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
Angelicia and Cynthia
Angelicia and Cynthia

Cynthia is a southern California animal lover with many pets, including rabbits and horses. She also has a big heart for kids and a strong desire to help foster kids in particular. This past winter, she decided to make room in her life for a young person who needed a stable adult in her corner. She started attending Kidsave’s Weekend Miracles events where teens and pre-teen foster kids in Los Angeles County can meet and get to know adults who want to help them, through mentorship, friendship, or possibly even guardianship or adoption. Back in January, she met Angelicia as the two of them tossed bowling balls down a lane.

They hit it off, talking about their shared love of animals (and Avengers movies), and soon Cynthia was picking up Angelicia to drive her to more Weekend Miracles events, chatting all the way. Over five months of many hours together in the car getting to and from events, and spending time at Cynthia’s home, they have become very comfortable with and familiar to each other and been “matched” for hosting. This means that they agreed to get together at least twice each month for a full year -- a step toward a more permanent relationship, and both are happy and very much enjoying each other’s company.

In the US there are more than 400,000 kids in foster care, and 100,000 of them are available for adoption. Many are considered too old to be adopted, but Kidsave shines a light on these kids and enables them to meet people who can envision life with an older child. The result is that 76% of these youth find permanent connections through this program, which means they have a stable, competent, caring adult in their life who will help guide, protect and support them. Kidsave teaches social workers and government officials this model and is helping reduce the number of kids who are growing up alone.

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Curtis and Amber share a laugh
Curtis and Amber share a laugh

Amber was interested in helping a child in foster care and met Curtis, a young teen, at a Kidsave “Weekend Miracles” fundraising hike. That was the first of five events they both attended over the next few months. They got to know each well other enough to decide to get together at least twice a month for the next 12 months.

 Amber first saw his photo and bio on the Kidsave website and was drawn to “his smile and his sweetness in the videos. I was done for,” she said. But when they met at the hike, “he was pretty shut down. I tried to talk to him at a few events and wasn't able to get him to engage. I volunteered to drive him, just to see if we could engage if we were one on one. He got into my car and was a completely different kid. He wasn't shut down, he just has been let down by so many adults that he was a tad slow to trust new adults. In the beginning he was just waiting to be disappointed. The more I showed up for him, the more he opened up to me. It just felt like we were two peas in a pod that were able to understand each other. Nothing brings me more joy than watching his face light up when we learn something new together, try something new or just get good news! He is such a special kid. I am so lucky to be some small part of his journey.

 What did Amber see in Curtis? “Curtis is a very kind, thoughtful and incredibly generous child”, says Amber. “He is always ready and willing to share anything he has with his peers and is often looking for treats he can bring back to the boys who did not get to come to the event. He hates the idea of injustice or someone getting their feelings hurt. He tries hard to play a positive role in his friends' lives. He is inquisitive, self-reflective and even willing to talk about his feelings. He has an incredible intuition and is a natural born leader, although he prefers to lead from behind, by asking questions, being curious, pointing out alternatives and just being kind to the other kids. Oh, and he is an incredible basketball player, he loves animals (and is very kind and gentle with them) and his smile literally lights up a room! 

 “Curtis' favorite event was the hike,” said Amber. “We got there and he didn't want to do it. It was one of his patterns of behavior, I think because of all the disappointments he has had. His instinct was to quit before he started. But this time, he challenged himself to do the hike even though his brain was telling him not to. He finished and was so proud of himself and even said he had a “10/10” fun! Watching him challenge himself and then even have fun! I mean, it just doesn't get better. I was so proud of him.”

 Amber found in Kidsave an unexpected sense of community. “I think I was surprised by how many meaningful connections you make with the kids and the adults. Every month we get together, it kind of feels like extended family. It is such a treat to watch these neat kids match with safe adults that can show up for them in the way they deserve. It is really a wonderful experience. And each of these kids is so darn incredible, each in their own way. I feel so lucky to get the opportunity to know these kiddos. 

 Now that they have been matched for a year of hosting, Amber says, “I am so excited to share new experiences with Curtis and to show him what being a part of a family feels like. We plan on sharing many adventures together, however, it is the quiet moments that seem to be the most special, so far. Saturday, he came home with me for the first time.  It was a bit cold and rainy. So, we all got our own little cozy blankets, snuggled up on the coach and watched a movie while my dog slept in Curtis' lap. Watching him look around the room and smile with content - I don't think there could be a more perfect moment than that. I can't wait for many more of those moments.”

 Why do this? “If you are looking for a way to make a fundamental difference in a child's life, “she adds, this is the program for you. It is almost shocking how much of a difference you can make in a child's life, with a relatively low time commitment. Watching Curtis unfold, grow and start trusting has been almost magical. This kid that wouldn't talk to new people at all, now walks around events introducing himself and giving pep talks to the "new" kids. Each of us has the chance to affect the trajectory of these children and to increase their chances of being adopted into a forever home. I am so grateful to Kidsave for allowing me to be a part of the Weekend Miracles program, it has been a life changing and eye-opening experience. I promise you, if you get involved with these children, you will change their life but they will also change yours.”

Friends.
Friends.

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Aura and Helen
Aura and Helen

Aura and Helen (age 14) first met in Spring 2017 waiting in the lunch line at a Kidsave Weekend Miracles event. Weekend Miracles advocacy events are pathways for connections for foster youth and families that are interested in hosting or adopting a foster youth. It proved to be a boon for painfully shy Helen! Both Aura and Helen were pleasantly surprised at how a brief conversation set them on a path to becoming a family.

