Monday, November 9, 2009

Adoptive Family Portrait Project

To celebrate National Adoption Month, Voice for Adoption runs the Adoptive Family Portrait Project. Today, framed photos and stories about adoptive families will be displayed in Washington, DC. These portraits are then given to each Congressional office where it is to be displayed with the goal is to raise awareness of both the joys and challenges that families experience by adopting children from foster care.

Here is the story we shared with Senator Specter about the Clark family. We've included the questionnaire in it's entirety at it's an important story to share.

Children’s names, ages, and descriptions (background/time in foster care, age when adopted if applicable, personalities, hobbies, special needs, etc.):

Javaun is now 12 years old. He was in foster care for three and a half years after the death of their mother from cancer and abandonment by his biological father. Javaun was adopted on June 19, 2009 ten days after he turned 12. He is very popular boy in school and out. He is very outgoing and friendly now, but initially was shy. He is video game enthusiast and loved cartoons. He has a healthy appetite and loves cheese pizza. He dreams of becoming a football player. His goal is to good grades to allow him to play little league football. Having been raised in a female led foster home, what Javaun truly needed was a supportive father figure in his life.

Saymere is now 7 years old. He will soon turn eight in November 11, 2001. He too was in foster care for three and half years after the death of their mother from cancer and abandonment by his biological father. Saymere was seven years old when he was adopted. Saymere is a shy boy, but will open up when he gets to know you. He is well known in school and currently in an advanced second grade class. Saymere likes to read. He likes to also draw superhero characters. Once an avid Iron Man fan, he now proudly has a GI Joe book bag. Saymere has benefited from having a strong male presence and has come to understand what it means to be apart of a forever family.

What motivated you to adopt?

My mother died suddenly when I was 17 leaving me to look after a then 9-year-old sister. My grandmother was on record as our legal guardian, but she had a stroke six weeks after my mother passed away and was in no condition to care for us. I put myself through school and took on the task of raising my sister on my own. Raising my sister was hard, but in my heart, I always wanted a son.

I had grown up with only my grandfather to look to as a role model for what a father was supposed to be. You see the man I had come to know as my grandfather, Robert Luckey, actually met my grandmother shortly before I was born. He became my inspiration as well in knowing that he took on the challenge of raising my grandmother’s eight sons and three daughters, when her first husband decided he would not. He never once said no when we were in need and was always there to lend a friendly ear or a helping hand.

My grandfather was there to bring me home from the hospital and when my own father chose not to be a part of my life, he showed me how to be a man in a world he didn’t even have a hand in bringing me to. I soon learned family is not based on blood but it is based on the love you have for the person you have in your lives.

As a teacher, I have worked with many students who are in foster care and who may have been adopted. When I first looked seriously at adopting one of the children turned up in my school. As fate would have it, he was assigned to me to be a mentor. However, all attempts I made to see about adopting him were met with deaf ears.

Apparently, he had turned 12 and social workers change the goal for children when they turn 12 from adoption to finding permanent legal custody. This did not deter me; it only strengthened my resolve to welcome a child into my home. Raising my boys now, I have decided that they would not be the last children I welcome in my family.

What recruitment efforts or campaigns, if any, were effective in helping you decide to adopt a child from foster care?

I attended several match parties sponsored by the National Adoption Center. They have always been supportive in my efforts to adopt even when I did not have my profile completed. I also watched the NBC 10 Wednesday Child Specials. In addition, my girlfriend donated money to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. I had watched their “Home For The Holidays” special.

What role have post-adoption services played in making it possible for you to adopt and meet your children’s needs? Please describe the post-adoption services and support you have used and how they help your family.

I have attempted to get tutoring for my son to no avail. My agency was less than supportive in my efforts to adopt and I have not heard from them since. Even on the day my boys were being adopted, they were at the courthouse to support another family and did not even know that I had gotten a finalization date.

What in your opinion makes your family unique? Please explain.

I am a single father raising two sons. At a time when men are being blamed for the breakdown of the traditional family, I chose an alternative route to starting mine. At times, this can be a challenge because you go through all the usual challenges of a family, but it is harder when it is only one parent. I think I hear Dad a hundred times a day.

By the grace of God, a co-worker recommended me to an excellent after school program the supports me as a parent. They have extended hours, they pick up my sons on half days and keep them on the days when teachers report, and students do not.

What challenges, if any, has your family experienced through adoption?

I think the major challenge that my family has faced is the lack of support from the adoption agencies. I would like to sing their praises and say my agency supported me but they did not. I had to write a letter to the Philadelphia Department of Human Services’ acting Commissioner to get my profile completed. Even then, I went through three workers before my adoption was finalized. This was a challenge unto itself because this allowed my clearances to lapse, which held up the procedures.

What do you think is most important for members of Congress to understand about adoptive families and adopting children from foster care?

I would like Congress to simplify the process. I did not mind the hurdles to become certified as adoptive parent, for example, the fingerprints, the clearances, the mountains of paperwork. Since I started the adoption process in 2005, I have watched children age out of the system and once viable forever families become discouraged by all of the red tape.

Who will be there when these children graduate or when they go their senior prom? Where will they spend Christmas or Thanksgiving? Who is going to be there when they start a conversation as my youngest son does, “Don’t you know?”

Then, there are the workers who are not concerned with finding a family for these children. They are more concerned with keeping a job by shifting them from one home to the next. As a teacher, I am often accused of wearing my heart on my sleeve because I treat each child as I would treat my own. Maybe some social workers need to start to do that.

Is there a quote, artwork, poem, or a letter to your Congressman that your children would like to submit about their adoption experience?

Javaun says “In my family, I feel like I am a part of something. You can look forward to your future. It’s exciting to be adopted because somebody loves you and cares for you.”

Saymere says, “I feel happy. I finally get to get somewhere where it is right. I just like it here and I want to stay.”

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