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August 16, 20190

When Aurora and Michael met 10 years ago, it didn’t take long for the conversation to include plans for a potential future family. In fact, they had only known each other for about four hours when Aurora said, “You know, I’ve always seen myself adopting…but older kids. I don’t mind having bio children, but I’ve always had a heart for older kids, older teenagers.”

Aurora had been a motivational speaker for students. She was one of the female youth directors at the church she attended while in seminary.  Even as a teenager, she worked with teenagers in a leadership role in high school. So wanting to adopt teens was just a progression of where her heart was.

The fact that Michael didn’t flinch at the idea of adopting teenagers, and instead indicated that he would “love that,” pretty much sealed the deal, and they were married in November 2009.

Around that same time, two sisters and their younger brother were placed into their first foster home. The three Hispanic siblings, ages 7-10, would be placed in five more foster homes over the next eight years and wind up living in a group facility before becoming available for adoption. But God had a plan for Brenda, Gracie, and Gerson, which started with the siblings never being separated during their entire ordeal in the foster care system. A miracle in itself.

As Aurora and Michael began their life together, they weren’t in a hurry to have their own children or adopt. They agreed to wait until they felt like it was the right time to add to their family. About six years later, the time to adopt seemed to arrive.

Aurora and Michael are both half Hispanic and have family and friends in Mexico. One of those friends, who was finishing college in the US, was in town. When Aurora answered the knock on the door, her friend was visibly upset and crying. She said her sister was pregnant, and they were desperately searching for a home for the baby when it arrived. Aurora was asked if she would take the baby.

Aurora immediately thought, “Wait, we wanted teenagers, what happened?”  Aurora told her friend she would talk to Michael about it, but they had lots of friends who would love to have a baby.

When she told Michael, his response was somewhat in jest, “Someone offered you a baby and you didn’t take it!” Aurora wasn’t against adopting a baby, she had just prepared herself for teenagers. So, she called her friend to accept the baby into their family.

They immediately began preparing. Aurora left the photography business, they cleared their calendars for the next six months, Michael took maternity leave at work, and they were getting all the baby things ready. Then their world came crashing down. With six days left during the period when the birth mother could change her mind…she did.

Devastated, Aurora said, “The baby was gone. We were just standing in the house and thinking, what do we do now?”

The Bradfords got on with their lives. But at that point, they were not going to consider adoption again.

After about a year, out of the blue, Michael asked Aurora if she would like to attend a CPS meeting about adoption. She nonchalantly said, sure. Aurora had a girlfriend who was a foster mom that was looking for more respite providers, so she thought, “we’ll just do respite now and get our feet wet.” But then she heard about the need for more foster families at the meeting.

“I remember sitting at that table, and we were told there was like 13,000 kids in foster care and Texas was in the middle of a crisis,” said Aurora. “At that time, there was a newspaper article about children sleeping on floors in the CPS offices, and how there was a desperate need for homes for these kids.”

Suddenly, adoption was back on the table!

At the meeting, they were presented with a list of potential agencies and the Bradfords emailed Arrow and two other agencies. With Aurora’s driven nature to get things done, she decided whichever agency had the next available class to attend, that’s who they would go with. As the greater plan continued to unfold, Arrow’s staff emailed Aurora with info on a class that was being held the very next day. Of the two other agencies, one never contacted the Bradfords and the other one responded long after the Bradfords already had children in their home.

After being licensed, the Bradfords submitted their interest on several different sibling groups. Then they received information on a sibling group of three: Brenda, Gracie and Gerson. Aurora hesitated because the youngest was 12.  “Oh, I don’t know,” Aurora said. “They’ll probably find somebody to adopt them. I really want older kids that are harder to place.”

The Bradfords actually passed on the opportunity to submit their interest in adopting the trio. Later, Aurora had a change of heart, but the deadline had already passed. Arrow staff told Aurora, “Oh it doesn’t hurt. We can go ahead and submit. The worst they can say is ‘no.’”

As the plan progressed, the Bradfords were chosen by the adoption selection committee. “In our minds, they were already our kids,” Michael proclaimed.  Aurora added, “We just had to wait on the paperwork from CPS so we could read their history and sign the papers saying we would take them with their background.”

During the four months the Bradfords waited for the CPS paperwork, they passed on two other sibling groups. The “sales pitch” on one of the groups was, even though there are five children, they’re all younger and would be easier than adopting three teens.

“That’s not why I’m here,” Arora declared. “They thought we couldn’t have our own bio kids. We were very capable of having our own, but I wanted to be the solution to a problem instead of hoping someone else would do it.”

The Bradfords were more determined than ever to “fight” for Brenda, Gracie, and Gerson. So when the 4,086 pages of background information on the kids finally arrived, Aurora and Michael split the stack of paper and pulled an “all-nighter” reading every single page.

