- Ashman family
- Barnhill family
- Berry family
- Bonura family
- Cherise's story
- Eason family
- Oehsmen family
- Petersen family
- Schron family
- "Smith" family
The Ashman Family. Nadeen, left, holding daughter Kaydence, with Arleigh, 17, right.
Arleigh entered foster care at age 12, and when she turned 16, she became part of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program. After meeting her adoption recruiter, Nicole, it was immediately clear that Arleigh was ready to be adopted because she quickly told her about a special teacher in her life, Ms. Ashman.
“I never thought I would adopt a teenager,” said Nadeen Ashman. Nicole worked with Nadeen and Arleigh to talk about their relationship and the potential for adoption, working through questions and providing the support that they both needed to prepare for this big step. In January 2020, the adoption was finalized! The two became mother and daughter, and Arleigh became a big sister.
Letter from 10-year-old Sa’Mayah to her parents
Sa’Mayah’s story is one that represents thousands of waiting children with disabilities in need of a family to commit to being their forever home. Every story of adoption is incredibly special, but the Barnhill’s story is particularly impactful because it highlights the critical need for finding families willing to endure significant hardship as they commit to loving a child with disabilities. The Barnhill’s were eager to share their story, hoping that it will inspire many other families to pursue adoption.
Sa’Mayah entered the foster care system in Kansas in September 2017 and experienced five different placements before being placed into the home of Abigail and Mathew Barnhill a year later. Sa’Mayah initially came to the Barnhill’s home with only one official mental health diagnosis, but after assessments by additional therapists and specialists, Sa’Mayah was diagnosed with a range of over 10 significant mental health diagnoses stemming from the trauma and abuse she experienced as a child. The Barnhills have had to work hard to ensure their home is safe for Sa’Mayah, and they have patiently endured tremendous challenges in providing around-the-clock supervision and managing behaviors in order to keep Sa’Mayah safe. Because of the intensity of care that Sa’Mayah requires, Abigail quit her job to care for Sa’Mayah at home.
In addition to the significant mental health challenges that Sa’Mayah struggles with, she also has physical challenges and developmental delays. Her parents work closely with nurses, school staff, therapists, and services providers in order to ensure that Sa’Mayah receives an education and develops the skills she needs to have a safe and productive life. Sa’Mayah also struggles with social interaction and doesn’t trust anyone outside the Barnhill family. She is especially close to her mom, Abigail, and doesn’t like to leave her side at all. The family is working hard to give Sa’Mayah the best life possible and hope for a future where her various needs are well managed.
Despite all the challenges the Barnhill family has faced and will face in the future with Sa’Mayah’s needs and behaviors, they adopted her on May 26, 2020. In their mind, she simply is their child and they can do what they do every day because of their faith. This is not a family that gives up or gives in, and they will continue to advocate for Sa’Mayah, seeking to do what is in her best interests. Sa’Mayah is truly a lucky child to have found such a loving, dedicated family. They would do anything for her.
Lydia, Kenny, and Patric Berry
With no intention of seeking to adopt a teen, Lydia and Kenny Berry came across Patric’s profile on the Louisiana Heart Gallery and video from America’s Kids Belong on a Thursday afternoon in October 2017. “Here was this beautiful, animated boy who had the sweetest demeanor and big plans for his future—and he was 13 years old. We must have watched his video 10 times that afternoon,” shared Lydia. After inquiring and having several visits to get to know each other, Patric moved in with Lydia and Kenny in December 2017, and his adoption was finalized in September 2018.
Lydia said, “Being foster parents changed our lives completely. Every child has brought us joy, taught us lessons, and helped us grow as parents. This helped us to open our hearts to a teen and ultimately led us to Patric. The opportunity to see Patric's video in addition to reading his bio allowed us to get a glimpse of his amazing personality. This was pivotal in our decision to call about him. I feel like we were almost better prepared to make that connection with him once we did meet. We knew this path was right and the result was incredible. We adopted a teenager and would not change it for the world.”
