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

Despite the need to social distance these days, Kidsave is finding new ways to continue to give older foster youth in Los Angeles County a voice and a choice, and the chance to meet and build relationships that can lead to permanent connections with caring families and adults. We immediately moved our events to a virtual format, so that the Weekend Miracles kids still have the chance to connect with families who are interested in hosting and adoption in a fun and safe way.

Along with new promising connections, Kidsave is supporting and celebrating families who have already been matched. Recently, four of Kidsave’s Weekend Miracles kids were matched with host families, and six youth in our program will soon be adopted. We also celebrated a Kidsave family’s adoption virtually.

Julie was 17 years old and in danger of aging out of the foster care system without a family to guide, help, and love her. In 2018 she met and started to get to know Delaney and Kelly at a Kidsave Weekend Miracles event. All three of them loved these events, where they could get to know each other in leisurely, fun ways – like baking, bowling, hiking, or playing trivia. Slowly, at a pace just right for Julie, they were getting to know each other -- starting to feel what it might be like to be a family. Julie soon moved in, and they spent time getting to know each other better.

In May 2020, the courts were closed. Fortunately, Julie and her parents were able to officially finalize their adoption, virtually, with several family members, friends, supporters, and Kidsave staff all watching the beautiful moment unfold. “I’m an attorney. We don’t do anything virtually in my line of work. The fact that they were able to make this happen through the court system virtually was just huge for us,” said Delaney.

Congratulations to this amazing family!

Kidsave continues to hold virtual events to give more kids like Julie a chance at a forever family. You can get involved at Kidsave.org/weekend-miracles-program.

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Julie had been in and out of foster care since she was 12 years old. This May – at age 17, just months away from aging out of the system – she was adopted, despite all the restrictions on gathering because of COVID-19! Switching from in-person to virtual events, her progress getting to know Delaney and Kelly didn’t miss a beat. Julie was one of the first kids to be adopted since Kidsave moved its programs online and into chat rooms.

"Weekend Miracles", Kidsave’s Los Angeles Program, matches children with families who then commit to see each other at least twice a month for a year -- providing support and stability for kids in foster care. It was at a Weekend Miracles event where Julie first met Delaney and Kelly and found a connection. However, since COVID-19, events and meetings have moved online, a change that’s had an unexpected silver lining. 

Many adoptions throughout the U.S. have been delayed due to COVID-19. However, with the added privacy that a chat room affords and the quiet time to talk more openly, relationship can really blossomed. While organizations and social workers adapt to the pandemic, efficiencies and new ideas are coming to the surface in the child welfare realm – changes Kidsave has long promoted!  “The fact that they were able to make this happen through the court system virtually was just huge for us,” said Delaney. 

Kidsave has been able to hold virtual events weekly or bi-weekly – often holding two events on one weekend – and kids are able to spend more one-on-one time with families. Since starting virtual events in April, four Los Angeles foster youth have been matched with hosts and six youth have been matched for adoption. Kidsave has planned to continue holding virtual events even after in-person events are safe to restart.   

After her biological father passed away, Julie was separated from her siblings, and has since found it hard to readily trust people. With her new family, she has found an environment where she feels relaxed and supported. “I now know what being happy feels like,” she said. 

Kelly said, “Julie is starting to see the bigger picture of where she can go in life and what she wants to accomplish.” Julie will start her senior year of high school in the fall.

You can also watch Julie’s story in Episode 4 of the A&E Documentary The Day I Picked My Parents.

Image by Parker Collins, Spectrum News 1
Image by Parker Collins, Spectrum News 1
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Jennifer and her new parents
Jennifer and her new parents

Jennifer grew up in El Salvador where she lived with her family in the center of constant danger and violence. She remembers from an early age seeing people lifeless, lying in the streets. “I could barely leave the house out of fear that something bad would happen to me,” she said.

“I always wanted more for my life and I wanted to go to school and become a veterinarian. I knew that was impossible where I lived.  At the age of 14, I took a big risk to pursue a better life. I left home and traveled the terrifying, exhausting, month-long journey to Mexico to cross the border into the United States. I journeyed with coyotes, hoping I would reunite with relatives once there. When I finally crossed, I was immediately placed in an immigration shelter in McAllen, Texas where I felt safe but had no privacy and no love or support.  I lived there for 6 months before I was finally granted asylum."

After a failed placement with a relative, Jennifer was moved into a Los Angeles foster home at age 15, where she lived for some time. She was always envious of her foster sisters because they at least had family close by that they could visit and talk to. "I felt like I was here alone here and wished I had someone to spend time with, someone to be there for me."

