Mariah and her younger brother, Fabian, entered the foster care system when they were 12 and 10 years old. After some time in their foster home, Mariah and Fabian were joined by Auidrianna, their newborn sister who came into foster care shortly after she was born.
Although the kids were in a safe and stable home, they still struggled with the distress of being in foster care – away from everything that they’ve ever know. The effects of foster care were more noticeable in Mariah, who began to have occasional conflicts with her foster mother. Before long, Mariah was moved into a group home where she remained for a year while still having weekly visits with her siblings.
This transition into a group home served as another loss of a stable and familiar placement for Mariah. Despite being able to see her siblings during weekly visits, the abnormal experiences of no longer living under the same roof with her closest relatives took a further toll on her emotional health. The manager of Mariah’s group home became a strong support during this period, offering guidance to Mariah on how to navigate through her emotions while living in a home with other girls who endured the same hurt.
Our Child Specific Recruitment (CSR) program works with children who have been in the foster care system for some time and urgently need a loving, permanent home. While receiving these CSR services, the children were assigned a Youth Advocate who met with the siblings to assist in processing their grief and loss of relationships that happen as a result of prolonged involvement in the child welfare system. Behind the scenes, the Youth Advocate was able to connect with the children’s biological family to identify and reduce barriers to the children returning to their families.
The Youth Advocate was successful in identifying a large network of relatives, but the family was not fully equipped to care for them. The children wanted to maintain a relationship with their biological family, but were open to the idea of adoption and were excited to have a family that would care for them in a way that they had not known before.
The children’s team of professionals continued to treat the children’s mental health needs and promoted ways to foster a safe connection with the biological family. Since reunification with the biological family was ruled out as an option, the focus moved toward recruiting adoptive families.
After a several weeks of trying to find the right family and still maintaining hopes that an appropriate relative would be identified, the Youth Advocate spoke with Melissa and Ricardo, a family from Yuma who felt drawn to the children and their story. The screening process to match the family with the children included multiple interviews, a home visit, and a meeting with the potential family and the rest of the team. Once the team realized that Melissa and Ricardo would be great parents to the children, they figured out a plan to introduce them to each other.
After a nerve wracking initial visit, the siblings agreed that Melissa and Ricardo were meant to be their “forever family,” which came as great news to the Yuma couple hoping to adopt the siblings. The children packed their belongings for one last time before moving to Yuma to be with their eventual adoptive family. Six months later, the team and the family all met in Phoenix for the adoption of Fabian, Mariah, and Auidrianna.
The adoption brought much needed closure to the children. After much heartache and disruption, the kids found what they deserved all along – a family who loves and cares for them.
“I had no idea that anyone would want to adopt us,” explained Mariah. “I’m just happy that we have a home and a family”
One year later, the family has fully adapted to their new life in Yuma. Mariah got the sweet 16 that she never thought that she would have. Fabian is making friends with the kids in his school and Auidrianna is now a walking and talking, active toddler. The children still hold on to memories from their past, along with teddy bears that they received as gifts to recognize their struggles in the foster care system.
Life with a new family is not always easy, especially when the children have experienced what these siblings have gone through. Melissa and Ricardo acknowledge that the transition can be difficult and that conflicts will still arise on occasion, as they are raising two teenagers and a toddler. However, conflicts become less of a challenge as the family grows and learns from one another, as well as how to best respond to each other’s needs. Most importantly, the children are happy that they are able to stay together, which is not always the case. During their time in foster care, the children learned that they are much better off with each other.
“We wouldn’t change anything,” expressed Melissa. “It’s been amazing getting to raise them and give them the home that they always wanted.”
Fabian, Mariah, and Auidrianna are an example of how nonprofit agencies, like AzCA, along with government agencies cooperate to provide the greatest need for these vulnerable children. Additionally, this family shows that adoption can help not only the children, but the parents who want to have children when they are unable to. Melissa and Ricardo have grown more than they could ever imagine in the year after the adoption hearing. The children have been able to learn what it feels like to have unconditional love from an adult.
At Arizona’s Children Association (AzCA), we are happy to connect children to families who will give them the care that they need. The Child Specific Recruitment program employs dedicated people who believe that they can achieve the impossible, whether it’s finding an adoptive family that will meet the specific needs of the children, or reconnecting those children with long lost relatives.
To meet the children who are looking for their “forever families,” visit us online at www.ArizonasChildren.org/meetthekids. If you are interested in finding out how you can support children and families like this one, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.