Rayna, Jasmine, & Charlie
Every child deserves a safe and loving home where they can thrive and belong. Our impact stories detail the journey to stability for our community of children seeking pure-hearted caregivers. Our staff is committed to providing the right resources and support during crucial times throughout the foster and adoptive journey, and we like to document special moments of connection, placement, love, and resilience via our impact stories. Explore the foster or adoptive journey for many families below.
In September, 12-year-old Rayna, 4-year-old Jasmine, and 3-year-old Charlie entered foster care after their parents struggled to provide adequate supervision. They were initially placed in a foster home, and Joel, 30 Days to Family® Specialist, was assigned to the case.
Joel spoke with the children’s mother, who mentioned 10 relatives that Joel could investigate, including a maternal grandmother, Caprice. Joel discussed those family members with Rayna to see if she had any thoughts on where she would like to be placed. Rayna told him that she would like to be placed with Caprice because her older sister, 16-year-old Becca, lived there, and they spent most weekends there anyway.
Caprice did not hesitate to accept placement of Rayna, Jasmine, and Charlie. She was not only raising Becca, but she also raised two of their older brothers until they were old enough to live on their own. A walk-through of the home and thorough background checks were completed. The team spent some time considering Caprice’s capacity to care for three additional children. They decided it was in the children’s best interest to live with Caprice and their older sister. Joel advocated for Caprice to receive Urgent Needs Funding from the Coalition to purchase a fire extinguisher which is needed for foster parent licensure. Caprice lived in the same school district that Rayna attended, so there was continuity in Rayna’s education which is paramount in limiting the impact of trauma caused when children enter foster care. They were placed with Caprice within 22 days of coming into foster care.
Even though Joel found Caprice, he continued to look for more family. Caprice was worried Joel would find someone else to care for her grandchildren, and she would lose contact with them. Joel spent time building a relationship with Caprice to assure her he was trying to build up a network for her to have a 30 Days to Family®: Rayna, Jasmine & Charlie support system, as well as find potential backup options in case anything should happen to Caprice. She trusted Joel and provided information for family members Joel could contact. Joel’s list of relatives went from 6 at the beginning of the case to 150. He personally spoke to 20 family members; most of them lived close by and were eager to help.
Joel visited with Caprice, Rayna, Jasmine, Charlie, and Becca in December. He dropped off Christmas gifts for them: art supplies and a big sack of toys. The children seemed happy and loved. Joel could tell they were right where they needed to be.
Aspen (f/k/a Cheyana)
Cheyana’s life hasn’t been easy. Until recently, she’s lacked consistent parental relationships. Despite the hurt stemming from never having a stable parental figure, she’s still managed to find slivers of joy in her life to cling to along the way. She expresses herself through creation, primarily through painting and drawing. To her, art is both a source of joy and self-expression. And while there have been plenty of times when she’s been in needed it herself, she has a passion for helping others. Her job at an art studio is one way she does so, but it’s also just something she tries to do in general in an effort to help those who may be struggling to find a soothing creative outlet.
At age 12, Cheyana entered foster care in October 2014. She bounced between homes for years until the Coalition took on her case in January 2020. Cheyana was 17 years old and a senior in high school when she entered the Coalition’s Extreme Recruitment® program.
With Cheyana’s 18th birthday fast approaching, Maddie—the Extreme Recruiter assigned to her case—quickly realized it would be the first-ever adult adoption case in the Coalition’s 30-year history. Despite her age, Cheyana was unwavering in her determination to find a forever family.
Through family finding, Maddie was able to locate a relative, Cheyana’s maternal grandmother, who was willing to take her in. The team agreed to work with Cheyana’s grandmother toward adoption. Throughout the investigation, they found that Cheyana’s mother, whom she did not have a good relationship with, lived with her grandmother. That information rendered this placement option void.
The Coalition later received word from Cheyana’s mother that she would be moving to California, so she was allowed to move in with her maternal grandmother following her mother’s departure. However, a few weeks after move-in, her mother returned from California, so Cheyana was forced to leave. She was again faced with the debilitating uncertainty she knew all too well. There was no one in Cheyana’s family both willing and able to adopt, so she agreed to move forward with the general recruitment process.
