When a child asks you to become her adoptive parents …
Although they never fully shared their thoughts about adoption with one another until the opportunity was posed by a 14-year-old child facing foster care, Jason and Jill considered expanding their family.
Parents to two daughters, ages 11 and 14, the couple knew they could offer a nurturing and supportive home to children in need. Both had experience with the child protective services system in their careers, so they understood the extreme need for foster parents, along with the challenges.
For instance: “How do we take in children who have suffered trauma and integrate them into our existing family? What are the steps to fostering or adoption, and how do we navigate the various governmental agencies and courts to make the process as smooth as possible? These were our concerns,” explained Jason.
Thanks to the foster care services offered by Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, Jason and Jill overcame these potential obstacles and are on their way to adopting two siblings.
A child makes a new friend
The family’s story began when their 14-year-old daughter befriended a new girl at school. Over time, the family learned that the girl and her siblings recently lost their parents and were living with adult relatives. While well cared for, that placement was not sustainable for the long-term, and Jason and Jill started thinking about becoming foster parents.
“If my wife could, she would adopt 100 children. We knew the importance of keeping siblings together, and providing stability, support and a nurturing home environment,” said Jason. “But we were also aware of the challenges, and knew if we were going to move forward, we’d need support, too.”
Working through logistics
Some issues the family faced were simply about logistics. At the time, Jason and Jill lived in an 800-square-foot home and their biological daughters each had her own bedroom. Coupled with one bathroom, the family of four lived comfortably.
And while the daughters were excited about potentially gaining new siblings – one who was already a friend – the reality of sharing bedrooms and bathroom time would need to be addressed. Additional areas that would require significant communication and planning: working with biological relatives, partnering with governmental agencies and the courts to become official foster parents, helping the siblings get the treatment they needed to work through past traumatic experiences, and getting past their own worries.
“We were very wary about our own feelings,” admitted Jason. “The last thing we wanted to happen was for us to fall in love with another child, but then have a situation where we were not the selected foster parents.”
A game changing questions; connecting with Devereux
As the couple worked over the next several months to become foster parents to their daughter’s 14-year-old friend and her 16-year-old brother, they experienced a profound and heartfelt moment.
“Our soon-to-be-foster daughter asked us directly if we could adopt her. That was a game changer and we knew what we needed to do,” said Jason. “But we also wanted to be sure we had the right support for our own two daughters, and for these new children who could be coming into our family.”
Based on a referral, Jason and Jill contacted Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Pennsylvania’s Foster Care team in Philadelphia.
“We called Devereux and, within 24 hours, a staff member returned our call – while he was on vacation!” exclaimed Jason. “That initial experience was not unique. We were so impressed by the Devereux team’s dedication, sincerity and willingness to come along side of us to help navigate the fostering and adoption process. They didn’t sugarcoat anything; instead, they provided realistic advice and direction, which was exactly what we needed.”
Developing an action plan
The Devereux Pennsylvania Foster Care team provided a two-day training course for the new foster parents, and then developed a detailed plan of action to help them become the most effective advocates for the two foster children.
“The staff’s responsiveness, whether email, text or phone, is unparalleled. Their passion, experience and tools really created an environment that will allow us to succeed,” he added.
Devereux Pennsylvania Director of Foster Care Mike Moleski said his team is always ready to assist – day or night – because of the significant need for foster parents: “In Philadelphia alone, there are nearly 6,000 children in the foster care system, so we are always looking for foster families. The prerequisites are simple: unconditional love, open mindedness, patience and the desire to make a difference in a child’s life. Devereux’s comprehensive training and dedicated staff guide and enable families to adapt to the needs of their foster children.”
Devereux’s foster care services
As part of its continuum of care, Devereux’s foster care programs operate with the belief that all individuals deserve a loving, supportive and positive home environment to help them reach their unique potential. The organization provides foster care services for children – from infancy to 21 years of age – along with programs for youth who have been removed from their biological families due to abuse or neglect, and who have been diagnosed with emotional, behavioral and/or cognitive differences.
In addition, foster parents/providers receive support to prevent and reduce stress and family crisis, including:
Note: Devereux also seeks a diverse pool of foster parents/providers – including single, married, partnered, or cohabitating individuals to become foster parents/providers.”
Looking ahead …
Fast forward to today, Jason and Jill are caring for the two siblings and are very hopeful as they move into the adoption phase.
Jason said both children are progressing well from a therapeutic counselling perspective, and are appreciative of the positive home environment, complete with ground rules the family has in place for all of their children. “I write regular updates to the Devereux staff about our progress and they continue to be a great resource for us as we move forward,” he noted.
The family also had the good fortune of recently moving into a larger home, where each child has his or her own bedroom. “A lot of doors opened for us, literally,” said Jason. “It became obvious that this move was the right thing to do – for everyone.”
As for Jason and Jill’s biological daughters, they are learning first-hand about making a difference. “While my daughters are excited, there is a lot of change – and that’s always hard,” he added. “But they understand that this is an opportunity to make an impact on another child’s life. This is not about writing a check to support someone who lives on the other side of the world. Our girls know it’s not always going to be easy, but this is what our faith means to us, and it’s what we’re supposed to do.”
Learn more about foster care
Devereux’s foster care services are offered in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts/Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas. To learn more, click here.