Aura completed her host training in May 2017. She deepened her connection with Helen as a weekend host parent and bonded with her at Kidsave events. They also got to know each other over shopping, going to the mall and listening to music. Helen had been in Los Angeles County foster care for nearly five years when she moved into Aura’s home in August 2018.

She thoroughly enjoys family life with Aura and is thrilled to have two puppies! Shortly after moving in, Helen began high school. Aura is a supportive parent who encourages Helen to pursue her interests in volleyball and theater. Entering a new school, a new home, and new environment was a lot to deal with for this quiet teenager. Her new family has been by her side every step of the way and Helen continues to thrive. Family time is full of small but special moments.

Aura is now in the process of adopting Helen! Helen and Aura are hoping to finalize the adoption in early 2019.  Since Kidsave started this work with LA County in 2006, 396 teens and pre-teens have participated in Weekend Miracles and on 77% have found a permanent connection to an adult through adoption, legal guardianship or hosting. 

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Jesus and Grant.
Jesus and Grant.

Grant had been involved with Kidsave for about a year when met Jesus at a cake-decorating ice-breaker event in the summer of 2016. These monthly Weekend Miracles events make it easier for adults to meet and begin to get to know Los Angeles County foster kids in need of permanent, loving families.

Jesus immediately captured Grant’s attention when they discovered they shared a love of football. They talked about Jesus’ favorite team --  the Seattle Seahawks, and Grant’s -- the USC Trojans, and the coach they had in common – Pete Carroll. It was clear that this kind-hearted, sweet teenager needed a family and was open to getting to know Grant. That launched a series of weekends activities together and by Thanksgiving they planned to spend the holidays together. Soon, they were matched for adoption. As Grant likes to say, “I got Jesus for Christmas” – as Jesus moved in on Dec. 23rd, 2016.

Grant is a single dad who now enjoys watching Jesus play on his high school’s football and track teams, traveling to Hawaii, New York, Dallas, San Francisco and Portland so far.  He’s bonded with Jesus at sporting events, met other parents he’d never know otherwise, watched Jesus’ attempts to be humorous, and –  most of all – watched Jesus mature into a young man and gain self-confidence.  Grant says his own capacity for patience has increased and recognizes with a smile that, “[Jesus’] normal is not my normal.” 

His advice to others who have decided to open their hearts and homes to a kid in need is, “Ask for help and accept it.  There are lots of support systems for you to take advantage of.”  Grant and Jesus will go to court to finalize the adoption on Sept .11 – just days before Jesus turns 18. And now, thanks to Grant and Kidsave, Jesus will have a legal family for the rest of his life.

An added bonus: Jesus and Grant live a few blocks away from another Weekend Miracles family, Steven and his son, Marcos. The boys met and became friends through Weekend Miracles and now attend the same school.

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Ty tells his story
Ty tells his story

Not every 10th-grader can stand in front of 300+ adults and speak with wisdom, humility and humor but Ty did just that at an event to honor people who have helped for foster youth in Los Angeles County. He received a standing ovation.

Ty is in foster care and lives in a group home. He participates in Kidsave’s Weekend Miracles program which finds permanent families and lasting connections for older youth growing up in the Los Angeles County foster care system. After attending a few of Kidsave’s monthly events, Ty was matched for hosting with Lacey and Eric in 2018. As mentors, Lacey and Eric commit to spending time with Ty at least twice a month for a year. They see each other regularly and talk on the phone daily.

Lacey and Eric learned about Kidsave’s Weekend Miracles program and thought it would be a great way to volunteer, be supportive and serve as positive role models in a foster child's life.  They have opened many doors for Ty and have shown him that a positive, meaningful future is possible. Ty says, “It’s good to know that somebody cares and I am not alone. Eric and Lacey are making a difference in my life. They and Kidsave are trying to help me find an adoptive family.” Ty dreams of running for political office and would like to help other kids have what he has with Eric and Lacey -- a lasting connection to caring adults.

Ty shared a simple but profound message in his speech. “When people read about a kid like me -- a kid in the system – they get a picture in their minds, and they miss who I really am. Through Kidsave, Eric and Lacey got to see that I’m way more than what’s on paper. They provide advice and guidance, and they help me a lot with school.”

Children in foster care are intelligent, observant, talented, and often wise beyond their years. Ty says, “A group home is not a home. There are no parents, the staff come and go. It made me realize how much I want a family. So, I told my social worker and she told me about Kidsave. The first Kidsave event felt different. People at Kidsave are so outgoing they make you feel like you are at home. I met Eric and Lacey at the first event I went to, and over time I felt comfortable with them.”

Kidsave is helping the public discover that and is inspiring families to open their hearts and homes to youth in need of permanency. Currently, 50 foster youth are participating in Kidsave’s Los Angeles Weekend Miracles program.

“I won’t let my past define me,” Ty says. “I simply can’t. I can’t own up to those stereotypes people have. I am learning trust and to believe in my dreams and make them my reality.”

Kidsave is looking for an adoptive family for Ty.  To learn more read his bio https://www.kidsave.org/tyrae-la/ 

 

Ty, in a more relaxed moment.
Ty, in a more relaxed moment.

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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
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