Cheyana lost her father at age 4, so living with him wasn’t an option. The void his death created — paired with her poor relationship with her mother — has proved especially challenging throughout her life.
After several families inquired about adopting Cheyana, Maddie sat down with her to discuss their options. Cheyana expressed interest in two families, including Jake and Lauren’s.
Maddie set up a Zoom meeting for Cheyana to meet Jake and Lauren in November 2020. The meeting was a success. Jake and Lauren’s bubbly personalities complemented Cheyana’s shy demeanor. They did all the talking. The group instantly hit it off. Their excitement at meeting Cheyana was undeniable; they gave her a virtual tour of their home and showed her the bedroom that would one day be hers if she chose to join their family. Maddie facilitated a few more Zoom meetings between the three, all of which went extremely well. Cheyana was confident Jake and Lauren were going to be her forever family.
They have built a strong bond over the past two years. Jake and Lauren have been there for Cheyana through the good times and bad times. They even took her on a family vacation with them last year.
Jake and Lauren have three biological children: a three-year-old and twin babies born in January of this year. Cheyana already views herself as their big sister, taking that role very seriously.
When Jake and Lauren first expressed interest in adopting Cheyana, they were very intrigued to learn what she wanted in a family. They centered Cheyana’s wants and needs throughout the entire process. In an email to Maddie, Lauren stated, “What Cheyana is doing is extremely brave. She is legally an adult, but she is still putting herself out there, hoping to find a forever family. I have what she wants, a family, and I would love to grow it and share it.”
On September 28th, at the age of 20, Cheyana officially became a part of the Harris family. After years of navigating a tumultuous upbringing, Cheyana is poised to move forward into adulthood with the support system she never had.
Julia was starting the 4th grade and her parents couldn’t help but feel a pit in their stomachs. Another school year, another battle. They had grown concerned about Julia’s educational success and experience. Her parents had noticed that Julia could not read anywhere near grade level, she was not engaged, became defiant, and struggled to get along with her classmates. She could not seem to thrive in her school environment. They were worried not only about Julia’s grades but also about the emotional and mental stress she was experiencing stemming from these challenges. Something needed to change.
For two years in a row, Julia’s parents tried to get the school to provide a special education evaluation for their daughter without success. They felt powerless and knew they had to find a solution. Julia was adopted from foster care, and the family had received support from the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition in the past, so they reached out to see if there was anything the Coalition could do to help.
The family was referred to the Educational Advocacy program, and Colletta Daniels, Educational Advocate, took on the case.
Colletta learned about the parents’ struggles and frustrations in trying to get help for their daughter, so she knew she needed to take immediate action to get Julia’s supports in place as soon as possible. Without missing a beat, Colletta got in touch with Julia’s school and worked hard to schedule a virtual review meeting. The parents, principal, school counselor, classroom teachers, and reading specialist were finally able to come together to address Julia’s needs for additional support.
At the meeting, the parents were able to express their concerns and formally request the special education evaluation. Colletta helped facilitate the conversation to ensure collaboration so Julia could receive the services she desperately needed.
The school took some time to carry out the evaluation because of a waitlist. Colletta continued to be a fierce advocate during this time. She pushed for the process to be expedited and ensured that there was clear communication with Julia’s parents about the process and the timeline. At last, after a few months, the plan was carried out.
As a result of the initial evaluation, Julia received a 504 plan, was integrated into a small group for social and emotional support to help with behaviors, and was assigned a tutor. Julia was already receiving support from a reading specialist, and as part of the new plan, they increased accountability for the fidelity of this service.
After a semester of receiving these services, the added supports has shown to be literally life-changing for Julia. Her parents report that she is doing great – they were happy to see a huge improvement in Julia’s educational success and experience. Her grades have improved, there are fewer negative behavioral incidents, and socialization with her classmates has gotten much better.
Because Julia’s educational needs are now being met, she is able to succeed.
