care, he gets a bit emotional. “Just never give up,” he says, “it may take time and seem hopeless, but there’s a family waiting for you.”

Like any parent, Larry wants Charles to soar despite turbulence. Larry added, “I do know it’s going to take time, especially since his childhood experience was unusual, but I hope one day he’s completely independent So what if we’re a little later than others. We’re still taking the journey.”

At the adoption, a Kidsave staff member said, “You could see the joy on Charles’ face when the judge announced him with his new last name!.”

At 17 years old, Charles is finally home.

Charles on a fishing trip with Larry
Charles on a fishing trip with Larry
Charles outdoors having fun with Larry
Charles outdoors having fun with Larry

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Sandy (standing) and Nerelyn, who needs a family
Sandy (standing) and Nerelyn, who needs a family

“Nothing’s better than watching a kid’s face light up when they begin making connections at our events.” That’s what Natalie, one of Kidsave’s adult volunteers, said at Kidsave’s annual holiday party for foster youth in Los Angeles.It's a day filled with food, arts and crafts and games plus many opportunities to connect with caring adults.

“I think the children recognize a sense of normalcy," she added. "Here they get a chance to laugh, to talk, to hang out with other children that are in their situation. They recognize that they’re completely accepted for who they are. Watching the kids run around and connect with people who could become their forever family is fantastic. It feels especially terrific during the holidays, as these kids will likely not have heartwarming family time over the next few weeks.”

Another volunteer, Sherri, said, “they’re meeting some wonderful, positive mentors and people that are interested in potentially adopting. It’s such a great way for older children in the system to meet positive influences and people that care about them.”

This party was extra special for the children because it included an extra memorable treat for the kids. A Kidsave Board member enlisted her family’s company to prepare personalized gift bags for all kids who came to the event. “We selected, purchased, and wrapped gifts for the kids, and these gifts are highly curated to exactly what their Christmas wishes were,” she said. “It’s really important that we let kids know that we see them as individuals, we care about them and what they want, and that we went out of our way to give them something they would think was special.”

As the event cane to a close, kids lined up with giant stockings and received their gifts. They were surprised and delighted when they opened their presents to see gifts that had been chosen specifically according to their wishes.

Wrapped gifts are one thing – fun and timely. But the permanent gift of a loving family is the very best gift and the gift that truly keeps on giving for a whole lifetime.

Akalya, who needs a family.
Akalya, who needs a family.
Destiny, who also needs a family.
Destiny, who also needs a family.
Giovanna hopes to meet the family of her dreams
Giovanna hopes to meet the family of her dreams

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Some enthusiastic hikers
Some enthusiastic hikers

Each step can bring a child in foster care closer to their forever family.

Here's some tangible proof!  Older children and teens in Los Angeles County foster care got a chance to hike at the beautiful Kenneth Hahn state recreation area on a perfect day last Saturday. They also met people who support their desire for a life-long connection to a stable, loving family, parent or mentor. It was more than a hike. It was a chance for matches to be made between children and potential hosts—caring adults who commit to serving as a support system champion, and who could become their adoptive parents. At least four of these children met people who were a "match" -- adults they want to get to know better!

“Hike with your heart” is an annual event that brings together kids in the Los Angeles County foster care system and adults with open hearts who want to get to know them. It’s also a kind of family reunion – with families who have gotten to know and adopted children through Kidsave’s program over the years. It’s a day to relax, play outdoors, hike at a park with spectacular views of Los Angeles and feel the warmth and potential connection of new friends as they get to know each other during a leisurely hike.

Kidsave’s Weekend Miracles program has brought people together for decades now, and in the process created families. The ripple effect was evident at this hike, where families who have already connected with kids laugh and play with kids and prospective parents and mentor who seek those connections. The camaraderie is vibrant and catching! Here, a great breakfast and lunch, and the chance to be outdoors in a warm and loving environment is fun and filling it has another advantage for the kids in foster care. They all get to return home with their choice of a pair or trendy new sneakers and backpacks! 

