Category: Foster Care & Adoption

Ybanez Family

"It Never Happens This Way"

A touching story of adoption with a unique twist. With open and eager hearts, the Ybanez Family remains faithful to the process and continues to place each child’s needs above their own desires.

College sweethearts, Matt and Aimee, have always dreamed about adoption. “It’s always been a part of our family plan,” Aimee shares. Fifteen years into their marriage and two biological children later, it was time they got serious about it. Their kids were now at the age to understand what adoption is and be a part of the discussion. This would be a family decision and their girls, Keira and Micah “were enthusiastically on board!”

The Ybanez family jumped right into the adoption process. After extensive research, they found ACH Child and Family Services and loved that we work locally with the Department of Family Protective Services to care for children in the community.

They were showered in support from the very beginning. “Going into it, we were a little overwhelmed with the volume of items to complete,” said Aimee, “but ACH was great about keeping it organized and providing us options.” In just 8 weeks from the start of their training, they were officially licensed for matched adoption!

ACH is there, every step of the way

Lizbeth Bryant, Foster Care and Adoption Supervisor, was happy to walk this journey with Matt, Aimee, and their girls. She was ready to “fill their toolbelt” with all they’d need throughout this process – support groups, training classes, and frequent check-ins.

Finally licensed, the Ybanez family did not hold back. They eagerly threw themselves into every part of the adoption process, saying “yes” as a family and ready to provide a child a safe home.

They agreed to help children that needed temporary respite care as they waited to be matched with a child to adopt. Short-term respite foster care is when one family temporarily cares for another family’s foster children for various reasons. The Ybanez Family opened their home and hearts to many children. They never held back the love and care they had to offer a child in need. Matt and Aimee recall “accepting every respite request that came through – from an infant in double leg casts all the way up to a 12-year-old girl who stayed with us for almost two weeks.”

It was during this time of welcoming many children in and out of their home that they met Jenny.* After a trial run and a short weekend stay, they became the ‘go-to’ respite family for Jenny. During this time, Matt, Aimee, Keira, and Micah fell in love with Jenny.

From "matched adoption" to "foster to adopt"

Jenny was a 3-year-old girl whose case was still in process, and a safe permanent placement was still being determined for her. At the time, Jenny was living with a foster family that would later decide they would not be able to adopt her. The care team that surrounded Jenny then needed to search for a new foster family to take her in for the remainder of her case who could also be an adoption possibility.

Knowing Jenny would be in a safe and loving environment is all they truly sought.

Since the Ybanez family had already begun building a relationship with Jenny during multiple respite stays, they were being considered as a possible foster family and adoption match. First, the Ybanez family needed to change their adoption licensing from “match adoption” to also include “foster to adopt”. This was a major decision. Matt and Aimee never imagined they would foster, yet they had no doubts. They loved Jenny and were ready to welcome her into their family. The Ybanez family moved forward with the licensing change so they could become Jenny’s foster care family with the hope and possibility of adopting her.

It was soon looking like the decision on Jenny’s case would be that her biological mother’s rights were going to be terminated. The hearing was in just two weeks and the Ybanez family would foster Jenny during that time. Matt, Aimee, Keira, and Micah would go about their days and welcome Jenny with this anticipated plan in mind.

Yet the process continued. Meetings got delayed, extensions were given, and the timing is usually never as you’d expect. Jenny’s biological mother was given an extension in hopes of family reunification. In this new limbo, Jenny stayed with the Ybanez family for months while her case continued, only now the Ybanez family felt a little unsure how to prepare for the unknown outcome.

Protecting Children and Preserving Families

The Ybanez family remained supportive of Jenny’s biological mother throughout the entire process. Knowing Jenny would be in a safe and loving environment is all they truly sought. As they cared for Jenny, ACH remained there to offer the Ybanez family support and guidance along the way. They were faced to now navigate such conflicting emotions. They had such a deep desire to permanently bring Jenny home and knew the warm and tender care they would offer her.

At the same time, they had such a softness and hope for Jenny’s mom and the reunited family they could be. They never ceased to maintain Jenny’s best interest at the heart of each decision, no matter how joyful or painful it may be. 