“I was looking for examples of sneaking out, or drinking, and things like that,” Aurora said. “I was so perplexed. Everything in the report was just regular teen stuff that all kids do. There was nothing bad in the report.  So we signed on the dotted line.”

The kids were living in a shelter in the Houston area, and the Bradfords lived in Dallas. After meeting the kids, Brenda, the oldest, let the Bradfords know she didn’t want to leave in the middle of the school semester, so it was decided the kids would stay in the shelter until the end of school.

Before the kids came for their first visit, Aurora went to great lengths to prepare their bedrooms so it would feel like “home” to them. She painted the walls, hung an old, fun chandelier in the girls’ room and embroidered the girls’ names on their pillowcases. “I wanted their room to have the feel of a five-star hotel…glamorous and beautiful,” said Aurora.  “For Gerson’s room, I put a big “G” on the wall and since he as a big reader, we gave him three bookshelves in his room, each eight feet long.”

On their first trip to Dallas, the girls gasped when they saw their room and their names embroidered on the pillows. When Aurora saw Gerson struggling with his big, heavy bag and a backpack, she pointed out that his sisters were sharing one backpack and she asked him what he was bringing for the weekend. Gerson told her, “They’re my books. I’m moving in.”

“Michael and would I drive down to Houston every other weekend and bring the kids back to Dallas,” Aurora explained. “We’d leave after work on Friday, and have the kids to our home around midnight. We’d have a great time together on Saturday, then leave about 4:00 Sunday afternoon, drop them off and be home by 1:00 in the morning.”

The Bradfords made the round trip to Houston twice a month from January until May. Many times, they would make multiple trips in a week to attend all of the kids’ events, like the other parents did. Then school finally ended and Aurora, Michael, and the kids made their last trip from the shelter to Dallas.

Brenda, Gracie, and Gerson officially became Bradfords on the November 3, 2017, National Adoption Day.  Since then all three kids have just blossomed.

Brenda, now 18 years old, will be attending Texas State University. She’s not sure what she wants to study, but she’s considering social work as her major.

Gracie (16) and Gerson (15) are taking dual college credit classes from the local community college while being homeschooled. When they both graduate in December 2019, they’ll each start college with 27 hours of college credit.

Gerson was invited to take a private tour of the College of Engineering at the University of North Texas. As the Department Head and one of the professors were giving Gerson and Aurora the tour, they sat in on a class where Gerson raised a question that demonstrated his grasp of the topic. Later Aurora asked Gerson if he understood what they were talking about, and he replied, “I understood what they were doing, but I just didn’t understand how they got to that point.” Gerson has his eye on computer science.

Gracie has shown the greatest transformation of the three kids. As the one who rarely spoke up and complied with others, she stunned Aurora and Michael when she came bounding down the stairs to tell her them she needed to buy a dress because she had been accepted for an interview to enter the Miss Teen Texas, which is part of the National American Miss organization. Gracie had taken the initiative to apply online, and was about to embark on an incredible journey.

The day of the pageant, Aurora shares the scope of Gracie’s transformation, “When we met this girl she said a handful of words a day. Last year, she was almost in tears at the idea of speaking to a crowd of people. Today she is not only giving speeches to large audiences, she is presenting herself to people as a role model for other girls. Winning the crown would be exciting, but what all the people in that room tonight don’t know is, this little girl had all the odds against her just a couple years ago. She told me once that she stopped dreaming about her future because she knew it would never happen. Now, all she talks about is what she wants to do and what part of the world she wants to see next. She represents 68 of the bravest girls in Texas. Little Gracie has become a completely different girl. She is Gracie Bradford and she is our winner!”


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October 17, 20171

Anita Eggerson never dreamed she would be able to own a four-bedroom home with 2,600 square feet, on a half-acre of land. But she knew in her heart, her new home was a blessing directly from the Lord.

“There is no way a single woman should be able to do what I did,” explained Anita. “Standing on my deck, I asked God, ‘I know you gave this to me for a reason. I’m thanking you, but what am I supposed to do with all this. It’s big!’”

The very next day at church, Anita was doing what she always does, engaging the kids in the youth program. By the laughter and interaction, it was evident Anita has a natural ability to connect with teens.

She caught the attention of fellow church member Amy Anderson, Arrow’s program director over foster care in Amarillo. Amy complimented Anita on being “really good” with kids and suggested she check out Arrow’s foster care program. She invited Anita to one of their meetings just to hear what they had to say.

“I went, and of course I enjoyed it,” said Anita. “I loved what I saw and just how much energy they had, and how much passion they had for the kids. And I was like, ‘I want to be part of that!’”

