Blog-Header.jpg

Comment

The Dunkin Family

Today we are sharing a story that has gone viral because it addresses two important topics:  singles adopting and the needs of sibling sets in foster care.  There are many myths surrounding both of these topics.  If we had a dollar for every time we heard someone say they would love to adopt but they can't because they are single (not true), we would be a fully funded organization! According to statistics from Adopt US Kids, more than 2/3rds of children in foster care are a part of a sibling set.  Enjoy the blog and help us share the Dunkin Family video...

I am Lacey Dunkin, a single mom of six happy, healthy, caring, funny, and beautiful little girls, that just so happen to be adopted from Foster Care. In many ways our story is quite unique but it's also not very different from many other foster-to-adopt stories I know. First of all, I did not set out to adopt six little girls. In fact when I started the certification process, I imagined myself as a mother of little boys, but of course, God had other plans. 

When I got the call for a foster placement of four little girls at close to 10pm towards the end of September 2011, I immediately said "yes".  It was nothing that I had originally wanted, a strictly foster placement, and four kids, yes four! (Am I insane???) But all I heard was "a 5-year-old, 2-year-old twins and a 1-year-old baby," and I agreed.  Initially, I only planned on taking in one or two children who were available for adoption but when I got this call I was compelled to say yes, I still can't quite tell you why. 

Initially I planned on taking in one or two children who were available for adoption but when I got this call I was compelled to say yes, I still can’t quite tell you why.

The next few days were crazy to say the least. I learned that the four girls also had a newborn baby sister who was born the day before I got them, she went to stay with another foster family with more experience than I, and was reunified with their biological mother on Christmas Day 2011. Throughout the nine months that I originally had the girls, I fell in love instantly. I worked hand and hand with their biological parents, often times talking on the phone for hours after a visit to help them navigate this parenting thing and deal with some difficult behaviors the girls were exhibiting. It was hard, these two had not made safe decisions for the girls and a lot of me wanted to be angry at them, wanted to tell them where to go and just shake them! But sometimes you have to put your own pride aside to do what's right for the children. They needed both of us, so we united in order for the girls to get the best of both worlds. 

I often joke that the girls were a "package deal", because I couldn't imagine adopting any of them without their sisters. And when baby number six came along, I immediately knew where she belonged.  It was a tough decision, especially for my dad, but I know that we ultimately made the right decision for our family. If any one of these girls were missing, we'd have a huge gaping hole in our family and our hearts. 

For me, I tried to imagine how it would be had I not grown up with my brother. How would I feel if I knew I had a sibling out there? What worries for him would I have had? How would our lives differ from each other, how would that effect our relationship, would we even have a relationship? When I got the call about baby number six, my family and I had to have a serious discussion whether we were able and/or willing to take on another baby, I knew in my heart she belonged with her sisters, but it was a difficult decision nonetheless. Sophia, who was 7 years old at the time, told my dad, "Papa, she deserves to be able to have a good house and sisters too", and that was it, it was decided that we would "just make it work."

Since sharing our story I've been contacted by so many people, of all ages, sharing with me their stories. I've heard over and over again of children being separated from their siblings, not being able to keep contact with their siblings, and/or knowing they have siblings they've never met. They've told me how hard it was to connect as adults, how it affected them growing up, and how it haunted them their whole lives. It breaks my heart to know that this is still happening daily in our current Foster Care system. 

I understand that not everyone is able to take on six children, I agree, I'm a little nuts, but there is such a need for foster and foster-to-adopt homes willing to welcome a sibling group, as they are some of the hardest placements. And as I've said, it wasn't my plan, but I am so glad that I had the inclination to just say "yes" to four little sweethearts that fateful night 5 years ago. It's changed my world for the better in more ways than I can ever express and brought more happiness than I could have ever imagined when I first started this journey. 

It breaks my heart to know this is still happening daily in our current foster care system.

I have to tell you, it's been such a pleasure to watch my girls re-establish their relationships with each other. Sadly, out of necessity, they were often split up and stayed with various relatives for the early parts of their lives, but they have been able to build such a beautiful bond since coming into my care. Of course, they bicker, and tattle, and complain about each other daily, but they also have such an immense love for each other, it amazes me.  They genuinely care about each other and it does my heart so much good when I hear them tell their sister, "I love you!"  It is truly a blessing to see them grow, to watch them look after each other. Being able to witness their happiness and hear their laughter as the play together, is EVERYTHING. 

