November is National Adoption Month, and Child Advocates of Fort Bend is celebrating and supporting the many families in our community who have welcomed a child into their home through adoption—with a special spotlight on adoption by relatives.
“As advocates for the best interest of children in foster care, we at CASA have seen family take many forms. All loving families are beautiful,” said Ruthanne Mefford, CEO of Child Advocates of Fort Bend.
“When we think about adoption from foster care, many of us think of it in terms of adoption by a non-relative. What we don’t all realize, however, is that adoption can take many forms. It’s also quite common for a child to be adopted by or live with a relative or family friend,” Mefford explained.
“Often, when a child cannot safely go back home with their parents, then their grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members step up to care for them. This is known in the system as ‘kinship care,’ Mefford said. “In some cases, children live with family friends, coaches, teachers or mentors – ‘fictive kin.’”
In fact, last year, 6 of 23 children adopted from foster care in Fort Bend County were adopted by -more family members. Keeping children with people they know is what CASA volunteers and professionals in the system strive for through Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE), because it helps keep them connected with their community and loved ones.
Take this story of twin brothers DaShaun and Micah, and their Grandma Mabel. DaShaun and Micah have moved foster homes four times in the past year, and they need stability. One day, DaShaun and Micah tell their CASA volunteer Daniel about memories of their Grandma Mabel, whom they’ve lost contact with. Daniel shares this with the others on the boys’ case, and they are able to locate and contact her. She is relieved to know the boys are safe and says she would gladly care for them.
DaShaun and Micah move in with Grandma Mabel. They are happy to be back in a familiar home with family and to start the process of healing.
A few months later, the twins are officially adopted by their Grandma. After years of moving from placement to placement, Micah and DaShaun are in a safe, caring and permanent home, with someone they know and love—and who unconditionally loves them.
This story, whose names are de-identified for confidentiality, is based on real-life situations for children in foster care, their families and their CASA volunteers.
CASA volunteers are everyday citizens from the community who are screened and trained, and appointed by a judge to advocate for a child’s best interest in court. They work collaboratively with the professionals on the child’s case, including the caseworker, attorneys and others. Their top priority is to advocate for the child to reunify with their parents whenever safe and possible. When this is not an option, they advocate for the child to live with and be adopted by other family members or friends, or with a caring adoptive family.
“This month, we’re taking the time to show our appreciation for the diverse families in our community who are nurturing and raising children they’ve adopted from foster care,” Mefford said. “Thank you for giving them a safe, permanent and unconditionally loving home where they can heal and grow!”