Bringing Together the Right Child with the Right Family
Posted on August 19, 2022
Bringing together the right child with the right family
The idealized adoption story involves an infant, a grateful couple and happily ever after.
However, reality is usually much messier and more complicated. Many adoptive parents don’t know what they’re getting into. Many adopted children are scarred by trauma, even as babies. Many aren’t able to be adopted until they’re much older.
That was the case with Jenny, who was part of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, a program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Program recruiters use a child-focused model to find homes for older and hard-to-place children.
Jenny was 11 when Children’s Home Society (CHS) Adoption Specialist Tina Graber began working with her. “She’d been on my caseload since March 2018. Jenny was a resident at CHS from 2012 to 2014. She was in foster care for more than 4,500 days (most of her life),” Tina says. And finally, Jenny was adopted.
Growing a family through adoption
While Jenny’s background is unusual, the story of Chris and Megen, her adoptive parents, is no less remarkable.
The couple knew they wanted a family. Chris teaches middle school science and Megen is a mental health therapist.
“My parents are older,” says Chris. “They’re in their mid-seventies, so I wanted our kids to remember their grandparents instead of just looking at photos or a videotape. That was what happened to me.”
“We know some people who are foster families, and being in the jobs that we’re in, we saw the need,” says Megen. “We just decided that that was how we wanted to build our family.”
“You hear a lot of heartbreaking stories of kids who age out and don’t get that family. I just hated that. Every kid deserves people who are in their corner for the rest of their life.”
“We know how to deal with that age group, much more than we know how to deal with diapers and that stuff,” Megen says. “We felt it would be a good fit for our family, with what we like to do and our routines. Having a child who can come with us to do things—instead of always trying to find a babysitter—there are just a lot of perks to having an older child.”
A family by choice
Chris and Megen chose Jenny. But Jenny also chose them.
“One of the interesting things that the judge said at the adoption was that not many people get to choose their parents,” says Megen. In South Dakota, children 12 years of age and older have a say in who adopts them; they are asked in court if they agree to be adopted.
“She has no reason to trust adults,” Megen says. “There’s nothing in her background that says adults are safe to trust. People think, oh, that’s so great of you for taking her in. Yeah, but that’s also so great of her to give us a chance.”
Jenny has become more vocal and self-confident since the adoption, in addition to growing several inches. She likes school and enjoys choir, dance, art, FFA and playing Minecraft.
“She likes puzzles. Oh, and she’s been building a lot with Legos lately,” says Chris. “She and I are starting a large pirate ship kit. And she’s into cats and cats. And some more cats.”
“And cats,” says Megen.
Learn more about Children’s Home Society foster care and adoption services here. Children’s Home Society is the South Dakota agency representing Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, a signature program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. A five-year study showed that children referred to Wendy’s Wonderful Kids are up to three times more likely to be adopted.