Bonura family celebrating their adoption
Thomas and Andi Bonura decided to open their home to foster care after being told they shouldn't have any more children biologically due to the premature births of their three children. They had previously had a miscarriage and lost a twin at 5 months old. Their surviving twin has severe disabilities. After completing training and becoming licensed with Depelchin, they had two babies come into their home who were successfully reunified with their families. Then their son, Bryson, was placed in their home as a baby, straight from the hospital. Soon after this placement, the Bonuras found out that Bryson’s four siblings were placed in different foster homes. The Bonuras reached out to their agency and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to see about having two of his siblings placed in their home, in order to keep them together. A few months later, they agreed to adopt all five siblings. "We already knew and loved all the children and wanted them to be together," Andi said. After going through some challenging license requirements, they finally were able to move all five siblings into their home and eventually adopted them during the pandemic via a Zoom hearing. The household is full with eight children, but the children love each other and have enjoyed this time at home to continue bonding. "We're busy, but we work together and always try to make sure every sweet child gets the love and attention they need,” Andi said. “I would do this again 1,000 times. It's been the best decision of my life.”
Cherise and her son
In Delaware, Cherise was separated from her children and lost her parental rights because she was unable to demonstrate that she had the ability to care for her children. While adoption provided permanence for some of her children, two remained involved with the Division of Family Services (DFS). Eventually, family search and engagement services were implemented, and through renewed efforts, it was learned that Cherise’s life had taken a dramatically positive turn. Family search and engagement was part of a series of initiatives DFS implemented to help Delaware become a more trauma-informed State. Social worker Lynn Moyer of Children & Families First, Inc. assisted in reestablishing the relationship between Cherise and her oldest son, who was then living in a residential treatment center. Through Cherise’s hard work, commitment, and perseverance, she and Lynn were able to demonstrate to the team that Cherise now had the ability, resources, and willingness to fully meet the needs of her son. Cherise had her parental rights reinstated for her oldest son, who is thriving in her care. She is currently on track to have her parental rights reinstated for another son, who is once again living with her. This outcome was not only a result of the hard work, trust, and mutual respect shared between Lynn, Cherise, and her children but also because of the core belief that people can change and improve. This collaborative work was based on family search and engagement strategies along with the creative use of the Child Welfare League of America's PRIDE Model of Practice tools. Cherise's experience has been personally empowering, and she now appears on local and national stages to inspire and advocate for parents who have lost custody of their children. Cherise encourages them to not lose hope and shares her story with the hope that social workers, foster parents, and birth families can come together, form positive relationships, and mutually recognize what works well when creating a partnership to support children. She is also participating in panels and trainings for resource parents to enhance joint efforts for family reunification.
Leslie Eason and her son, Nick
Leslie Eason, a senior attorney, wasn’t sure if motherhood was in her future, but a conversation with a friend who worked in the child welfare field stuck with her for years. Her friend said he wished more professionals in the Atlanta area would mentor teens in foster care or potentially adopt them. “I focused on work for a while, but that conversation stayed on my heart,” said Eason. “I started thinking, maybe this is what I should do.”
Roughly 8 years later, Eason was still thinking about that conversation. She attended her first information session at Bethany Christian Services and completed the licensing process, but the anxiety creeped in as she headed to an adoption event. “Nothing ever really calmed me. I was anxious and nervous the whole time. I even went to the adoption party thinking, ‘I’m not sure,’” said Eason. “But once I met Nick, it all clicked into place, and I knew this was my son.” The two met in October 2018, and Nick’s adoption was finalized in July 2019.
Eason and her son have enjoyed growing closer, singing along to the radio, and playing basketball and video games. She says many people are nervous when they start looking into foster care adoption, but they should “do it anyway.” In fact, Eason is in the process of adopting another teenage boy who is friends with Nick. “I prayed about it, and so far it has been great.”