If you're already a parent, you know that it's not an easy job. It's not something to jump into blindly, but it also grants the greatest rewards of any other job, hands down. As they say, it takes a village, and I'm so thankful for my village of family and friends who are always ready and willing to jump in when needed. If you're thinking about fostering or adopting more than one child, I suggest you get your village ready too! I honestly couldn't do it without these people, mainly my parents, who "parent" with me daily. 

Above all, I want people to know that I didn't "save" my daughters, they saved me. They've opened up a whole new world of possibilities and love. I have so many hopes for them but mainly I want to instill a love for one another and humanity. I pray they grow up to be happy. If they become happy, healthy, and loving adults, I will have done my job. 
 

Comment

Moving From Belief to Prayer and Action: Kids in Group Homes Need Us

Comment

Moving From Belief to Prayer and Action: Kids in Group Homes Need Us

If any of you follow the work of City Without Orphans, you know that we believe every child belongs in a family. This is one of our most foundational and deeply held convictions. We make t-shirts that say, “every child deserves a place to call home” and “He sets the lonely in families…”. Statistically, biblically and experientially we know this is what's best for kids. 

This isn't just a cute slogan we can wear on a shirt or share on facebook- this is a truth we must actively pray and work for until it becomes reality.  And the need is not just for the “waiting 5 year old” in foster care, it's also for the teenager who has spent 4 years in group homes. Last Fall a bill came out (AB403) that says starting January 1st, 2017 our state will phase out the long term institutional care of group homes to make them short term stabilization centers with the goal of transitioning every youth into a foster family or permanent home.

That’s right…we are going to see a massive need for families to step up and bring older youth into their home.  It sounds great in theory but we know there is a challenging road ahead.  It would be easier if bills like these also came with a strategic plan for each county, a comprehensive marketing effort to rally the community around the cause and robust programs that will provide more support for caregivers.  

Guess what…there is a plan and resources. It’s you…

You Fresno.  You Central Valley.  You have all the resources to help make this happen. We each have a part to play! CWO and many foster/adoption agencies will be sharing more specifics over the next 6 months about how you can leverage your gifts, treasures and time to help this effort. We are going to do our best to stand in the gap for these youth who, by no fault of their own, came into foster care, are struggling and need consistent love, support and services. Now is the time to serious pray and contemplate how you can get involved.  Are you ready to become mentors for them? Foster Parent? Adoptive moms and dads? Employers and coaches?

They need you. We need you.

Stay tuned for more…

Comment

Comment

Trans-Racial Adoption (Part 2): An extended conversation about race & adoption

by Taylor Starks

by Taylor Starks

Issues of race and culture remain at the center of many controversial and conflicting conversations within our society. The political, medical and social justice systems tend to highlight significant disparities among minority groups, but our social services sector also displays a grim reality.

The marginalization of minority groups can impact a variety of areas within the social service sector, but has the greatest impact on a very vulnerable population: children in foster care. The foster care system is inundated with children from a variety of backgrounds. Historically, there has been a great disproportionality of African American children who are a part of this system, leaving many to ask the question, “Why?”

In 2014, 64% of African American children who entered the foster care system remained for a period greater than 2 years, with only 7% being adopted. “Why?”

In Fresno, California, many African American children who enter into the foster care system remain for several years before the possibility of adoption or reunification become a reality. In 2014, 64% of African American children who entered the foster care system remained for a period greater than 2 years, with only 7% being adopted. “Why?”

Do statistics like these reflect a heartless society filled with racist thoughts? Not necessarily. One can easily come across this information and harbor resentment for prospective caregivers that further drives the misconceptions of race and culture in our society. The sad reality is that these issues remain unfamiliar to us and when we lack the resources to understand transracial adoption, it becomes a difficult concept to approach with assurance.

We previously met the Jones Family and their 13 year old son Omari. Although the Jones were aware of their commitment to a long-term relationship with Omari, they were unprepared for the many challenges that would appear throughout this journey. Faced with criticism from friends and family who questioned their decision to adopt trans-racially, the Jones’ had to learn how to navigate new territory.

Despite the success found in adoption stories similar to the Jones’, many caregivers remain hesitant and unsure of how to approach this issue. Questions like “what if this child resents me?”, “how do I care for them?”, and “what do they truly need?” create a fear in approaching the unknown, leaving many children in the shadows. It is extremely important to understand that the fear of transracial adoption is not necessarily caused by racist thoughts or a blatant disregard for the hurting. What these statistics reflect is a broken system that lacks an understanding of cultural implications and the personal narrative. In the midst of this chaos, caregivers want to know one thing—“How do I provide intentional care for a child without inciting their experiences with pain and injustice?”

