The day an adoption is finalized is one that families will never overlook. Today, there are more than 18,000 children in Arizona’s foster care system wanting to grow up safe, healthy, and with a family who loves and supports them. Though adoption is not the path for all children in foster care, for many children it’s a dream come true to experience what this ‘one day’ feels like. Each November is National Adoption Month—a great way to honor that experience and show our commitment to “Protecting Children, Empowering Youth, and Strengthening Families.”
Protecting Children. Nevaeh Grace—Heaven spelled backwards. ‘Heaven’ is a description of a perfect transition when Shawna cut the umbilical cord connecting baby Nevaeh to her mother, Shawna’s cousin Christy. From the outside, this ‘perfect’ transition may seem anything but. However, years of turmoil and tears culminated when Shawna adopted Nevaeh during National Adoption Month.
This story began as the two cousins were growing up. Christy’s mother dealt with the challenges of addiction, unable to care for her children and needing support through foster care while she became sober. While in foster care, Christy ran away at the vulnerable age of 13 and fell victim to sex trafficking/prostitution and addiction. Along her journey, she gave birth to four children, including Nevaeh. Her cousin, Shawna, spent years trying to help guide her. Before Christy’s tragic death at age 24, Shawna was able to provide her cousin the ultimate support by parenting her youngest three children.
Empowering Youth. In 2014, Congress passed the “Prevent Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families” Act designed to help youth like Christy. This Act was written to address the reality of how too many youth who grew up in foster care become victims of sex trafficking. At AzCA, we train our foster parents in the methods of helping youth make wise and prudent decisions beginning at an early age, much like Nevaeh and her siblings—training that wasn’t available in time to help Christy.
Strengthening Families. Shawna’s family has now grown from five to eight. Though they continue to face daily challenges, AzCA’s services, as well as constant support from our Yuma staff, have kept them moving toward licensing and the adoption of three of Christy’s children. Shawna and her husband, Leo, have benefited from other programs with AzCA—including continued therapy to learn how to address behaviors from a “trauma-informed” perspective. They have also been able to more effectively address the Reactive Attachment Disorder with one of their daughters; developed as a result of the turmoil of her early years with Christy.
Shawna’s greatest wish would have been to have a mentor who could have been there for her cousin—someone who would have reached out to support her when she needed it most. To learn more about mentoring a youth ‘aging out’ of foster care, or are interested in becoming a foster or adoptive parent, visit us online at www.ArizonasChildren.org.
Help us find their “Forever Families” and show them what ‘one day’ feels like.