“It is with feelings of gratitude and humility that we stand up here tonight and accept this award. Many thanks to the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN). Permanency is a journey that requires the support of a village. We are so grateful for our village of support, particularly our caseworkers and dear friends, Lisa, Raquel, and our amazing Second-Chance family.
We are often asked by friends what skills or talents are needed to be a foster or adoptive family. That always makes us laugh, because nothing makes you more aware of your complete lack of skills and talents than foster care adoption. In reality it is a humbling journey of self-discovery as you realize how little you actually know. This walk is unique and as a result each approach must be unique. There is no tried and true method, no fail proof system. It is a lot of trial and error and trusting your gut.
But I think there are certain character traits that are seen consistently in families that have chosen to walk this road.
SWAN families tend to be “big picture” visionaries. They recognize that sometimes they must choose to close their eyes to the small irritations and unimportant annoyances for the sake of the more important stuff.
SWAN families are tenacious. Like a Pitbull on a bone, they will fight relentlessly for their kids, advocating at every turn to get them what they need and give them the life they deserve.
SWAN families are adaptable. While not always born with this trait, it is one quickly learned in the trenches. Raising children with individual trauma histories, personalized triggers, and unique needs, means being willing to make adaptations on the fly. They are pros at coming up with a solid “Plan B.”
SWAN families laugh together. They soon discover that this road is not without struggle and many days will lead to a place where one must either cry or laugh. And while crying can be cathartic it does give one a terrible headache, so they laugh. They laugh at the absurdity found in the everyday wrestle of growing a family.
And finally, SWAN families love fearlessly. They choose to not guard their hearts or hold back when it comes to loving kids from hard places. They know that parental heartache is a risk of helping kids heal and learn to love again.
I would venture to guess that those same traits that are seen in the families who adopt foster children are the same traits seen in those workers who are fighting on behalf of those same children.
We are incredibly grateful for those of you who are on the front lines, listening to the hard stories, showing up day after day, climbing into the trenches to fight for every child’s right to go to sleep with a full belly, to be tucked into clean sheets and a warm blanket every night, to have a table to do homework at and parents who love them enough to nag them to do their homework.
We believe every child deserves to be safe… And every child deserves to feel safe.
We believe every child deserves to be loved… And every child deserves to feel worthy of love.
We believe every child deserves to know that they will wake up tomorrow…
And every child deserves to dream big dreams about their tomorrows.
These are basic human rights, but they are rights many children would not have if it weren’t for you child advocacy warriors who choose to keep showing up, day after day, fighting those hard fights and being a voice to those children who do not have a voice of their own.
So, whether you are here tonight because you are fighting the hard fight in Harrisburg, or here because you are fighting for the kids in your communities, or here tonight because you are a family fighting for the future of kids that live under your own roof…Thank you.
You are fighting for the greatest of all causes!
Like you, we believe every child deserves a family…
And every family deserves a child like the ones you have met tonight.”
These were our words as stood in front of hundreds of other adoptive families, social workers, agencies and law makers at the 27th Annual Pennsylvania Permanency Conference this past Wednesday.
The entire experience was surreal and incredibly humbling, beginning with an unexpected call from Harrisburg, back in March, informing us that our family had been nominated and chosen as one of six families to be recognized as adoptive family of the year at SWAN’s annual conference.
We later found out that it was Raquel, one of our AMAZING social workers that came into our life with the placement of Braden in our family, who wrote the state to nominate us.
We were beyond touched that she thought enough of our family to nominate us for such a special award. Later, when I had the opportunity to read the words she penned about our family on the application, I was moved to tears.
When the call came informing us of the award, we were invited to attend the permanency conference to receive it in person. They informed us that this year’s conference would be held in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania at the Kalahari Resort. They informed us that a suite would be paid for as part of the awards ceremony and our family was invited to stay and enjoy the indoor water park as part of the celebration.
Needless to say, everyone was very excited. The only damper on our anticipation of the day was the realization that Ozzie would not be allowed to join us for the ceremony. The facility he is currently receiving therapeutic care at didn’t feel he was ready for a trip off campus.
But Raquel video taped us receiving the award so that we could share the experience with him. This was, after all, an award for the whole family.
We arrived at Kalahari at 1:00. We had previously visited the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio, but this Kalahari was nearly double the size. The kids had a blast exploring the property and checking out the resort while we got checked in.
Then we headed to the suite that was booked on our behalf. The Statewide Adoption Network covered the cost of our first night’s stay, and then our adoption agency, “Second Chance Inc.- Kinship Care,” graciously asked if they could gift us with a second night’s stay. It was just that…a gift. An incredible gift of love for our family.
Wednesday night was the banquet. As award winners, we were invited to join the other five families at a pre-banquet reception to mingle and get our photos taken with state representatives.
All dolled up for the occasion, we snapped a few photos of our own before going in.
Once there we enjoyed hors d’ oeuvres while waiting for dinner.
Then we were escorted into the banquet hall where we joined 500+ other guests for a delicious meal.
At our table we were joined by Lisa, Braden’s social worker who fought so hard on his behalf and tracked down every lead in an effort to find his biological siblings. It was her relentless efforts that brought him to us and made him our son.
We were also joined by Raquel, Braden’s pre-adoptive social worker, who has been nothing short of amazing in tracking down his past history and building for him a life book of his journey. As the one to nominate our family, she and her son joined us for this special honor.
After dinner it was time for the award recipients to be recognized.
How humbling it was to stand among such child advocacy warriors and have our meager efforts highlighted. One of the women who was also honored was a window who has been foster mom to over 250 children in her 30 years of fostering. At 76 she is in the process of adopting another teenage boy. It is astounding. I look at individuals like her and it lights a fire in me to do more. There are so many children who need a home and not nearly enough families willing to take a leap of faith.
It was with great humility that we stood among those faith-filled giants who have made loving children their life’s work.
So often this road of loving kids from hard places can tear you apart. It can be exhausting, devastating, and often thankless. You wonder if you small effort is making any difference at all, and it is not just the adoptive families that struggle under this weight of responsibility. It is everyone that is working for this cause. The agencies, the advocates, the CASA workers, the social workers…each and every one of them are choosing to climb into the trenches day after day, and fight the very hardest of fights, because no cause is more worthy of our time and effort than this one…
Giving every child who needs and wants a family, the chance to have a family.
It was an amazing night for our family…
Certainly one we will never forget!
We were humbled to be recognized,
And honored to stand among so many with a similar heart for adoption.
We feel incredibly blessed!