Since becoming an Arrow foster parent, Anita has brought into her big home six teenagers and two preschoolers. But as Anita shares, “I feel my knack is with teenagers. I can reach them.”

Matthew was one of her greatest challenges, which became one of her greatest blessings.

Matthew came into foster care with his sister in 2010. The following year, the two were separated and Matthew’s sister was adopted. After losing contact with his sister, Matthew was devastated and begin to have social difficulties. He didn’t have many friends, his school worked suffered, and he frequently skipped classes.

The number of foster homes and shelters Matthew had been placed in over the years are too numerous to count. In 2016, Matthew became one of those kids who had to sleep in a CPS office because there was no place for him to go. An emergency statewide placement request went out to find a place for Matthew, and Arrow’s residential program in Amarillo had an opening for Matthew. But his downward spiral continued.



April 29, 2016

Angela HumphriesWith few homes available for foster children over 12 years old, especially older foster teens, the future holds little promise of the type of future most 18 year-olds look forward to according to the results of the 2011 Midwest Study from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.

The seven-year study indicates that when youth at the age of 18 become too old to remain in foster care, and find themselves struggling on their own without the support of a family, the odds of them successfully launching into adulthood are minimal. According to the study, 23% of them do not have a high school diploma or a GED by age 21. Half are unemployed, and those that are employed have a median annual income of $5,450. And nearly 30% are homeless by the age of 24.

Unfortunately, teenagers are typically the hardest foster children to place with a family. The majority of families that seek information on foster care are interested in fostering toward the goal of adoption. And a teenager is not who they’re looking to add to their family.

Carolyn Bishop, Vice President of Texas Programs for Arrow Child & Family Ministries explains the need: “A lot of the openings we have are with families that want to work with babies to toddler age. We have a huge shortage of openings for older foster teens, and so it’s making it hard for us to help CPS find appropriate placements for those kids.”

Granted, raising any teenager has it challenges, but Scott Lundy, CEO of Arrow Child & Family Ministries, who is raising three adopted teens himself, says there are three important components to successfully fostering a teenager.

“First, you’ve got to have a love for, and a proclivity to work with teenagers, because teens are different. Second, you have to be willing to connect with the child, because everything is about relationship. You can’t just let them do their thing in their room, and assume everything must be okay as long as they’re not doing stupid stuff. You have to take the time to check in with them on a regular basis, and not accept “fine” and “good” when you ask them about school and their friends. You’ve got to go deeper than that. And third, you need to be able give the child an appropriate level of autonomy while maintaining boundaries.

“These kids are going to mess up just like we did, and they’re probably going to mess up more than we did, because we had a stable upbringing all the way through our life that got us through adolescence, and they did not. These kids are going to push back more than normal, and part of this is based on the pattern they’ve experienced in being removed from their home, and then being moved from place to place. But what each of these kids desperately need is a family that will commit to helping them work through this tough period in their life so they can prepare for adulthood.”

Angela Humphrey, a foster parent with Arrow Child & Family Ministries, is one of those few foster parents who not only opens her home to foster teens, but specializes in fostering teenage boys. She says the most difficult aspect of fostering a teenager is gaining their trust, because so many people in their lives have let them down.

“Don’t expect a kid to be thankful and loving just because you’ve opened your home,” said Humphrey. “That comes with gaining their trust, and that takes time. Making it work takes love and patience with a lot of understanding and forgiveness.

“We lose so many of our young men to the streets and jail. I like knowing we lose some to education, jobs and becoming great parents. Watching some of my boys graduate from high school, go to college, become productive citizens, and then receiving phone calls from some just to say ‘I didn’t get it then, but I do now,’ that’s the most beautiful thing of all.”

To learn more about the need and how you can help, attend the next information meeting at the Arrow office near you. Details are available at www.arrow.org/meeting.

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March 23, 2016

shutterstock_336280856Our children are our future and a gift from God. In light of National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, we’ve gathered some information on the signs of child abuse, what to do if a child comes to you, how to report child abuse, and ways to prevent child abuse.

Signs of Child Abuse

Note: This list is not exhaustive. Trust your gut instinct if you suspect abuse and report it.

  • Unexplained injuries – visible signs of abuse in the form of unexplained bruises or burns, sometimes in the shape of objects; child may have unconvincing explanation of the injury
  • Changes in behavior – scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn, aggressive
  • Returning to earlier childhood behaviors – fear of the dark or strangers, thumb-sucking, bed-wetting
  • Changes in eating – the stress caused by abuse can lead to weight gain or loss
  • Fear of going home – kids may express anxiety/apprehension about leaving school or going places with the abuser
  • Changes in sleeping – frequent nightmares or difficulty falling asleep, thereby seeming tired or fatigued
  • Changes in school performance/attendance – difficulty concentrating in class, or excessive absences, especially if adults are trying to conceal injuries
  • Poor personal care/hygiene – appearing uncared for, consistently dirty or have severe body odor, lack proper clothing for the weather
  • Risky behavior – kids abused may participate in risk-taking behavior such as drug use or carrying a weapon
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviors – demonstrates unusual sexual knowledge or explicit sexual language

If a Child Comes to You

Should a child come to you and report he or she is being abused, it’s important to remember the following tips.