How can you truly prepare for the unexpected? Being present and available is sometimes all you can do. Throughout this time, Aimee says, “Before we partnered with ACH we truly did not understand how much support and partnership there is, which is such a blessing. There is no shortage of support at ACH.” The Ybanez family felt more prepared to meet Jenny in her situation and care not only for Jenny but for their entire family. Jenny’s biological mother’s rights were soon reinstated and she was granted permanency. The best home now for Jenny was being reunited with her mom. 

It's what's best for the child that's important

The Ybanez family learned to walk not only with open hearts but open hands as well. While they never wavered from putting the needs of the child first, they fully realize how precious it is to preserve families. They have uniquely experienced the delight and heartache that comes with living so fiercely and boldly in love.

"There is no shortage of support at ACH."

-- Aimee Ybanez

ACH’s Lizbeth has seen their faithfulness to Jenny and is grateful to walk alongside the Ybanez family through this emotional journey. They may not have been able to welcome Jenny permanently into their home, but their hearts were open to far more than they thought capable.

Thanks to their eldest, Keira, they have pursued and maintained contact with Jenny and her mother. Aimee confesses, “honestly, we may never have gathered the strength to reach out that first time after she’d gone home if it hadn’t been for Keira.” Keira wanted to submit her drawing of Jenny into an art contest but wanted to ask her mom for permission first. Aimee pushed through her own grief to reach out.

“At first, we had no idea what an ongoing relationship with Jenny or her mom was supposed to look like. Perhaps we still don’t – there’s no template for it, but we’re doing our best to figure it out as we go.” They find themselves a part of something greater than themselves and have rallied behind a mom and joined her team to care for her sweet daughter.

Aimee shares, “We had never imagined we would foster, let alone see a child go back to her biological mom, and yet, there is something pretty amazing that happens when you can be a part of a larger support system for both child and parent.”

The Ybanez family is still patiently waiting to permanently welcome home a fifth member of their family. They remain hopeful and excited for when that day comes. 

 

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Foster Care and Adoption

Every year hundreds of children in our area are removed from their biological caregivers due to abuse or neglect. And every year ACH Child and Family Services place many of them into temporary foster care with kind and compassionate adults who have been thoroughly vetted and trained. When a child comes to us, an ACH foster and adoption specialist creates and implements an individualized Plan of Service, essentially a guide for the child’s anticipated service needs. Our professionals meet with each child at least once a month, more frequently as required. Learn more about ACH’s Foster Care and Adoption Program.

Adoption Thoughts from an Adult Adoptee

Katie Reisor is a member of ACH’s Community Engagement team.

As an adoptee, I know firsthand how difficult it is to process the loss of identity one can feel after separation from their biological family. Even when a child is adopted as a baby, trauma can happen. Relinquishment is not biologically necessary, but sometimes the necessary step that took place. I personally work hard to advocate for all members of the adoption constellation (a term used to describe the members of the adoption community such as adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents) because I believe despite the trauma- good work is happening and that the focus is adoptees. Adoption centers around them and they are worthy of amazing lives.

Ways to advocate for adoptees

Listen to their stories. Adoptees, just like me, are using their social media platforms, their voices on podcasts, writing books, and starting up organizations to share about the realities of being an adopted child. Our stories matter and they are so diverse. I challenge you to go and dig into some of the amazing, amplified voices out there and to share them. We can learn so much from one another. Here are a few adoptees I follow on social media that I learn so much from: @therapyredeemed, @katiethekad, @adoptee2adoptionworker, and @hannahjmatthews to name a few

Realize that adoption/foster care is about them, not you. Sometimes we unintentionally place ourselves on a pedestal of saviorism. It’s good to check our intentions behind adopting/fostering and decide if we are doing something for ourselves or simply because a child needs a loving and safe home, and I can provide that. The truth is, it’s not about what we can do, it’s all about helping that child succeed in life. I dream of a world that is eradicated of the problem where children need homes, but the reality is there are so many kids who do. When we are looking to help, it’s a great reminder that this is all about those kids.

