Mes: PMñ2021 f16522021-11-30T15:16:52-06:00pmmartes

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

Preservar las Familias 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.

Proteger a Los Niños 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.”

Employee Spotlight – Alice Barrientez

Connection Through Culture

November is Native American Heritage Month and at ACH, we value the diversity of our staff. Having a group of unique individuals is crucial for the youth in our care to learn from and relate to.

Alice Barrientez, a supervisor in ACH’s Residential Treatment Program, utilizes her Pueblo and Apache heritage in caring for children who come from traumatic childhoods in foster care. She also shares her traditions with the youth and offers many teaching moments inspired by her culture.

Helping Youth Comes Naturally

The Robert and Jane Ferguson Residential Treatment Center (RTC) is designed to help foster youth with significant behavioral or mental health challenges. At the RTC and throughout ACH, staff utilize Trust-Based Relational Intervention® to meet the complex needs of children who have experienced adversity, early harm, toxic stress, and/or trauma. This method of therapeutic intervention was developed by TCU’s Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development.

Alice says that many of the practices of TBRI® are second nature to her thanks to her Pueblo upbringing. She was taught how to calm herself down and regulate her emotions, skills we teach to our youth.

“You have to spend days, weeks, or months before you can get the child to be comfortable with you.”
- Alice Barrientez,
ACH Supervisor

Alice also believes that being raised around horses, although not the same, gives her the same mindset for the youth in the RTC, many of whom exhibit extreme behaviors.

“You have to be very careful when you approach a horse and take very small steps. You never want to come behind it,” Alice said. “When you see a child and you know they don’t trust you, you don’t go up to them and hug them, especially our kids in the RTC. You have to spend days, weeks, or months before you can get the child to be comfortable with you.”

Alice also shares her culture with the youth in the RTC through cooking traditional Native American foods and assembling a teepee at the start of Native American Heritage Month. Alice explained the significance of each part of the teepee.

“The rope that ties’ around the tripod represents family members involved in the upbringing of a child. The tripod is the foundation,” said Alice. “The poles that lean on the tripod for extra support are your elders, counselors, medicine man, leaders of the community. The covering is the shield protecting all of the above to succeed in life as a group of people.”

The significance of the teepee can be reflected in work of the RTC. The RTC are the poles that come together in the center, and the staff are the cover that all comes together to shield the children.

Helping Youth Comes Naturally

Gardening is a large part of Alice’s culture, and this is something she was able to share recently with Cody, a 14-year-old boy in the RTC. One day Alice noticed Cody was feeling anxious and went outside with him to help calm him down. He saw the planter boxes outside of the facility and asked if he could plant some seeds. Alice gave him seeds for Summer Squash, and it wasn’t long before flowers started to sprout.

Alice explained to Cody that, just like humans, plants need to be treated well and cared for.

At first, Cody didn’t understand, but Alice compared the plants to him. She asked him, “What would happen to you if I left you alone and didn’t talk to you?” Cody replied, “I’d be sad and lonely.”

“How does it feel when I give you a hug or a knuckle bump?” asked Alice. “It makes me happy,” Cody replied.

Alice explained that the way our staff gives the youth support, care, and praise, while also guiding them when they make a mistake, is exactly what a plant needs.

“He was able to associate his growth with the growth of the plant,” said Alice.             

Cody continued to take care of his squash and had two of the four seeds turn into squash. He was able to prepare dinner with the other youth in the program using his squash—an accomplishment he was very proud of. Alice is also proud of the fact that the other youth respect the garden, which reflects a sense of community and growth.

Encouraging Growth

Alice has a strong connection to the youth in the RTC because she also experienced trauma during her childhood. Those experiences help her understand the youth and the reasons behind their behaviors.

“They have a feeling of misplacement, and they feel lost,” said Alice. “They have had too many adults let them down.”

Her experiences have allowed her to better understand the youth and help them in times of stress or anxiety.

“I just do what comes natural to me,” said Alice.

You can learn more about the RTC and take a virtual tour at ACHservices.org/RTC.