  • Keep calm and just listen. Try to remain as neutral as possible as the child speaks to you about the abuse. Do not display disgust or shock, as the child might think it has to do with them and not about what has happened to them.
  • Don’t promise not to tell. Instead, say you’ll promise only to tell people who need to know and that you’ll let the child know beforehand.
  • Reassure the child they did the right thing by telling you.
  • Write down everything while it’s fresh in your mind.
  • Report the abuse. You have the power to help a child who is hurting and in danger. You can report anonymously should you so choose.

“Don’t let fear of getting involved prevent you from reporting concerns. It’s our responsibility as a community to prevent abuse,” says Andrea Requenes, Regional Director at Arrow Child and Family Ministries.

How to Report Child Abuse

To report cases of child abuse, contact your local Department of Family and Protective Services. In the state of Texas, this number is 1-800-252-5400. Nationally, you may contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

Ways to Prevent Child Abuse

Scott Lundy, President and CEO of Arrow Child & Family Ministries (Arrow) and President of the Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services, declares, “There needs to be a revolution at the taxpayer level to reach out to our elected officials to demand that more funding be allocated to child abuse prevention services. We have to be able to begin to slow the rate at which children are being abused at home.  It takes the right prevention services to make this happen.”

In order to strengthen parents and families and prevent the cycle of child abuse from occurring, it’s important that parents and caregivers feel they have a support system in place and resources readily available to them. Here’s how you can help.

  • Be willing to be a support system for your neighbors and their kids and grandkids
  • Volunteer in the community by becoming a mentor to kids, or donating time or resources to community organizations
  • Help a family under stress. For example: babysitting, running errands, or helping with chores
  • Get involved in a local school by attending their events (plays, sports games, performances), join the parent-teacher organization, or even start a neighborhood watch

Additionally, make sure to check out the Safe Families for Children program. Safe Families provides breathing room and support for parents in crisis who may need help caring for their children until they can get back on their feet. Volunteers in this program aim to reduce the risk factors for child abuse by coming alongside parents before a situation escalates.

New Program Coming Soon

Arrow Child and Family Ministries in partnership with several area agencies in Houston is excited to announce a new program coming soon called ParentingHelp. Preparing to launch in April, the program will offer resources such as in-home training and support services for families at risk for abuse. For many, these resources couldn’t come at a better time. Those looking to take advantage of the program can expect to receive parenting and discipline techniques as just some of the many benefits through ParentingHelp.

Want to know more? Attend an informational meeting to learn ways you can be involved in a child’s life.

Source: https://www.childwelfare.gov/



November 19, 2015
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Savannah (second from left) with her father, mother and three brothers.

 

Last year, 20,936 teens in foster care awaited adoption, but less than a quarter were welcomed into a permanent family.

That’s just one reason why 14-year-old Savannah’s adoption Wednesday was so special.

She joined her adoptive family in front of a judge on Wednesday, and told him she wanted to officially become a Larramendi. When the judge granted the adoption, applause erupted in the room.

For Savannah’s father, Ulises, finalizing the adoption was just icing on the cake. To him, she was already his daughter.

“I knew she was my daughter when she came to us in June,” Ulises said. “We’ve thought of her as our daughter since day one. God has been impacting our lives through her from that moment on. It’s an eternal thing.”

Maria and Ulises Larramendi felt God had called them to adopt a teenager, and Savannah was placed with them about six months ago, after being in the foster care system for more than two years.

Savannah described her parents as “pretty chill,” and her three older brothers as “very protective.”

“In my bio-family, I was the oldest, but now I’m the youngest, so I’m getting used to that,” she said.

Ambitious and confident, Savannah has big plans for the future.

“I want to go to college at Texas Tech and become a choir teacher, and the color guard director,” she said. “I love music, and those have always been my favorite electives in school.”

Now with the full support of a permanent family, her dreams are closer to reality than ever. Her parents couldn’t be more proud of her.

But that’s not to say there haven’t been bumps along the way. Parenting a teenage girl is always difficult, and throwing years of being in the child welfare system on top of that just adds to the challenge.

Ulises said that he and his wife both get emotional when they look at baby pictures of Savannah, wishing that they could have adopted her before she went through so much hurt and trauma. However, they trust that God put them in her life at the right time.