How hopeful adoptive parents can equip themselves to best care for an adopted child
  • If you are adopting, especially if internationally or transracially, you should be considering how to surround your child with their culture in your immediate circles.
  • What friends do you have that can be mentor figures in your child’s life?
  • What books and classes are you using to educate yourself on culture, trauma, RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), TBRI and other trauma informed care, and to hear from adult adoptees?
  • Are you in therapy to work through your trauma and quirks?
  • Are you capable of self-regulating in stressful moments? There are so many things to consider in preparation to adopt or foster, but also simply to grow as a person.
How we as an organization can help

Preserving Families. While not always possible, preserving families is always the best option for a child. If we can equip families to succeed as healthy parents, we can keep a child in the environment that they know. We can keep that family from being another statistic of a broken home. We can help that child thrive in their biological family and with the identity they are already forming. While there are always situations that call for different strategies, I think it’s important for us to not get jaded by the difficult situations we have seen and still have hope that a family can find redemption with the right resources.

Protecting Children. ACH helps equips hopeful foster families and adoptive parents with the tools for success. It never ceases to inspire me how many people are passionate about helping children in need. Every child deserves a loving home and people are excited about helping. However, you cannot just feel passionate about providing a home, you must be equipped to best care for a child.

We do that by making sure that our families who wish to open their homes are:  

  • Trauma informed
  • Asking how they plan to implement a child’s culture into their lives after adoption/fostering
  • Do they have people in their communities that will come alongside them and support their families?
  • Will they continue to fight for a child who is not adapting into their family and might even be lashing out behaviorally?
  • Are they willing to continue growing in education resources so that they can learn to be a safe space for kids?

I think we do a great job with these things at ACH, but there is always room to grow. Really focusing on setting our foster/adoption families up for success is vital.

Interested in fostering or adopting? Call 817.886.7140 or click below.

Every Child Deserves a Family

10 Years of Finding Forever Homes for Children in Need

In her decade spent at ACH, Foster Care & Adoption Director Stella Maggs has helped more than 500 children get adopted by safe and loving families.

Stella’s history with foster care and adoption goes all the way back to when she was a child in foster care. She and her two brothers were adopted as children.

“I want to help other children find a forever family and have the great experience that I had,” said Stella.

For more than 25 years, Stella has made it her mission to find the best possible homes for children in foster care.

“Every child deserves a family that will stick with them through thick and thin,  to love on them and treat them like their own children because they should be their own children,” said Stella.

Even during a Pandemic, kids can't wait

When hurdles come their way, Stella and her team always put children first. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, her team pivoted to make sure Foster and Adoptive parents were receiving their training and kids were not put on hold.

“Watching my staff turn on the dime and adjust was awesome,” said Stella. “No one blinked twice, they just jumped up and did whatever they needed to do to make sure our kids were safe, and our families were well taken care of.”

The pandemic also allowed Stella to spend more one-on-one time with her families. Even after 500 adoptions, Stella enjoys keeping up with each family and seeing how their children have grown over the years.

Stella remains close with many of the families, and one touched her heart in an amazing way. During her second year at ACH, she met a couple, who already had two biological children, that were eager to adopt a child. With doubts the family would be open to it, Stella asked if they would be interested in adopting a sibling group of four.

“I thought, ‘there’s no way they are going to take a sibling group of four.’ He called me the next day and he said, ‘Stella, we want to move forward with these kids. We really think they’re the ones for our family.’”

After several visits, and going through the adoption process, the couple adopted all four siblings.

“I presented all four siblings, thinking,  there is no way they would be interested in a sibling group of four, especially since they had two children already which would make them a family of eight;  but they jumped on it, and they have been wonderful advocates and parents for these children,” said Stella. “It has been amazing to watch them all grow and to see them grow as parents to these kids.”

A passion to serve

“Stella came to ACH in 2011 as the Adoption Program Manager and has continued to invest in and build our foster care and adoption program,” said Melissa Opheim, ACH Chief Operating Officer.

