November is National Adoption Awareness Month. We would like to take this opportunity to highlight the powerful work of our Extreme Recruitment® program, and what better way to do it than through one of our wonderful adoption stories?!
In the spring of 2021, Colton was finally adopted into his forever family. But this was not an easy road for him. Colton was in foster care for almost 7 years when the Extreme Recruitment® team got involved.
We had the privilege to hear about this family’s journey first-hand through an interview with Colton and his adoptive mom, Natasha, as well as some of the key Coalition staff who provided wraparound support to this family, including Amanda Denning, Extreme Recruiter; Mike Hall, Family Search and Permanency Support Specialist; Hannah Trout, Families United Specialist; Quesha Combs, Family Works Specialist; and Taryn Anderson, Educational Advocate.
Here is their story:
AD: I remember the day that I got Colton’s case. And I distinctly remember talking to one professional who told me “good luck.” He didn’t think that I would find a home for Colton. He thought that it would be extremely difficult and he was very concerned that because of Colton’s age, which is a common barrier in our system, we wouldn’t be able to find a home for him.
AD: About three weeks into having Colton’s case, I found out that he had a Godmother. Approximately a year before I got the case, she had disappeared and nobody knew why. I was really curious about that. It also came out that when Colton had been placed with the previous foster parent, that the foster parent had decided that they were not going to let Colton have a relationship with his Godmother anymore. So I went to my investigator Mike, and I gave him her name and I said: “I really need you to find this lady because I think she is really important to this kid’s life… we need to find her.”
MH: At the beginning, we were really nervous that we wouldn’t be able to find her. We were trying different variations of her last name and things like that.
N: I tell you what, Mike is a heck of an investigator because when this first all happened, Mike said he spent a couple of days trying to locate me.
MH: Luckily there was another woman who was also identified. When we were able to go to her house, introduce ourselves, and tell her what we were doing… sure enough, that was Natasha’s mom.
N: if Mike wouldn’t have kept looking for me, we don’t know where the future would have brought us or how long it would have been until I could have him [Colton] again.
AD: It turned out that the reason we were having such a hard time finding Natasha, was because her name was spelled incorrectly in court documents and Children’s Division documents.
After nearly two years apart, Amanda arranged a visit between Colton and his Godmother, Natasha.
AD: The day of the visit, I picked Colton up from school. He was super excited. Extremely nervous. It reminded me of those military videos you watch where you see somebody come home from overseas to surprise a loved one. Colton saw Natasha down an alley and took off running for her. He immediately got there and gave her a huge hug. I was still standing at the back of the alley watching them and in my head thinking “Colton found his family!”
N: I saw him run out of the car and he gave me a big ol’ hug. From that second I knew that I was going for the adoption process. Colton excused himself to go to the bathroom and I said, “Okay, Amanda, what do I got to do?”
AD: Towards the end of the visit, Colton had to go to the bathroom and Natasha walked up to me and said “I know I have this barrier I want to get my own place, can you help me get him? I want to adopt him.” I told her absolutely! We will do it together. Every step of the way we will figure this out.
After Natasha’s commitment that day, the Coalition’s wraparound support staff sprang into action to help overcome any barriers to adoption.
N: My one goal was that Colton would get adopted before his 14th birthday. This was the status that I needed it to be. And it was a promise that I needed to figure out a way to keep.
HT: We have this relative who is super attached to this kid, who wants to be involved, who is so upset that she lost that time with Colton, and the only major barrier is that she needs to find a bigger place to live. I was a part of a lot of those meetings and supported Amanda, the Extreme Recruiter, and her amazing work in assisting Natasha through that process. If that is the only barrier stopping Colton from having a family, we’re going to make that work. We are going to figure out a way to help Natasha. It was so beautiful the way Amanda, and the entire Coalition supported her and made that happen because Colton wouldn’t have been adopted if it weren’t for that. Everyone worked together beautifully because Colton deserved it!
N: Amanda and Hannah were on it, sending me listings every other day for someone to get in contact with.
AD: Natasha is amazing! And along the way she was more than willing to go to any training or service she could and meet with any professional she could because all she wanted from day one was to learn how to help Colton.
QC: Natasha is just so committed. If I had to choose a word to describe Natasha and how she shows up for Colton it would be commitment. We have had very difficult conversations, tears have been involved at times because these families share some of the most intimate parts of their lives with us.
N: I get to unload on Quesha every Thursday. And God love her, she just sits there and listens to me.
QC: It is just so beautiful to see the two of them and the love they have for each other.
TA: I’ve talked with Natasha. We did a virtual home visit where we met over Zoom, and talked about what struggles she is having with school, what behaviors or struggles Colton is having at school, and getting a good layout of some of the family’s issues and what Colton has been through in his life. We help navigate those systems and work with the school and the families to try to do what is best for each child.
N: The whole thing has been one giant blessing for everybody involved. The whole Coalition team has supported me and my family in everything that we’ve possibly needed.
18 months after the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition received Colton’s case, an adoption hearing was scheduled for April 19th, 2021.
AD: Natasha and Colton were there, and Colton was dressed up in a suit that he had borrowed from a family member. He was so excited about it. About a month before the adoption, I had asked Colton what he wanted for adoption day. He told Natasha and I that all he wanted was a sign – he wanted to be one of those stories where he would have a sign to hold on adoption day with how many days he was in foster care and that he had been adopted.
N: He turned 14 on April 27th. So, nine days after he was adopted we had his 14th birthday.
AD: I remember the day that I watched him run across the parking lot to her and I knew that this story had finally come full circle, that they were family now.
C: I have to say: Thank you, Miss Amanda!
N: Amanda has always been such a wonderful advocate for Colton.
C: I love my mom because she was always there for me and my brothers. She would always help us out with everything we need. My whole family gets to know that I am safe and I am with them finally.
N: I’m just really happy to finally have my kiddo!
This interview transcript has been edited for clarity. You can watch this interview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZAZ7yaPop8
The Extreme Recruitment® program is a race to find permanency for youth using 12-20 weeks of intensive recruitment efforts and permanency preparation. This program works exclusively with the hardest-to-place children: ages 10-18, sibling groups, children of minority status, and youth with emotional, developmental, or behavioral concerns.
Since 2008, Extreme Recruiters and investigators have worked tirelessly to prevent children from aging out of foster care without the love and support of family.