Ulises credits Arrow staff for helping him prepare for the difficulties of being a foster parent by being upfront about its realities.

“One thing Arrow did in every class was be brutally honest, and encouraged us to be brutally honest as well, and now I know why they do it,” Ulises said. “When Jamie (a former Arrow Family Home Developer) said ‘You need to pray this up every day,’ now we know why. But at the end of the day (Savannah’s) life has changed, and God is glorified.”



September 24, 2015

Hernandez familyWhen Brenda and Francisco Hernandez decided to foster, they planned on taking in two children at the most.

But when they were asked if they would take in four brothers who had been separated most of their lives, they opened their hearts and their home to all four boys in order to keep them together. The boys’ youngest brother had already been adopted out to another family, and Brenda and Francisco wanted to ensure that the remaining four would grow up in each other’s lives.

Eli, Adam, Hugo and Brendan arrived at the Hernandez home about two years ago, and overnight Brenda and Francisco went from having no children to parenting four boys, ages 8, 6, 5 and 2.

It wasn’t easy. The boys had hardly any clothes or belongings, and they often fought. At times Brenda had doubts about continuing to foster them.

“There were days when I didn’t think I could do this anymore,” she said. “But we just prayed and prayed about it, and we prayed with the boys as well.”

Eli, the oldest, wrote Brenda a note the very first week he was placed with her, and his words really touched her heart, and gave her the motivation to persevere.

It read “You’re the best mom. Thank you for taking care of me, and feeding me, and thank you for cleaning my teeth.” (Brenda is a dental hygienist.)

“Knowing the abuse and neglect they came from, I just couldn’t let them go back.” Brenda said. “I love them like my own.”

Slowly but surely, the boys learned to share, and fought less. They also learned to trust Brenda and Francisco. At first, when the family would go to the mall or to church, the older two boys would ask “You’re not going to leave us here, are you?” But over the past two years, they have learned that Brenda and Francisco would never abandon them.

They’ve also begun to do better in school, and have started to explore their interest in sports. Brenda and Francisco helped the oldest three each find a sport to participate in at the local Boys & Girls Club. Eli has turned out to be an excellent swimmer, Adam is very good at golf, and Hugo is now the quarterback of his flag football team.

But the best change in the boys’ lives came last month when Brenda and Francisco were able to adopt them, all four of them, dispelling any uncertainty and anxiety about their future. The boys officially became Eli, Adam, Hugo and Brendan Hernandez on August 7th.

“The boys kept asking, ‘Am I really going to be a Hernandez?’” Brenda said. “It was almost too good to be true. We were all excited.”



August 13, 2015

The TODAY Show recently wrote an awesome article for their website featuring an Arrow family! Seventeen-year-old Breanna was recently adopted by her foster parents, Fred and Diane Shaw. The Shaws were empty-nesters before they welcomed Breanna into their home, and at first they were nervous about fostering a teen. However, Fred and Diane soon realized they had nothing to be scared of! They love being Breanna’s parents, and Breanna is so happy to have a family to call her own. Read the full TODAY article below!

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TODAY show

Before Diane Shaw met her daughter, Breanna, she wasn’t sure she was ready to foster a teen.

Having become empty nesters after raising four children of their own, Diane and her husband knew they faced “a major life change” in welcoming Breanna and her brother into their home.

“I was so nervous… to have two teens in the house I didn’t know,” Diane recalled.

But on Breanna’s first visit, any anxieties Diane had about fostering simply melted away.

“I couldn’t stop smiling, and whenever [Breanna and her brother] turned their backs, I’d mouth to my husband that I loved them,” Diane said.

Diane and her husband, Fred, adopted 17 year-old Breanna in May, four years after that first encounter.

“It was the best day of my life,” said Breanna of her Adoption Day. “I have a family all my own… and I know they’re not going to ever give up on me.”

The Shaws celebrated their special day in the courtroom with a photo inspired by Together We Rise, a foster care advocacy group that shares Adoption Day photos (also known as “gotcha day” photos) to increase awareness of adopting through foster care.

With more than 100,000 children in foster care still waiting for permanent homes, an adoption such as Breanna’s is more than just a family milestone. It’s a sign that attitudes about adopting from foster care are starting to shift.

Americans now have a more favorable opinion of foster care adoption than of international adoption or private infant adoption, according to a 2013 study by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

However, more than half of Americans still wrongly believe that children in the foster care system are juvenile delinquents, the study also revealed. In fact, children enter foster care because of abuse, neglect and/or abandonment at the hands of their biological family.

Between their unfair reputation for being “bad kids” and the misconceptions many families have about adoption in general, many foster care children are still struggling to find forever homes.