“If you ever talk with Stella about adoption, you can immediately see her passion and dedication to children and families and her love for what adoption means to so many of the children we serve, a family of their own.”

Dedicated to ensuring a child's safety

Stella also thinks of the parents who welcomed a young boy into their home who was diagnosed with cancer just months before his adoption was finalized.

“This family went through everything with him,” said Stella. “Bone cancer, multiple surgeries, all kinds of things to find something to help him.”

The family knew  the boy would not live long enough to have the adoption finalized, but they asked ACH and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services if they could change his last name to their family’s name before he passed.

“They were committed to him from day one and it didn’t matter what anybody threw at them or what he went through, they were there,” said Stella. “That is the kind of family ACH recruits and trains. Families who will take care of a child no matter what.”

For Stella, the most rewarding part of her job is seeing children thrive with their new families, despite the trauma they have experienced. When she sees 500 adoptions and 500 children that have gone to a forever home, and have had a great life with their families, it’s priceless.

“To think you just had a small part of that, of placing a child with a family, feels great,” said Stella. “ “This is why I am so proud of my team because they are so dedicated to ensuring a child’s safety. To ensuring our children get a forever home or go back to a home that can now truly help this child grow into anything they want to.”

Stella feels the passion her team has is consistent with every program at ACH.

“Everyone in this organization has a passion for children, all the way from our CEO to our maintenance team, and it comes through in everything that we do.”

Caring for kids in your family…who aren’t yours?

ACH’s New Program is a Unique Solution Providing Much Needed Resources to Kinship Families

Chantel Bedlington plays a  vital role in helping ACH Child and Family Services create a program that will change the lives of families caring for relative children.  

Chantel, ACH’s Kinship Navigator Support Specialist, has been reviewing data from a voluntary survey and connecting with kinship families as well as organizations that serve kinship families to build a network of resources, education, and support to build our Kinship Navigator program.

“The Kinship Navigator program will help kinship families with their unique needs and connect them to much-needed resources, support groups, as well as financial assistance, legal assistance, and more,” said Chantel.

ACH is one of four organizations selected by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to develop and implement a program to serve kinship caregivers.

Because of ACH’s broad range of programs that help children and families, Chantel has been able to assist many kinship families before the program has even launched. Kinship families have been able to utilize AIRS, ACH’s 24/7 bilingual crisis hotline, Real Help for Real Life, which provides free youth and family counseling, and our Kinship Connections support group. The Kinship Navigator Program has also partnered with Texas Grandparents Raising Grandchildren support groups in North Texas.

What is kinship care?
A kinship family occurs when a grandmother, aunt, uncle, or sibling is raising a family member. Kinship families can also include children placed with close family friends, also known as fictive kin. In either case, when a child is placed with a family member, it’s new to both.
Close to home

Chantel understands the needs and struggles of kinship parents because she is one herself. Chantel and her husband began raising relative children they had only met once before the placement. She also has two biological children and one adoptive child.

Two years ago, Chantel got a call from Child Protective Services in Kansas saying that her husband’s stepsister’s children would be placed in foster care if a family member couldn’t care for them.

“What do you do when you get that call,” asked Chantel. “I don’t want to be that person that stands in front of these kids one day and have them ask, ‘You are my family, and you didn’t come?’”

So, they went. Chantel and her husband packed up their car and drove to Kansas to pick up the children. Almost as soon as the kids were in Chantel’s care, she was faced with a lack of support and resources to help her kids since their DFPS case was closed as soon as they were picked up by family.

For the last two years since the placement, Chantel had to fight to get the kids on Medicaid and get adequate resources for their critical health needs. She had to obtain a lawyer to get legal guardianship. Even getting the kids enrolled at their neighborhood schools was a struggle.

“I had to fight for everything,” Chantel said.

This experience led her to ACH.

“When I saw this position at ACH, I wasn’t necessarily looking for a new job,” she said. “I was just like, ‘Wow, somebody has got to do that. Somebody has got to help fight for these families.’”

Chantel has built strong relationships with local kinship families from the very beginning of the Kinship Navigator program. These relationships were extremely rewarding and beneficial in her role as a kinship parent.

