The strength and resiliency of children in foster care is awe inspiring and the families that open their hearts and homes to our kids give me hope for the future. The story that highlights the joys and challenges for me the most is my first case as a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter. It happened six years ago.
Reading through “Paul’s” file I started to panic. He had more than 15 placements and was only nine years old. He was residing at a group home for children with significant behavioral issues. Paul had a horrific early childhood experience filled with neglect, physical and sexual abuse. As a result, he came into care and began physically and sexually acting out himself. How on Earth would I ever find a family for him?
But then I met Paul for the first time and all those fears started to melt away. He was just a boy. He was a boy with hopes and dreams, who loved video games and just wanted a family to call his own. I began spending time with him and getting to know the “real” him, not what was written down on paper. Per the WWK child-focused recruitment model, I became his agent, as I like to say, looking for past and current connections as well as non-related adoptive families that could be a good fit. Through our work together, Paul was placed with the family, but this did not become his forever family. Despite all the adoption preparation and education on early childhood trauma, the family held some very unrealistic expectations for how Paul should behave and attach. They eventually asked for him to be removed. Contrary to what the parents felt, Paul enjoyed his time and was happy and healing.
After this experience, Paul was placed into therapeutic foster care. It took me two years before I found the right home, his forever home. I took Paul’s disruption hard, he was the first (and certainly not the last) child to disrupt from a match I had made. (Disruption is a term that we use when a placement doesn’t work out. It disrupts that child’s life further and it disrupts the recruiter as well.) I hated that I had added to Paul’s already long history of failed placements. He matured greatly over the next two years, and that’s when it happened. We hit the jackpot! I was able to find a family who matched what Paul needed. His adoptive father’s patience, unconditional love and ability to depersonalize Paul’s testing made his transition to adoption almost seamless. Paul was able to stop taking some of his medications, make great academic improvements and start building friendships. He was a completely different child from the one who I met years ago and the child described in his initial paperwork.
Paul’s foster care journey is a reminder of the faith we need to have in others to overcome adversity and grow. Paul’s adoptive father inspired me to never give up hope that the right family is out there for my Wendy’s Wonderful Kids youth.
I am a better person for knowing each and every one of the children I work with. They have inspired me to be a better mother, friend, family member and adoption recruiter.
Courtney Angeles is a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter and works each day to find loving, permanent homes for children in foster care.