Here are six of the most pervasive myths about adopting from foster care, deconstructed by adoptive families and experts alike:

1. You’ll end up fostering/adopting more than one child

There’s a fear that if you become involved with the foster care system, “they’re going to twist your arm and you’ll come home with a carful of kids,” explained Rita Soronen, CEO and President of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.In reality, Soronen said, “[foster care] agencies for the most part err on the side of caution.” Agencies don’t want to overwhelm new foster parents, or place children in homes where they won’t get the attention they need.

“You have the power over your family… you say yes or no,” said Kristina Wilmoth, an active foster parent. She and her husband, Josh, adopted their son Jasper after having two biological children of their own.

2. All foster care kids have medical or behavioral needs that make them difficult to parent

Only one-third of the children in foster care have any kind of diagnosable disability, according to a report from United Cerebral Palsy and Children’s Rights.

Many other children are classified by the state as having “special needs,” but not for the reasons you might think. The term simply refers to a condition that makes the child harder to find a home, such as being older or part of a sibling group.

“That doesn’t mean that [these children] are any more difficult to parent,” said Soronen. “They’ve just had a rough start in life, and they need a family.”

Breanna Shaw, for example, “fell under the category of special needs, even though there was nothing mentally or physically that she needed help with,” explained her adoptive mother, Diane.

On the contrary: Bre is “a huge reader and a great speaker” and is doing well in school, said Diane.

Even when a child’s “special needs” are impossible to predict, families don’t have to give up hope of a happy ending.

Caring for their soon-to-be son, Waylon, during his four months in the NICU, Dan and Lindsey Jenkins weren’t sure if he would have cognitive deficits or other health problems as a result of being premature. In the end, Lindsey said, it didn’t matter.

“We didn’t care… we just grew to love him,” Lindsey Jenkins explained.

As it turns out, “he’s actually proven to be mostly healthy and physically sound,” said Dan. “We call [Waylon] our little miracle baby.”

3. There’s a higher cost than adopting from overseas

“People believe that because it’s expensive to adopt internationally or to adopt through a private agency…it’s also expensive to adopt from foster care. It’s not,” Soronen explained.”It costs virtually nothing.”

In fact, the average cost of adopting from foster care is less than $2,500, and up to $2,000 may be covered by the state. Families may also receive monthly maintenance payments and financial aid for their child’s college education.

“We were under no financial burden at any time,” said Dan Jenkins of his son Waylon’s adoption. But even “if it cost a million dollars to have the little boy we have now, we would have done it.”

4. It’s not worth the risk of having to say goodbye

As with any form of adoption — or really, any method of becoming a parent — there are no guarantees. But some worry that the emotional toll of adopting from foster care is too high, as they may lose their child to a biological relative months or years into the adoption process.

Adoptive parents say the wait was tough — but entirely worth it.

“Sometimes I felt like I would keep my heart guarded, just in case,” said Kristina Wilmoth, remembering the time before she and her husband were granted custody of their son Jasper. But “once they get adopted, it’s like you gave birth to them.”

Plus, fostering a child is “so important, and you do get so many rewards out of it,” said Lindsey Wery, adoptive mom to 4 year-old Annie. “I wasn’t a parent before, and now I am.”

“I look back and wonder what I was so worried about,” added Dan Jenkins. “[Our] little boy has benefited our lives in more ways than we can put into words. The reward far outweighs the risk.”

5. You have to build a relationship with the birth parents and/or relatives

“No adoptive family is required to have a relationship with the biological family,” said Soronen. “Once you’re an adoptive family, you make the legal decisions for [your] child.”

Soronen recommends staying touch with the birth family only “if it’s safe and if it’s appropriate,” as every situation is different.

Dan and Lindsey Jenkins, parents to 2-year-old Waylon, are in contact with a few of their son’s relatives, as well as his biological brother.

“As he gets older and wants to know them, he deserves to,” said Lindsey.

Josh and Kristina Wilmoth feel similarly. But when interacting with their son Jasper’s biological parents, they’ve tried to establish certain boundaries.

We’re “very clear that [Jasper] is my child… [and] that my husband is ‘Dad,'” explained Kristina.

Breanna Shaw, meanwhile, is only in touch with her siblings. As for the rest of her biological family, she said, “I prefer not to talk to them.”

“I feel like I have a family here,” Breanna added. “I just prefer to move forward.”

6. If you adopt an older child instead of an infant, they’ll never feel like “yours”

“That’s just so wrong,” said Soronen. “There’s just no reason to think that adopting an older youth — whether they’re nine or 16 — isn’t worth the effort.”

Breanna Shaw remembers how anxious the idea of being adopted made her at first, after a nearly lifetime of moving between different homes.

