It's about the children. The following are stories of hope and triumph that reveal why COAC is so passionate about its mission.
NOTE: The names, and some other identifying information, of the families and individuals in these stories have been changed in order to protect the families' privacy and confidentiality. However, their stories are all true.
Taking the Right Steps
Elsa and Joan took an active role in looking for a child to adopt, and attended a Caseworker Dialogue meeting at COAC to hear about specific waiting children and to present themselves in person to agency caseworkers. At this meeting, the first they had ever attended, they learned about 9-year-old Maria, a legally freed child of Puerto Rican heritage. Two months later, Elsa and Joan met with Maria’s agency case planning team. The team really liked the couple, who in turn felt that Maria was a child whose needs they could meet very well. An initial meeting with Maria was then held at the Queens agency where she was living in a foster home. The couple and Maria interacted compatibly from their first visit. After a series of day visits, followed by overnight visits, weekend visits and then an extended visit at Thanksgiving break, everyone felt certain they were ready to make the commitment to become a family. At Christmas break, Maria went to live in her adoptive home and her adoption was finalized.
Maria has clearly felt relief in having a permanent family, and has been able to trust Elsa and Joan’s real commitment to being her parents forever and unconditionally. The couple is wholeheartedly enjoying the challenges of parenthood, and the opportunity to be part of Maria’s new experiences, such as traveling on a plane for the first time to meet Joan’s family in Arizona , and taking voice and dancing lessons. Elsa and Joan celebrated their eleventh anniversary together and said, “No other gift could compare with the gift of parenthood.”
Always Room for More
When David and Grace James became engaged they planned to have a small family, perhaps two or three children. Today, with two birth sons and six adopted children, they have formed a family quite different from what they could have ever envisioned.
After their first two sons, now ages 21 and 16, were born, Grace was told that any further pregnancies would put both her and the child at great risk. So the James' became foster parents with a view toward adoption. When their boys Will and Aaron were 7 and 2, three-year-old Ashley joined the family. But two months later, the agency asked the James’ if they could also accept placement of another little girl, Jenai. They readily agreed, not knowing that this too would result in a permanent adoptive placement. Within the next five years, the James family was thriving and they knew they had room for more. They welcomed Joshua (now 15) and Kelvin (14) into the fold. And the family was destined to keep growing: it was at this time that Grace and David were “matched” with beautiful and bright three-year-old Ebony, now age 9.
Amazingly, there is more. The young daughter of a personal friend, unable to keep and raise the baby she was expecting, turned to the James’ for help. In order to avoid her baby being placed in the foster care system, she asked the James’ to adopt her baby, a girl who together they named Tiffany. The rest, as they say, is history.
Not every family adopts six children. The James’ feel blessed with all their children and consider that that life has been good to the family. Their faith and perseverance helps them deal with the special needs of some of the children, including the fragile health of Joshua, who at 15 is struggling with leukemia. Grace’s own health condition led the family to relocate to the dryer climate of Arizona this past year.
Understanding a Child's Behavioral Problems
When Mrs. Jones called COAC’s New York City Family Permanency Center Warm Line, her first words were, “I can’t take it any longer, I want my adopted daughter out of my house, where do I go to place her?” She stated she was totally exhausted trying to seek help for her daughter, 'E'. She had changed E’s therapist 16 times seeking to find one that could assist her in understanding E’s special needs, and all 16 therapists recommended that she ‘return E to the foster care system.’ They felt that she needed long-term residential treatment.
Mrs. Jones was allowed to ventilate and express her frustration and her feeling that no one could help her maintain the family unit. Project staff validated Mrs. Jones’ feelings and discussed E’s behavior in terms of her special needs and history of many losses. An in-home crisis counseling session was scheduled and held the following day, and mother and daughter were given referrals to a therapist experienced in foster-adoption issues in their community. They were also urged to attend COAC's adolescent support groups and parent support groups. Mrs. Jones and E both started attending the support groups and now, 22 months later, E is still at home. Ms. Jones states that COAC's post-adoption program assisted her in understanding her daughter’s behavior problems and averted a foster care re-entry. E recently spoke at a city-wide adoption symposium. “I was out of control, ” she admits, and “the support groups and other help I received at COAC helped me turn my life around.” Today E. has completed high school, is working and attending courses toward a certificate program in the health services field.
Advocacy Before the Crisis Point
Ms. Ramirez entered the COAC post-adoption program through its Crisis Intervention services. She had adopted four of her grandchildren. When she contacted COAC, her seven and eight year old boys had been suspended from school. She was seeking help to place the boys in foster care. The first thing COAC staff did was provide Ms. Ramirez with educational advocacy and refer the family to an adoption-competent therapist, who re-evaluated the boys’ needs.
Ms. Ramirez later contacted COAC again because her boys’ therapist was no longer treating Medicaid patients. Ms. Ramirez panicked because the boys had only two days of medication left, and she could not find a clinic that would see them immediately. The boys could not attend school without their medication, and she could not risk losing their school placement, and her job. Within two days a COAC Family Support Coordinator referred Ms. Ramirez to one of our collaborating agencies, and secured a psychiatrist to monitor the boys’ medication and to provide therapy. The Family Support Coordinator provided individual counseling to Ms. Ramirez to assist her with the challenge of working with a new therapist, and to empower her to become proactive in securing needed services before her family problems reached the crisis point. Ms. Ramirez’s situation has stabilized. Together, she and the boys are working with their therapist to enhance their communication skills.
Help from the Family Circle of Support
Ms. Smith is a 39-year-old single mother of two wonderful children. When she was referred to the Family Circle of Support Program, she was receiving health care services from two primary health care providers. Her Family Circle of Support Program Family Care Coordinator assisted Ms. Smith in coordinating services from these clinics and she now receives all of her health care services at one site.
Ms. Smith was first diagnosed with HIV over 10 years ago after her second child, a daughter, tested HIV positive at birth. Ms. Smith and the children had also been abandoned by her husband at the time.
Her daughter continued to be treated with anti-virus medication through an injection device connected to her midsection until age twelve. Now thirteen, she is receiving counseling from Family Circle of Support Program in order to understand and cope with all that has happened to her. Their Family Care Coordinator is educating the family with treatment-adherence techniques.
Ms. Smith’s older son has recently been diagnosed as obese and has been referred to a specialized clinic for this condition. He had also been evaluated for mental health needs. His mother feels that it has made a world of difference. He has been displaying fewer behavioral issues in school since the beginning of the school year.
Ms. Smith has been hospitalized numerous times in the past year and is currently considering future planning for her children’s care. After her most recent discharge from the hospital, her children began to display anxiety-related behaviors at home and in school, and are being re-evaluated for their mental heath needs. Ms. Smith currently plans to take part in program services designed to cope with the stresses related to her decision to disclose her health status to her family and friends, in order to begin planning for the children’s future care.