When she was 16, her social worker introduced her to Kidsave. “I remember that on my way to my first Kidsave event I was terrified of being judged. I was ashamed of my age but at the same time I was excited to meet new people and to make new connections. Through Kidsave I finally had a chance to have fun and do things I had never done before. I went bowling, hiking, and to museums. I could finally just be a normal teenager.”

In June of 2015, just before she turned 17, she said, “I remember seeing this couple, waiting outside my foster house, calling my name. They were there to drive me to a Kidsave event. At first, I was nervous to get in the car with them. I didn’t know them, after all. But after spending time with them, I realized they were sweet and funny, and loved animals just like I do. In fact, we have many things in common. We liked each other so much, that I moved in with them that next April. This was the first time I felt excited to come home and to share my day with two people who genuinely cared about me."

We have been family ever since. But now, I’m excited to announce that we’ve made it official! At 21 years old, I was adopted by my parents, Adam and Deborah. It feels amazing to have their last name and to call them mom and dad. I am proud to say I am a junior in college studying biology. I just finished up my finals last week. And with the support of my parents, I know I will be a vet one day.  Thank you Kidsave for introducing me to my forever family and helping me reach my dreams.”

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After more than a year of filming at Kidsave events, a new five-part A&E series called, “The Day I Picked My Parents" sbout Kidsave's Family Visit Model and its use was aired in September and has now been seen by about a million viewers. 

It tracks ten youth who are participiating in Kidsave's Weekend Miracles Program as they search to find their forever families. Through Kidsave, they have a voice -- and a choice -- in picking their parents.  The series has been received positively in the US child welfare community as well as by the public.

 A viewer in Connecticut described watching the show. “I turned on the first episode and could not stop watching. It was so moving and inspiring,” Comments from other viewers have been similarly encouraging and many have asked, “how can I do this in my community?”

The series was re-broadcast on the FYI Network and is available on-demand on various cable networks and online. You can watch the series at: https://www.kidsave.org/the-day/. It has led to inquiries from child welfare leaders across the U.S. about the Kidsave Family Visit model and possibly implementing it in their jurisdictions. Inquiries are coming in from Arizona, Georgia, Arkansas, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington. Beyond Los Angeles, many other counties in California have expressed interest in the program.

On a national level, Kidsave met with 18 congressional offices calling for support of the program at the federal level and held a screening of the series' first episode for congressional staff in Washington, D.C., in October.

Randi Thompson, Kidsave’s Co-Founder and CEO, said that, “While these journeys to finding permanent homes often have many twists and turns, we hope viewers were inspired by the resilience, personality and potential of these kids. We hope that more people will decide they too want to make a difference in the lives of foster youth, after watching “The Day I Picked My Parents.” 

The 10 Foster Kids in The Day I Picked My Parents
The 10 Foster Kids in The Day I Picked My Parents

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Ty, a happy young man, now with a loving family
Ty, a happy young man, now with a loving family

In June of 2018, we reported on Ty, a foster child in Los Angeles who was about to turn 17.  More than anything, he wanted a family.  

Ty’s early years were spent living with his grandmother. But when she could no longer care for him, he was moved to someone’s home where there were problems, and he ran away.  Picked up by the police, he was moved into a group home. “It was like being alone,” he said of the group home. “No one is listening. No matter how much they try to make it feel like home, it isn’t. A home has parents. Being in a group home made me realize how much I wanted a family.”

This articulate young man spoke in front of hundreds of people at Kidave’s fundraising gala in that summer. That evening, he touched the hearts of a couple in the audience -- Mo and Jessica. They already had two sons – one who was exactly Ty’s age – and they made the decision to have Ty move in with them and give him a fresh start. Over the next few months the family got to know Ty.  They took him to wresting camp – an annual event for the family. Ty had never been in the ocean, but they taught him how to surf! They had countless dinners together, spent hours doing homework, and just lived a normal family life.

Ty turned 18 recently and got the best present ever – a permanent family committed to him now and for the rest of his life.  Ty is of the ten foster kids featured in a documentary to air on the A&E Network on Sunday, Sept. 8 from 10 am to 3 pm Eastern time.  Tune in to, “The Day I Picked My Parents,” to hear more of his story and the process Kidsave uses to introduce older foster youth to potential parents.

Ty with his new family.
Ty with his new family.

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Kidsave International

Location: Culver City, CA - USA
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Twitter: @Kidsave_Intl
Project Leader:
Lauren Gordon
Culver City, CA United States
$11,592 raised of $25,000 goal
 
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