Our 30 Days to Family® Specialist Patrick received the case of six-year-old Andrew when Andrew came into foster care due to physical abuse at the hands of his mother. At that time, five of Andrew’s relatives were known to Patrick. Patrick started looking for more family members right away. The day after Andrew came into care, a court hearing was held and Patrick attended. While there, he saw that a few of Andrew’s relatives had also attended, so he seized the opportunity to speak with them. Andrew’s maternal grandmother expressed a strong desire to care for Andrew. Both Andrew’s mother and grandmother gave Patrick the names of additional relatives. They did not know anything about the paternal side of Andrew’s family, though, except that Andrew’s father was in prison. Patrick kept digging and within seven days, he had found 84 more of Andrew’s family members. Patrick also called Andrew’s father, Mark. Although he had never met Andrew, Mark still felt obligated to help his son. Mark gave Patrick the name and phone number of his father, whom he had not spoken to in years. Before ending the conversation, Mark told Patrick that no one on his side of the family knew Andrew existed. Undaunted, Patrick called Mark’s father to tell him that, not only did he have a six-year-old grandson, but that his grandson needed his help. Andrew’s grandfather was surprised, to say the least, but still overjoyed to learn of this addition to his family. He offered to do whatever he could for Andrew. Now, Andrew is living with his doting maternal grandmother and visits with his paternal grandfather once a week! Without the help of 30 Days to Family, it is doubtful that Andrew ever would have met his paternal family.
Deandra always wanted to be a mom. Upon discovering she could not bear children, she became licensed to foster. She initially planned to solely foster but has since adopted five children out of care.
One of them is 14-year-old Alayah, who has lived with Deandra since she was 3 years old. She has a history of abuse and neglect and, as a result, often exhibits trauma-based behaviors. Deandra practiced a traditional parenting style that appeared successful up until recently. As Alayah grew, her emotions grew with her, and Deandra found it increasingly difficult to parent her alone. Earlier this year, Deandra reached out to the Family Works team to get some help acquiring skills to handle Alayah’s behaviors.
Quesha Combs, Deandra’s Family Works Specialist, worked with her to increase her capacity to support Alayah. Deandra underwent a lot of psychological training, during which she developed an understanding of the impacts of trauma on children and how to navigate relationships with those who have adverse childhood experiences. Deandra has evolved into a therapeutic parent who employs healthy boundaries, empathy, and self-care. Her relationship with Alayah has improved; she recently reported they have “finally found their groove.”
First-grader Derrick was suspended for 10 days because he kept running out of his classroom and school whenever he thought he was getting in trouble. Derrick’s foster parent called our Educational Advocate for help because she thought the school was misunderstanding Derrick’s behavior and motives. The foster parent confirmed that Derrick had come into foster care due to abuse and had been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Advocate then met with the teacher, principal, and the School Resource Officer (SRO), the police officer who worked at the school. The Advocate also observed Derrick in school to determine where, when, and with whom these incidents were occurring. She noticed a definite pattern. Derrick got agitated during group restroom breaks. He would start pacing, breathing heavily, and balling his fists when he stood in the restroom line with the rest of his class. Based on her conversations with the school officials and what she learned from the observation, the Advocate determined that once Derick became agitated, he would then try to leave the bathroom, which the teacher would not allow. The principal and SRO would typically intervene outside the bathroom and be quite authoritative. This interaction would further alarm Derrick, triggering his fight or flight instinct.
The Advocate felt confident that these bathroom breaks were triggering Derrick to think about his previous abuse, which made him tense and want to leave. Then, when adult males tried to stop him from leaving, Derrick instinctively fled in order to protect himself. Once the Advocate explained this pattern to the school, they were quite willing to help create a plan to keep Derrick feeling safe and calm. They agreed that Derrick would no longer take bathroom breaks with his class, but instead would be escorted to the nurse’s office by the teacher’s aide of whom he was quite fond. The Advocate also helped the teacher and aide identify the early warning signs of Derrick’s anxiety and how to calm and support him. A couple of weeks later, the school and Derrick’s foster mother reported that Derrick’s elopement episodes had decreased dramatically, and everyone was feeling confident that Derrick would continue to progress.