Keri Vellis brings a message of hope and safety to children in foster care. As a mother of six children, three adopted through foster care and three with special needs, Keri has drawn on her unique experience to self-publish two books. Filled with lively illustrations by Jin Lehr, a foster herself who aged out of the system, each book tells an identifiable story with a comforting resolution.
Keri’s first book, Sometimes…, was compelled by her first foster experience. Seeking to help her own foster kiddos move through the shame and fear that accompany transitioning to a new home, she sought a new book to incorporate into the bedtime reading routine. She found nothing, so she wrote it herself! Through a timid foster child with a teddy bear, Sometimes… helps foster children feel good about themselves and know that they can have love and happiness in their lives.
Her second book, When I Was Little…, is another message from the heart. Again, drawing from her experience with the varied circumstances that have brought over 19 foster children into her home, Keri tells a story that helps children overcome the pain and difficulties experienced through abuse or trauma. It not only teaches compassion but inspires trust in professionals who can help a child feel confident and loved again.
Keri Vellis and her husband are passionate and involved parents of six children: three biological and three adopted through the foster care system. Keri always enjoyed reading with her children but was surprised to find that the local bookstores and libraries did not offer age appropriate, yet engaging books relating to foster care and the experiences that those children encounter. She wanted the kids she fostered over the years to feel comfortable with new families and pets, schools and activities. It occurred to her that there was a void for all of the children who moved through the system, not just hers.
From the simplest acts of kindness to total strangers to the most deliberate acts of kindness to those wounded souls who are difficult to love, every act of kindness improves the lives of everyone involved.
We hear about random acts of kindness, and think, “oh, how nice,” but most of us aren’t moved to act in our own lives. Whether it’s because we’re too busy, too driven, too ill, we just don’t know how, or because we think that our acts of kindness are too insignificant and won’t make a difference at all, this book is about showing you how to make your world a better place regardless of your circumstances.
Most importantly, the reasons why we should engage in acts of kindness are woven into these pages and summarized at the end of each chapter so that by the time you’ve made your way through all 101 ways, YOU will be an Ambassador of Kindness, shining a spotlight on the best that humanity has to offer and setting an example to everyone within your influence about the power of kindness.
Acts of Kindness, small or large, help everyone make their world a kinder place. Through the simplest act of kindness, all of our lives are improved. Genuine caring is best expressed through encouraging and helping others. Kindness fills the emotional "fuel tank" of others as well as ourselves. This book gives simple suggestions for connecting with others, which is the powerful undercurrent of kindness.
Successful survivors are strong, capable, resilient, tenacious, courageous, resourceful, and so much more—characteristics that are valuable in every relationship, every industry, and every profession. While each successful survivor may not have every one of the characteristics included here, each of them has at least one that has been instrumental in helping them through difficult times. The great news is that all these characteristics can be acquired, developed, and leveraged to unlock and unleash the potential trapped inside those who have survived trauma. More resources for survivors of trauma are available at www.rhonda.org.
At age 15 Rhonda decided to seek emancipation. One of the prerequisites was that Rhonda have a job, so she went to work for the first person who would hire her– an insurance agent. When her employer explained the concept of insurance, Rhonda learned everything she could about insurance. Despite being denied again and again, Rhonda repeatedly petitioned the Insurance Commissioner to allow her to sit for the insurance agent exam even though she wasn’t yet 18. An exception was finally granted, and Rhonda became California’s youngest licensed insurance agent at 17.
Catherine Marshall's story reveals the heartbreak and hope of foster parenting. Thirty-eight and newly married, Catherine yearned to be a mother and adoption seemed a viable option. The county's Foster-Adopt Program was affordable, so she and her new husband were confident they could adopt and parent two siblings. But nothing was as it seemed. The birth parents used intimidation and the court system to sabotage the adoption. The social services agency wavered in its support. Even the children, three-year old Jenny and six-year old Robert, were unaware of the ticking time bomb of genetics and early neglect that would detonate in their teens.
Would the family survive intact? Would the marriage withstand the stress? Would the children overcome the same afflictions and addictions that had plagued their birth parents? The Easter Moose: One Family's Journey Adopting through Foster Care provides all parents, but particularly those adopting, fostering, or caring for children with challenges, the assurance they are not alone. Social workers, teachers, people who work in the family court system, and anyone who believes in nurture over nature will get a reality check.
Catherine Marshall's stories about parenting and other real life adventures have been featured in several anthologies and magazines including the Noyo River Review, Foster Families Today, and Tales of Our Lives.
She resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and Mendocino, where she has a consulting practice specializing in helping nonprofits and community groups effect social change. She is the author of Field Building: Your Blueprint for Creating an Effective and Powerful Social Movement.
Told from a child’s point of view, KIT COYOTE: A BRAVE PUP validates the mixed feelings a child may experience in foster care and answers some of the tough questions children may wish to ask such as “Do my parents love me?" and “Why can’t I live with them?”. The book also promotes a sense of resilience and encourages children to express themselves to trusted adults in creative ways. Foster children usually have a lot new in their lives – foster parents, a CASA or court-appointed advocate, case workers, therapists, and possibly a new school. The imaginative illustrations depict animal characters including Kit, a coyote pup; social worker, Kathy Rabbit; foster mom, Rayna Fox, and therapist, Bruce Hedgehog in order to appeal to children and avoid stereotypes.
“ Kit Coyote: A Brave Pup is a beautifully illustrated story that will be treasured by child therapists, social workers, foster parents, recovering parents and others who help children heal and grow from family disruptions.”