This year, for the first time, Kidsave also held a nationwide hike a week earlier, so that friends everywhere could participate, form their own teams and raise funds and friends for Kidsave’s work. They hiked in local parks or just their own neighborhood. They all connected virtually for an hour during the hike using an app that enabled them to upload photos and chat – almost like being in person.  

Foster youth deserve and need the love and guidance of a stable, responsible and committed adult to help them succeed in life and feel hope in their future. Kidsave is working to help more kids growing up alone to make those connections and find the love and hope that is missing in their young lives.

 

Photos by Amanda Iyana Michaels

Enjoying the fun and sun together!
Enjoying the fun and sun together!
Just enjoying it all!
Just enjoying it all!

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Jeremiah, Sam and Milton -- a family!
Jeremiah, Sam and Milton -- a family!

At the young age of four, Jeremiah was placed in the Los Angeles foster care system where he lived for the next six years, dreaming of finding the loving family he longed for. Jeremiah’s life turned around when he joined Kidsave’s Weekend Miracles program. And while Jeremiah looked for a loving family, Sam and Milton searched for a way to welcome a child into their lives.

Two worlds collided at one of Kidsave’s weekend advocacy events. “Little did we know that we’d meet the most amazing little guy in the world on our very first Kidsave event,” recalls Sam. It was at a bowling alley in downtown Los Angeles. Before the bowling games began, kids and adults mingled around board games. Sam and Milton stopped by a table and began to play a game of Connect Four. Their opponent was none other than Jeremiah.

“Looking back, it seems that some things are just meant to be, and when you are fortunate enough to make that kind of meaningful connection with another human being, you have to take full advantage of it,” says Sam.

Sam and Milton continued to get to know Jeremiah during Kidsave events until just a few months later, in May of 2019, Jeremiah moved into their home. “At that point, we became a family,” says Sam. “We spent every day together.” Sam and Milton favored spending their free time playing outdoors and hiking, as well as coming up with new family traditions with Jeremiah.

“It had been a couple of months, and everything is as wonderful as we’d dreamed it would be,” said Sam. “He’s an amazing kid and fits in so nicely with our family.” One of the biggest surprises Sam and Milton discovered was how well their parenting techniques worked together. Sam considers himself to be more of a “taskmaster,” while Milton is more of the “warm and fuzzy” type.

After 14 months in the program and a year and a half since Jeremiah met Sam and Milton, Jeremiah accepted Sam and Milton’s adoption plans. “The stars aligned for our family, and Kidsave has become kind of a second family,” said Sam. “Kidsave will be there for you throughout the process and will celebrate with you when your adoption is finalized.”

In the spirit of new beginnings, Jeremiah legally changed his name to Andreas. “There will be no more social workers, no more courts, no more therapists, and no more bouncing from home to home,” Sam and Milton explained to Andreas. “From now on, it’s all about all of us spending time together, you, your friends, and school. We’re a regular family.” “We really can’t imagine our lives without him anymore,” expressed Sam and Milton.

Now that Sam and Milton are parents, they have tweaked their parenting techniques in ways that have surprised them. “We have ended up switching our roles and learning from one another how to be the best parents we can be,” says Sam. “Our number one rule in the house is to have respect for each other and others.”

With Sam and Milton’s help, Andreas now has the support and resources he needs to excel in the 6th grade and become whoever he dreams of becoming in the future. “He can now focus on doing whatever makes a 12-year-old happy,” says Sam. “Ride bikes with his friends, eat chips, play video games, whatever he wants! The most important thing for him to understand is that no matter what he goes through or what he feels from his tough past, we’re not going anywhere. We’re family.”

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Kidsave International

Location: Culver City, CA - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @Kidsave_Intl
Project Leader:
Lauren Gordon
Culver City, CA United States
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