For the Jones this meant creating a balance between two worlds. There was an intentionality about the love and care that was extended to help Omari understand who he is and where he comes from. Things like attending a predominantly black church and being immersed in a diverse community created the space for dialogue and growth within this family. While tough conversations surrounding issues of social justice took place, difficulties were combated with the humor of learning and growing as a family. The Jones knew that things weren’t going to be perfect, but embraced the life long journey they would now share with their son.

The societal barriers of culture and race can leave many caregivers feeling incompetent and defeated in their attempts to take on this task. Excessive re-entry rates of this demographic can lead one to assume that these caregivers made faulty attempts to provide a home for these children, but the truth is that we cannot expect people to excel or have confidence in something that they know little about. The decision to engage in transracial adoption is much more than providing a loving home for a child in need. Transracial adoption comes with a call to engage in broken systems, hurting communities and movements of change.

we cannot expect people to excel or have confidence in something that they know little about

How does one do this? Although this is a great challenge it doesn’t require an orderly procedure or program. Research suggests that while few agencies provide their caregivers with some aspect of cultural training and family mediation, it goes with little use. This is not to say that these trainings aren’t important or shouldn’t be taken advantage of, but caregivers must be willing to take the initiative and put what they are learning into practice.

The Jones’ knew that Omari needed exposure to people who looked like him and shared his experiences. They did more than just talk about these things, they made them a part of their daily lives. The Jones’ knew that there would be awkward moments to be shared with friends and family. They did more than just acknowledge it, they embraced it with humor. The Jones’ knew that Omari would have a hard time navigating a society that would make assumptions about his character on the basis of his skin. They did more than just accepting it, they decided to walk through this battle as a family.

Breaking barriers to transracial adoption is more than just taking African-American children out of a fleeting system and creating permanency. For children who have their identities wrapped up in a broken system, it is important that caregivers validate their experiences by journeying with them through their pain, disappointments, confusion and fears. Caregivers who take on transracial adoption have a special calling to display a compassionate heart to the children they invite into their homes. This compassion doesn’t just acknowledge that their child shares an experience that is different from their own, but seeks to understand how those experiences shape their growing character and daily lives.

Breaking these barriers is challenging work, but it comes with a great reward. It may appear that transracial adoption is filled with nothing but heartache, but the Jones’ narrative shows otherwise. Omari recalled the many great things he has been able to experience with his family through this process. There is great delight in the trips that he has had with his family and the time that he gets to spend exploring the world with his brothers and sisters. Transracial adoption presents an avenue in which individuals can embrace the beauty of diversity and embark on a journey of understanding with one another. Through these experiences families can be transformed and brought together in unique ways. 

The story of the Jones Family has modeled a great passion to care for those in need. It is important that we do not idolize or perceive this family to be a group of heroes, but we should acknowledge their efforts to champion a cause that is challenging and intimidating. The Jones’ story models what compassionate care looks like and how it transforms the life of a family. 

Comment

Breaking Barriers with Trans-Racial Adoption

Comment

Breaking Barriers with Trans-Racial Adoption

By Taylor Starks

Issues of race and culture remain at the center of many controversial and conflicting conversations within our society. The political, medical and social justice systems tend to highlight significant disparities among minority groups, but our social services sector also displays a grim reality.

The marginalization of minority groups impacts a variety of areas within the social service sector, but it has the greatest impact on a very vulnerable population: foster children.

64% of African American children who entered the foster care system remained for a period greater than 2 years...”

The foster care system is inundated with children from a variety of backgrounds.  Historically, there has been a great disproportionality of African American children who are a part of this system, leaving many to ask the question, “Why?” Locally, many African American children who enter into the foster care system remain for several years before the possibility of adoption or reunification become a reality. In 2014, 64% of African American children who entered the foster care system remained for a period greater than 2 years, with only 7% being adopted.

While transracial adoption has proven to be successful, many caregivers are hesitant and unsure of how to approach this issue. Questions like “what if this child resents me?” “how do I care for them?” and “what do they truly need?” create a fear in approaching the unknown, leaving many children in the shadows.

Many caregivers are hesitant and unsure of how to approach this issue

Meet the Jones Family.

The Jones had a desire to love on children regardless of their background, but encountered some challenges in discovering how that love would be manifested in the life of their son Omari. Despite the challenge and the controversy that the adoption of their son caused, they were willing to take on the tough issues, navigate the awkward conversations and seek to provide an undying care for their child. Listen to their story and see how transracial adoption not only transforms the life a child, but the life of an entire family.

Comment