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An Adoption Story
A child’s birthday should always be a celebration. The day Keith* turned 2 years old was memorable, but for a different reason. It was the first time he met Brent and Melissa Sears, the couple who would eventually adopt both him and his sister, Christine. These siblings in foster care were placed in a permanent adoptive home through ChildServ’s partnership with the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) program.
A 2006 grant from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption allowed ChildServ to become Chicagoland’s partnering agency with WWK, the foundation’s signature nationwide program. The program employs a child-focused model aimed at increasing the number of foster care adoptions. Keith and Christine were two of Therese McCleary Thompson’s first cases on the job. After 16 years of ChildServ casework, Thompson transitioned into her current role as ChildServ’s WWK adoption recruiter in 2012. She works to recruit foster parents whose goal is to adopt and to find appropriate pre-adoptive homes for children in foster care programs. The children had spent most of their lives living with a foster mom. Their biological mother suffers from extreme mental health issues. Their absentee biological father waived his visitation rights. The case was referred to WWK in the hopes of finding a pre-adoptive home for both children.
Thompson had a young couple on file she thought might be a good fit – the Sears. Adoption had been on Melissa Sears’ heart since high school and college. She married Brent in 2009, and together they began researching domestic adoption. During this process they found the WWK program. “We were eating at a Wendy’s and saw the sign,” she said. Wendy’s restaurants contribute to funding the program alongside the foundation. That sign ultimately led them to Thompson.
“[Melissa] said it was always something she wanted to do. She told her husband she wanted to adopt. That was always a goal of hers,” Thompson said. After consultations with the children’s caseworker and Thompson, the Sears met the children. Their visits continued for six months – a good sign. Everyone agreed it was a perfect match. Keith and Christine moved into the Sears’ Chicago home in December 2012. The Sears family is adjusting to life together well. Keith and Christine giggle and clamber over each other to show Thompson their toys when she stops by for a visit. Brent learned how to braid Christine’s hair. Her pink and white daisy hair clips rattle as she bounces on the living room couch and styles her doll’s hair. Keith pokes his head around the doorway, checking to see if he has an audience before dashing into the room. Melissa has documented their outings and adventures so far in photo albums, which the kids show off to Thompson. The foursome just had professional family pictures taken together.
The adoption paperwork will be finalized this fall. Now a year since meeting Brent and Melissa, Keith and Christine just celebrated turning 3 and 4 at a joint party with friends and their new family. Through ChildServ and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, this brother and sister will celebrate many more birthdays together with their parents.
Sue* was a foster mom who was struggling. With siblings living in her house, she wanted to show them love and be as welcoming as possible, but her desire to make them happy went too far, and she created an unstructured environment. She began to question whether she’d made the right decision in becoming a foster mom.
Sue turned to her caseworker for help, and her caseworker recommended that she meet with a therapist in ChildServ’s Armour Child and Family Services.
Armour provides counseling to children, their parents and their caregivers. The goal is to develop improved emotional, social and family function, emphasizing personal growth, development and situational change. Armour has been a part of ChildServ’s services since 1986, when it received its name after a gift from Armour & Company.
Armour uses both short- and long-term treatment approaches based on clinical practice guidelines for individuals, families and groups. In Fiscal Year 2013, 69 percent of Armour clients achieved at least 75 percent of their treatment goals.
Armour was just what Sue needed. She was able to talk to someone who understood what she was going through as a foster parent, and her therapist helped her create a plan to find tools and training to create a safe and stable
environment for the kids in her care.
The new plan was one that not only set boundaries for the children but also made it easier for Sue to function while still opening up her heart and home to children.
Today, Sue feels rejuvenated, and the children in her care are in a stable, nurturing environment.
*For the foster parent’s privacy, her name and photo have been changed. Canesha and Camora's Story
Camora Brown, 2, looks just like her mommy. She loves to be read to, is incredibly vocal, and eats all of her food groups. She’s a little girl who is sure to do great in school. Her mother, Canesha, attributes her success to a lot of love, dedication and help from ChildServ.
Canesha came to ChildServ when she discovered she was pregnant with Camora. A student who had just started at College of Lake County, she knew very little about children and was concerned about her ability to stay on track in her studies as a new, single mom.
“I really wanted to be a good mom,” Canesha says. “I hadn’t really done much with kids before I became pregnant. When I had Camora, she was so beautiful; it was love at first sight.”
Canesha enrolled in a ChildServ program called The Parent Education Program (PEP). Through PEP, ChildServ helps at-risk infants and toddler (age 0
to 3) in Chicago and Lake County have the best chance possible at early school success by empowering their parents with the tools, skills and confidence they need to serve as their child’s primary educator. The goal is to keep children on-track from a developmental perspective and, over the long term, improve school readiness through both group meetings and home visits.
Samantha, Canesha’s parent educator at ChildServ, visited her in her home every week to make sure Camora’s learning would be on-track. She assessed them to help Canesha create the best environment possible for Camora to learn, looking at things from safety, to health insurance to financial stability. Every six months, Camora was assessed for social development, motor skills, language ability and early problem solving. Every year, Camora was screened to make sure her vision, hearing and basic health were good.
In addition, ChildServ’s meetings for teen moms helped Canesha find peer support and provided an avenue for Camora to learn to share and interact with other children.
Almost three years later, both Canesha and Camora have made incredible strides. Canesha has completed her pharmaceutical technology certificate and is applying to nursing programs. As a mom, Canesha knows how to recognize whether Camora is reaching her developmental milestones. Camora has developed a love for books, has excellent social skills, and is on track for kindergarten.