“Before I started working with ACH, I didn’t know any other kinship caregivers,” said Chantel. “It has been wonderful to connect with them and know that we are on this journey together.”

Chantel Bedlington, ACH Kinship Navigator Support Specialist
ACH Kinship Services Dig Deeper

That connection is almost as equally important as financial assistance and legal aid for kinship parents.

Many kinship caregivers, especially those who are grandparents, are again having to raise children during a time when none of their friends are. They don’t have anyone to relate to in their lives.

Not only that, but many are dealing with the guilt of their children’s choices that led to their grandchildren entering their care. It is hard for them not to feel shame for their children’s choices that led to things like addiction or imprisonment, which caused them to lose their children.

“Many of our grandparents feel isolated because of that,” said Chantel. “They need to know their adult children’s choices are not their fault.”

Most people don’t realize kinship families have unique needs: They are raising the children of a family member and experiencing the many emotions involved in that. The family dynamic can be a very difficult one to navigate for the kids and the caregiver. For many of the children going into kinship care, they are dealing with the trauma they experienced with their parents. Oftentimes, even though the children are going with family, they don’t have existing relationships with the family they are being sent to live with, which can be traumatizing.

“Foster and adoptive parents have the advantage of being trained on trauma, what to expect and how to help a kid who is losing control,” said Chantel. “For kinship families, they just get a call.”

What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting

To combat this common problem, Chantel has begun developing a guide to help kinship parents navigate their new role: What to Expect When You Weren’t Expecting. It will teach parents how to get the children enrolled in school, what to expect in the licensing process, and how to apply for Medicaid. Becoming a licensed kinship foster parent offers benefits like monthly financial compensation and long-term support. However, the Kinship Navigator Program is ready to help those who are not eligible or interested in seeking licensing. The guide will also have recommendations for articles, podcasts, and books on kinship and trauma-informed care. 

The Kinship Navigator program is planned to start this Fall, and it will benefit kinship families in Tarrant, Parker, Palo Pinto, Johnson, and Hill counties.

If you are a caregiver, legal professional, child welfare worker, educator, or in law enforcement and would like to participate in assisting us in our planning process or get more information, please register by clicking here.

ACH Child and Family Services Celebrates 500th Adoption

Randall and Nikki Emery welcomed Everett into their forever home, making them ACH’s 500th Adoption.
Local nonprofit focused on protecting children and preserving families celebrates historic milestone

FORT WORTH, Texas (July 19, 2021) – ACH Child and Family Services is excited to announce the organization’s 500th adoption. ACH serves children from infancy to age 17 who are in the care of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) with special attention around the placement of sibling groups and children age five and up, especially teens.

“While we’re proud to announce this milestone, we recognize there is still much work to be done,” says Lance Ortiz, ACH Outreach Coordinator. “Every day, we seek parents who will open their hearts and homes to deserving children. This work is so important in our ability to make a positive impact in the lives of those children and teens who need it most, as well as the greater Fort Worth community. We want to continue to do what we can to provide the critical support and resources children need to succeed.”

ACH Child and Family Services continues to raise awareness of the impact and importance of foster care. In 2020, there were more than 9,000 children in North Texas in need of Foster Care.

“Foster parents are important because they protect children and preserve families,” said Ortiz. “They provide homes and hearts filled with love and compassion and help children heal from the traumatic experiences and environments they may have come from. ACH thoroughly trains and supports foster parents to help children heal while their biological parents are working with agencies to regain focus and prepare for reunification. If a court determines that’s not possible, then we look to adoption to find the child a forever family.”

ACH has several upcoming virtual & in-person Foster Care and Adoption Meet & Greet events:

  • Tuesday, August 31st, 12-1 p.m. (Zoom Meeting)
  • Tuesday, September 7th, 6-7 p.m. (In-Person)
  • Thursday, September 16th, 6-7 p.m. (In-Person)

Those interested in learning more about foster care and/or adoption are invited to join these free information sessions. Participants can register online or by calling 817.335.HOPE (4673). 

Learn more about how you can get involved at ACH today!