“Rationally, I knew they loved me… But there’s always that small voice that says, ‘Are they going to love me enough?'” said Breanna.

Meanwhile, Breanna’s adoptive parents, Diane and Fred Shaw, were concerned about being able to provide adequate support.

We wondered, “‘Are we going to be enough for her? Are we going to be enough to help her heal?'” Diane recalled.

But these days, Breanna told TODAY, she feels completely at home.

“It takes a lot of being vulnerable [to be adopted], but it’s worth it,” Breanna said. “It’s the best feeling in the world, being loved.”



July 9, 2015
Trautner fam
Christina and Laura Trautner talk about how their relationship has grown since Laura first became part of the family.

Our friends at Campus Crusade for Christ, or Cru, recently wrote this awesome story about one of Arrow’s kids! Christina entered foster care at 10, and was adopted by an Arrow family, the Trautners, at age 12. Since then, the Trautner’s have helped Christina heal and brought her out of her shell. Now a confident high school student, Christina is leading Bible studies with her cross country team at Kingwood Park High School. We are so proud of her! Below is the article Ross McCall wrote about Christina and her family, in which they give some very good advice to foster families. To find out how you can make a difference in the life of a child, like the Trautner’s did for Christina, visit www. arrow.org/foster.

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Christina Trautner was 10 years old when a woman from Child Protection Services arrived at her door. “You have to leave your family because we are taking you to live with another family,” she said. “You have one hour to gather what you most want to take with you.”

Choosing some clothes and her favorite soft toys, Christina had just enough to fill a bucket. Clutching her favorite toy tight to her chest, she climbed into the CPS worker’s car and sat, silently, as she was driven to a family who had chosen to foster her. The CPS worker asked her questions as they drove, but Christina refused to break her silence, afraid of the future.

“When she arrived she just looked small in every sense,” says Laura Trautner, the woman Christina would eventually dare to call Mom. “We had told the CPS that we thought we were best suited to fostering a child who needed to be brought out, helped to flourish, rather than one that needed reigning in.”

Over the past six years Laura, a staff member with Cru, and her husband John, who teaches at his daughter’s high school, have patiently created a home for Christina – a safe place where she’d have the opportunities her birth home would never afford her.

The specific things they emphasized can help any child step into their calling.

  1. Unconditional acceptance
    Christina’s background is a painful story, but she has reached a point where she can talk about her past openly because she never felt judged by the family God eventually chose for her.
  2. Be present
    Christina’s early life was characterized by parental neglect. She says she spent most of her time at home watching television with her younger brother. Having an adopted family who wanted to spend meaningful time with her, and lots of it, helped her to begin feeling precious to them.
  3. Provide clear boundaries
    Laura Trautner says that providing clear boundaries for Christina from the beginning provided her with security and begin to navigate a future that initially created inevitable anxiety for her.
  4. Create plentiful opportunities
    Christina says, “When I came to live with the Trautners, I was closed off. Mom encouraged me and gave me support to try new things. I had never had the opportunity to try out for a sport. She told me about the benefits of trying out for the swim team, something she had done herself.”
  5. Trust, trust, trust
    “There’s nothing my mom and I can’t talk about,” says Christina. She strives to show her parents they can trust her with schoolwork, and with all the normal decisions a high school girl faces each day. This trustworthiness was rooted in the confidence her parents placed in her first.

At age 12, Christina stood in a courtroom before a judge who asked her, “Do you choose this family to be your family from here on?”

“I do,” Christina replied. Laura remembers the moment vividly, describing it as feeling like a marriage.

“My mom wanted to choose something to place on a charm bracelet to signify their adoption of me,” says Christina. “Then we found a jigsaw piece that fit perfectly. Mom told me that our family had been incomplete without me, I was the missing piece in the puzzle.”

Flourishing in God’s call

A year ago, Laura and Christina decided joined a group of Cru staff and high school students from Houston on a spring break trip to Hungary.

As they befriended Budapest high schoolers, Christina remembers meeting girls she describes as, “model-like.” “But I would ask them, ‘Is there anything you would like to change about yourself,’ and they would reply ‘everything.’”

Christina wanted to help those girls recognize how treasured they were by God, but knew she needed to first believe that more deeply about herself.

Christina brought the lessons of the Hungary trip home to Kingwood Park High School outside Houston, where her mom works for Cru’s high school ministry. She brought the change in her own life into a place where she sees girls sitting alone in the cafeteria or walking in the athletics corridor, painfully self-conscious.

“I was never comfortable in the Athletics Corridor, then I felt God telling me to join the cross-country team, that he was going to use me there,” says Christina. Her adopted father John is a keen runner. Christina recently led her first Bible study with her cross-country teammates. She was nervous, but knows she’s become a safe place for other students.