The Oehmsen family on adoption day
The Oehmsen story showcases the power and beauty of sibling connections. Darryl and Jessica Oehmsen opened their home to Raegan, age 11, who was placed with them last spring. At the time, Raegan’s 17-year-old sister Raina did not wish to be adopted and stayed behind. The Oehmsen family and Alabama Department of Human Resources staff did a great job of keeping these siblings connected and convinced Raina to move in with them as a foster placement last summer. A few months later, Raina asked the family to adopt her as well! Her adoption was finalized on June 3, 2020.
Our Story of Supporting a Young Adult
By: Tori Petersen
Fostering and mentoring young adults is just as valuable as fostering children, though it is perhaps more often overlooked and involves a different set of challenges. In March, my husband, Jacob, and I took in a young man. He fell behind in his education and our home was what he called his "last resort" and "only hope."
He lived with us for some time, and when he felt he was stable, he decided to move out. Thankfully, our house has remained his home and our relationship with him has grown surprisingly strong as we've advocated for him in court; offered him resources, such as a car and food; helped him progress in his education; and helped him maintain employment. The story is beautiful and we've seen the fruit of our seed planting; however, the relationship sometimes leaves me confused. I ask, "Am I a mother figure or a mentor? Am I a friend or a disciplinarian?" I've been most encouraged to realize that I don't have to have a title or know exactly how to approach the relationship to still help and connect with him in meaningful ways.
Our young man comes home unannounced, but we welcome him every time we hear the taps on our door. I help him wash and fold laundry and commend him for taking care of his clothes. Sometimes, he doesn't even sit down to eat, but he seems grateful for the food we offer. He leaves as he pleases, sometimes obliviously without even saying goodbye. Nonetheless, every time he disappears, I send him a text reminding him that we love him and we look forward to when he comes back. We are happy that we can be a place he considers “home,” and we hope that many others will open up their hearts and homes to support young people who are finding their way. We trust our connection and commitment are making a positive difference in his life.
The Schron Family celebrating their adoption finalization
The Schron family sporting their new family t-shirts
It’s official! Team Schron is a forever family
For Jennifer and Michael Schron, becoming parents was always part of the plan. An active couple, who have been inseparable for 12 years and married for 10, they dreamed of the day they would grow their family.
The couple became aware of the plight of children waiting to be adopted from the foster care system reverberating at every turn, growing louder as the yearning in their hearts to become parents increased. In July 2017, Jennifer and Michael embarked on what would become an incredibly long and difficult journey—one filled with great hope and great heartbreak but would ultimately lead them to the three children they were destined to parent.
As the weeks turned into months and years, Jennifer and Michael joined chat groups, made friends, and attended classes hoping to make connections with other families and adoption professionals. At long last, a connection materialized through word of mouth and the couple matched with a sibling set hours away from their home in central Florida.
Sadly, the connection did not last. Heartbroken, Jennifer and Michael wondered if they would get another chance at achieving their dreams.
Within just 2 months of being on Adoption-Share's Family-Match application, Jennifer and Michael were matched again with a sibling set of three. This time, things could not have gone smoother. Jennifer remarked, "Through our experience, my husband observed that we encountered two ends of the spectrum with regards to support and efficiency." Although their journey was difficult, Jennifer noted that they are not alone in their experience of a system that moves too slowly and struggles to leverage existing pools of licensed and waiting families for waiting children.
"For our adoption hearing, we made signs. The kids’ signs read '2,800 days of waiting in Florida,' and our sign read '800 days of waiting.' We are so grateful for Family-Match and that our match happened in just 60 days our second time around. Without Family-Match, we would have never found our children."
Now with everyone finally under one roof together, the Schron Family are relishing their first summer as a family of five. Jennifer and Michael's dreams have finally come true.
The following story highlights how Connect Our Kids changed the life of a young boy in foster care. The name of the family has been changed to protect their privacy.
“Our People Search tool quickly found the adult half-sister of an 11-year-old boy who had been in foster care for 6 years. He’d known her before he’d entered care, but he was too young to advocate for himself, and none of his caseworkers even knew she existed. Multiple other searches had not led to finding her, but as soon as his caseworker ran People Search, they discovered her. It turned out that she lived only 5 miles away and very much wanted to be part of his life. He has now been reconnected with his half-sister!”