You can also help us bring hope to those who need it most this holiday season—just visit ACHservices.org/Christmas.

Meet James

When James was 17 years old, his father was struggling to care for him at home. His father became disengaged and was ready for James to start living on his own. James’ father dropped him off at ACH’s Youth Emergency Shelter, and this devastated him.

The Pat O’Neal Youth Emergency Shelter at ACH is the only 24-hour emergency shelter in Tarrant County offering 24/7 safe shelter to runaway and homeless youth and trafficking survivors, ages 10-17. 

When James first came to the shelter, he struggled with peer interactions and behavioral issues. Every day, ACH staff worked with James to build a trusting adult relationship. Over time, James started to open up to staff and began to accept their help. He became invested in his future and began to change his behaviors and outlook on life.

“James figured out that he mattered, and his future was important,” said Stephen Parker, ACH Homeless Services Program Manager. “Our relationship with James allowed us to help guide and mentor him, and together we put him on a path for success.”

James recently got accepted into ACH’s LIFE Project. LIFE is a supervised independent living (SIL) program that promotes self-confidence and self-sufficiency for young adults aging out of the foster care system and homeless young adults.

“James’ progress, change in behavior, and focus was outstanding and exactly why we do this type of work,” said Stephen.

Many of the youth in ACH’s shelter share similar stories to James. They are in most need of safety and shelter, as well as trusting adults to show love and support. To learn more about the shelter, click the button below. 

With open arms and open hearts, ACH welcomes youth in need

“I thought my life was over at 17 and they showed me how it had just begun and to fight for a better life for myself and others.”

The Morris program at the ACH Wedgwood Residential Campus provides 24-hour care for youth ages 14-17 who are difficult to place in a permanent family setting. These children have been traumatized to the extent that it is difficult for them to express their emotions appropriately, leading to behaviors like aggression, running away, emotional outbursts, drug experimentation and early pregnancy.

When we received this message, we immediately shared it with our Morris team. She is, after all, “going after the dream they instilled in me.”

Dear ACH,

I am eternally grateful to the Morris home and the ACH programs—they have helped so much in my adult life. In the Morris home, I was taught how to budget and to cook, not to mention the value of friendship and kindness.

I know that these things might sound funny, but before I came to Morris, I was 17 and numb. I was unimpressed with the world and anything to do with other people. I knew nothing of how to take care of myself and was homeless as a child more than once. I felt that because I had no biological family to rely on, I didn’t need anyone nor did I want anyone to “mess with me.” I had addiction problems and countless behavioral problems that I didn’t see as an issue. I was always running away and every time I was up to no good. I was self-harming and saw no point to life.

When I got to Morris, the staff welcomed me with open arms and open hearts and shared their priceless wisdom of life with me. I learned how to care for others and for myself. I learned to be kind and to make friends, which I had plenty of that year in school! They taught me to be passionate about things. I threw myself into softball and music and art. They taught me how valuable life can be and that you just have to push through the hard parts.

“I use the skills they taught me today as an adult and I have so much more to learn, but they absolutely jump-started my life.”

I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am to the staff for the days I would sit in my room with one of them and cry and they would just sit and listen. So many of the staff at Morris home have been through the same types of situations as the kids that are currently there or were there in the past and they taught us how to persevere and thrive.

I am now 20 years old and going after the dream they instilled in me. I’m going to be in social work and hopefully get my recreational therapy degree so I can help kids that are in situations like I was. I thought my life was over at 17 and they showed me how it had just begun and to fight for a better life for myself and others. I use the skills they taught me today as an adult and I have so much more to learn, but they absolutely jump-started my life.

Thank you 100 times over, ACH.

                                             Jasmine

This Morris transitional living program focuses on factors that have been proven to help youth be successful post-foster care. We aid in their academic achievement, vocational planning and by assisting them in finding gainful employment or volunteer experience. We also help these youth to attain a valid ID or driver’s license, to improve their ability to manage their own behavior, to cope with stress, and to gain insight into their interests and strengths.

To learn more, visit achservices.org/programs/morris.