Ana Acosta is one of Christina’s closest friends. “I think a lot of people inside the school try to fit in. They don’t act like themselves at school,” says Ana. “Christina’s the same inside or outside school. She doesn’t really care what people say or think about her, and that’s helped me throughout my high school years.”

Her experiences have created a passion in Christina to eventually work with kids in foster care. She says her Mom gets emotional thinking about how amazing it is that she wants to help people who are where she was, rather than never going back there.

Kingwood Park High School is changing along with a student and a family God labeled ‘chosen.’



June 24, 2015

 

Arrow mom’s Facebook post goes viral

Arrow adoptive mom Charity Robinson and her son Lincoln appeared on Fox and Friends after a photo of Lincoln making a new friend touched the hearts of tens of thousands of people on social media!

Charity snapped the photo of Lincoln playing with Jason Taylor, a local pastor who was sitting near the family at the rodeo, and shared it on her Facebook page with this message:

Dear stranger next to us at the rodeo,
When my son came up to you and grabbed your arm, you didn’t know he used to be terrified of people. When he talked to you about the bulls, you didn’t know he was diagnosed with a language disorder. When he jumped in your lap and laughed as you tickled him, you didn’t know he had a sensory processing disorder. You also didn’t know as his mother, I sat in my seat, with tears running down my face, sneaking this photo. When we adopted him a few short months ago, we didn’t know how long it would take for him to laugh, play and engage others like this. You didn’t know any of this, but you took time to connect with a child who has had to fight to learn to connect. My heart is full. Thank you.

The Robinsons are such a special family, and we are so proud of the progress Lincoln has made!

 

 



May 14, 2015

When Angela Humphrey became a foster parent, she decided she would open her doors to the kids many thought would be too rowdy or rebellious to take in – teenage boys

She knew teens would be a good fit for her home. The daughter of a coach, Angela’s childhood home was a neighborhood hub for the kids her father coached. She wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps to be a positive force in the lives of teens.

Angela Humphrey with one of her  former foster kids on graduation day
Angela Humphrey with one of her
former foster kids on graduation day

Angela decided to dive into foster care when she learned how many foster teens were at risk for dropping out of school, and how few went on to achieve higher education.

“I felt like this was the group that most people walked away from, and didn’t want to take a chance with,” Angela said. “But I was always the type of person who was up for the challenge. I thought that would be the best avenue for me.”

Angela was determined not to walk away from any child. For example, one of her foster boys, Christian, was in danger of failing 8th grade and wanted to drop out of school. However, she knew he was capable of doing the work. She asked the principal if he could still advance to the high school, and make up the work he’d failed in junior high without being retained.

“At first she said no, and I cried and cried and cried,” Angela said. “But eventually, she told me she saw how diligent and dedicated I was to this boy, and she had a change of heart and was going to pass him. So he went to high school, and all four years there, he never had any issues.”

On his last day of high school, Angela went with him to meet with his Arrow caseworker. The board in the conference room had dropout rates written on it, and unprompted, he remarked on how high they were, and how easily he could have become one of those statistics on the board.

“It all came full circle,” Angela said.

Another foster child who Angela is extremely proud of is D. D is a very hard worker who not only completed high school, but is now taking a full course load in college and is an assistant manager at Domino’s Pizza. Even though he is old enough to have “aged out” of the system, the love and support Angela showed him lead him to choose to stay in her home in extended care. Now, he is a role model for his foster brothers and sisters.

“He lets them know, ‘I was once where you are,'” she said. “He lets them know that when I’m tough on them, it’s because I love them.”

Besides Christian and D, Angela has fostered dozens of other children. She said people hesitate to bring teens into their homes because they think they are set in their ways and will be rebellious, but she said anyone can change for the better, no matter their age.

“Not every teenager wants your love, at first,” she said. “What they want most is your understanding, and with understanding comes respect, and with respect come trust, and with trust comes love.”

But Angela was not alone fostering these kids. Her grown son and daughter, Darryl and Deonna, both became foster parents too, and have been a significant help. Angela said seeing her children become foster parents was among the proudest moments of her life.

She’s particularly enjoyed being a “foster grandmother” to even more kids in need, and they in turn have inspired her, especially a boy named Ben, who her son fostered. Angela and her son were incredibly close to Ben, but he passed away from cancer in 2013.

“Ben gave us courage,” Angela said. “Whenever you think you have it bad, try being the kid in foster care who has cancer. He gave us the courage to keep going on.”

Angela continues to foster in honor of Ben. She’s fostered more than 70 children, and is currently fostering 6 children with a 7th on the way.

If you, like Angela, have a heart for foster teens, we would love to give you more information on how to become a foster parent. Go to www.arrow.org/foster to learn more.


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