Ella & Seth
Four year old Ella and six year old Seth came into care when investigators discovered Ella had been beaten with a belt. Overnight, the world they knew evaporated.
Mom and Dad had moved to St. Louis from Tennessee. They had no relatives in the area. They knew no one. The children were placed with a stranger, far away from their neighborhood, their church, and their school. The child welfare team knew to contact the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition
Then Mike, a 30 Days to Family® Recruiter, got involved. Mike quickly found 134 relatives, mostly extended family, who lived in the St. Louis area. While most wanted to help, very few had the means to take two more children. One promising lead turned out to have a conviction in his distant past that, despite happening years prior, still disqualified him as a placement option. But Mike kept hearing a name, a third cousin to Ella and Seth who had three kids already, but might be able to help.
When Mike met Reba, the first thing she said was that she wanted her cousins. Reba told Mike how she had been physically abused in the same way as Ella, and had spent time in foster care. For months she’d been thinking about becoming a foster parent, and took this as a sign. Her only concern, she told Mike, was that her three children would be okay sharing their rooms, toys, clothes, and, most importantly, their mother’s attention. She said she would talk to them, see how they felt about it, and call Mike back.
Two nights later, Mike got a call. When Reba had spoken with her children earlier that night, they didn’t even let her finish. Immediately, they’d gone downstairs to rearrange their toys and their rooms for Ella and Seth’s arrival.
Mike helped Reba get Ella and Seth back in school. He also ensured that both kids were assessed for the trauma they had gone through so they could receive services such as therapy and extra school support. Reba was also worried about Ella and Seth not having enough clothes, so Mike made sure that they got several outfits from our Resource clothing closet. The family was adopted by our generous donors for Christmas, which Seth and Ella spent playing with their new “brothers and sisters.”
Ned & Nancy
Like too many children, Ned and Nancy had come into foster care before. When their Mom died nine years ago, Dad fell apart, lost to grief and addiction, and the children went to live with their Grandma. What no one knew was that Ned and Nancy’s Grandma had her own addiction – methamphetamine. The children lived in horrible conditions for six years before a teacher noticed them coming to school dirty and underfed.
Edna, our Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter, was immediately put on the case. As soon as she met Ned and Nancy, she was able to see what great kids they were. But it would take a special touch to get them adopted. They had very little family in the community who didn’t have a criminal past or ongoing an drug problem. Both were far behind in school. Years of neglect and struggles at home meant they could barely pay attention in class or keep up with their healthy, cared-for peers. The children were featured on A Place to Call Home, and Edna began searching for their forever family.
One day, while combing through their extended family tree, Edna discovered that their biological grandfather, who had passed away years ago, had surviving siblings in Indiana. When Edna reached out to them they didn’t believe her, and refused to return her calls. Finally, Edna sent them the video from A Place to Call Home. Immediately, Ned and Nancy’s great-uncle called. Boon said, “That’s them. Those are my brother’s grandbabies.”
Edna says one of the most important parts of her job is, “Helping kids rewrite their story.” For Ned and Nancy, who had grown up in abject poverty, surrounded by addiction, incarceration, and homelessness, meeting this new side of their family was life-changing. Many of their relatives in Indiana were leaders in the community. Both their great-uncles had served in the military; one was a state senator. Ned and Nancy began to see pieces of themselves reflected in these positive role models. During one visit, they helped Boon at the local food pantry he ran. When Nancy mentioned her love of fir trees, which she drew all over her notebooks, Boon rushed them home to show them the acres of fir trees planted on his property.
But Ned and Nancy were afraid. Years prior, sick with grief and addiction, their father had tried to kill himself. Their Grandma was constantly sick due to her meth use. They worried about who would take care of them, about who would keep them safe. How could Edna explain to them that their family should keep them safe, and not the other way around? She introduced Boon to their Grandma, and together they set guidelines so that Ned and Nancy could stay in touch. Finally, the children said they were ready. In family court, they told the judge they wanted to go home with Boon.
Edna said it best, “One of the most important things is that kids are able to rewrite their story.” Now, with Boon, and the love and support of a forever family, Ned and Nancy have that chance.
When he was four years old, Simon came into foster care due to physical and emotional abuse. He also witnessed the sexual abuse of his sister. In the seven years since then, Simon went through 11 different foster homes, including time in a residential facility. He couldn’t seem to control his behavior. When his most recent foster mom, Dawn, was finally able to get his behavior at home under control, they went through a period of relative calm. Simon seemed to be doing better. It was his longest placement ever. But then, old issues resurfaced.
Simon, now in the fifth grade, began to experience overwhelming anger at school. This led to a 10 day suspension, then 30 more days on top of that. Dawn didn’t know what to do. She felt like the situation was unraveling in front of her. At her wits end, and on recommendation from a friend, Dawn called the Coalition.
Allison, one of our Educational Advocates, immediately sat down with the family to assess the situation. What she found was troubling. Despite the profound trauma Simon experienced throughout his childhood, from his abusive upbringing to his constant shuffling between placements, he was still in regular classes with no special supports in place. No one had ever evaluated Simon to see if there was anything wrong. No one had asked, “Why might Simon struggle with school?”
Children in foster care typically struggle in school. Fewer than 60% finish high school. Children like Simon are five times more likely to be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (a higher rate than returning combat veterans), and are 50% more likely to have a Major Depressive Episode than the general population.
Allison fought to get Simon evaluated for special services at school. Despite her years of advocacy in schools, the results were still shocking. It was the most intensive special education plan after a first evaluation she had ever seen. Simon was immediately placed in special classes for most of the day, and during the remainder he received individual attention from an adult.
As Allison was closing the case, Dawn thanked her, saying she, “Wouldn’t have been able to do this without the Coalition.” Since his new plan was put in place, Simon has not been suspended. He admits it is the first time in his life he’s been excited to go to school.
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.
Selena was only seven-years-old when she came into foster care due to severe neglect–Selena had missed months of school–and homelessness caused by her biological mother’s drug addiction. Selena had been in care for two years when the Coalition’s Extreme Recruitment® program received her case in late 2014. When our recruiter Edna got the case, she knew the names of nine of Selena’s relatives, including two siblings. Edna searched the Children’s Division file, court records, and the internet for more relatives. Eventually, she found 77 more, including four more siblings. One of those siblings was Schonda, who was married with four children of her own. Schonda, too, had suffered from their mother’s drug addiction and left the family as soon as she was old enough. When Edna called her, Schonda immediately volunteered to help. She started spending a lot of time with Selena, taking her to the park and the movies. Soon she was trying to provide for Selena’s every need. Edna knew in her heart that Schonda’s family would be the perfect match for Selena. Edna also knew that with four children of their own already, Schonda and her husband would need some help.
One obstacle challenged their plan right away. Schonda’s husband had a warrant for unpaid speeding tickets totaling more than $900 in fines. A foster child cannot be placed with someone who has a warrant, but the family could not afford to pay the fees right away. Edna, known as The Closer, would not let this fine stand between Selena and her forever family. At Edna’s urging the Coalition’s Executive Director contacted a local law firm and persuaded them to help Schonda’s family pro bono. They were able to get the fines reduced to $600. The family could afford to pay $300. Again, not wanting $300 in fines to prevent Selena from being with her family, the Coalition paid the final $300. But Edna was still not done! She helped Schonda’s husband find a higher paying job so he could better provide for his growing family. In May of 2016, Selena was officially adopted by the Schonda and her husband and has four adoring siblings.
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.