— Deborah J. Tharinger, PhD Founding Member, Therapeutic Assessment Institute Author, “Therapeutic Stories for Children Generated from Psychological Assessments”
KIT COYOTE: A BRAVE PUP (Z Productions, ISBN 32 pages, ages 4-10)
Rosemary Zibart is a former foster parent, an adoptive parent and an award-winning children’s book author. Prior to writing books for young people, she was a journalist for PARADE and Time Magazine focusing on issues relating to at-risk youth, foster care and adoption and was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition for Adoption Institute.
Looking back, my patchwork of memories during the first five years in California revealed a much simpler life compared to the challenges I would face moving cross-country to Virginia. My earliest recollection is falling out of my stroller onto a Hollywood Boulevard Star Walk of Fame when I was around two years old. Whether that meant I was destined for stardom or my mother needed to make sure I was buckled in more tightly next time remains to be seen. My mother already had another child, my sister Eve, five years earlier with the only man she would ever marry. Her alcoholism coupled with her blind, unproductive ambition led to their divorce well before I was born.
My father was absent from the get go. I don’t have his side of the story since I never met the man, so I can’t offer a guess as to why he chose to abandon me. The blank line where my father’s name should be on my birth certificate represents the same void I still feel today. Gratefully, my sister’s father went above and beyond to provide that foundational example. Although I struggled with false memories during my adolescent years, my father never existed during my stay in California. I have no recollection of Peter Miles McKissack, but according to my mother, he came around a few times after I was born before venturing off to Vegas to pursue music stardom.
The redeeming memories from my early childhood involved my sister and her father, Caesar. Although we didn’t live together, my sister always seemed to be by my side. She even nicknamed me Chachie after the Happy Days character. To this day I have no idea why, but the name stuck during my stint in California. As for Caesar, I couldn’t have wished for a better father figure in my life. Our travels together granted me the fatherly insight my little inquisitive mind needed at the time. Whether it was my wonderment as to why the moon was following our car or pondering why those basketball-looking globes were stuck on the electrical lines, Caesar always had a straightforward response. Typically, I followed up with an “Oh!” and kept humming to the tune on the radio or whatever Mom had stuck in my head.
Caesar always treated me to McDonalds, and I may have owned every Happy Meal toy from 1983-84. At mealtime, I’d pretend to be the Hamburgalar with chicken nuggets in one hand and fries in the other while doing my little version of a happy dance. Afterward, I recall Caesar dropping me off with Mom and just entertaining myself with a skit featuring the Hamburgalar on a skateboard and Grimace chasing him along the carpet while they argued back and forth. They never thought I was listening, but most of it had to do with Caesar lecturing my mother about her drinking problem. Caesar would eventually leave, and I would continue to entertain myself amidst empty Busch beer cans until Johnny Carson came on. Yes, his show was on way past a normal child’s bedtime. However, one of my favorite sayings as a toddler was, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!”
My mother never held a job, so I never knew where she went during the times. Upon returning to our apartment, I anxiously awaited Caesar and Eve to take me away, even though I knew it would not be forever like I always wanted. Some days they would arrive as I had wished and sometimes they didn’t. Occasionally, Caesar would just drop Eve off for a few hours. Like every toddler, my mind conjured up the idea that I was at the center of everyone’s universe and completely oblivious to the fact that they had lives outside of my self-absorbed bubble. Although we played gleefully, I mostly remember Eve commanding Mom to stop drinking so much alcohol to no avail. In an effort to look out for her brothers’ well-being, Eve was constantly critical, but she hardly penetrated my mother’s steadfast denial. I never fully understood the problem until I came to resent my mother for her alcoholism a few short years later.
All of that denial led to inevitable consequences. Due to Mom’s addiction and never holding down a job among other reasons, we ended up being evicted from our apartment during the spring of 1985. I recall looking at our belongings Mom had piled up in the center of the family room for storage. She bent down to my eye level and assured me that everything would eventually be delivered to Virginia. I was only allowed to take a book bag full of clothes and some of my most prized Happy Meal toys. Whatever I had in that bag was all that ever made it to the eastern countryside.
Adam Starks, Ph.D. is a former foster youth who defied the typical outcome. Against the odds, he has been married for over 12 years to his wonderful wife, Emily and they have three children; Jayden, Isaiah and Susannah. Currently, Dr. Adam Starks is an aspiring social entrepreneur envisioning a better today for our society's most vulnerable children. His purpose includes advocating for and empowering at-risk youth to encourage our society to realize each student's potential instead of life-altering disciplinary action. As living proof to what it takes to break the cycle, Dr. Starks seeks to establish a more holistic education model by offering external services to assist the most disadvantaged youth in order to transcend the dismal statistics resulting from negative experiences during their formative years.
His unique perspective and life experiences allow his catalytic leadership style to thrive in the most challenging situations. Influenced and inspired by leaders past and present, he views the world through the lens of self-empowerment to enhance optimal learning opportunities. His level of self-awareness opens him up to listening effectively and integrating the best ideas from the entire problem-solving spectrum. It’s going to take ideas from all walks of life to address this crisis in education, and Dr. Starks is willing to do whatever it takes to help as many children as possible succeed in this uncertain world. For a more in-depth look into the life of Dr. Adam Starks, please purchase his book, Broken Child Mended Man.
Dr. John N. DeGarmo, Ed.D.
Children suffering from abuse. Neglect. Malnutrition. Even drug-related problems passed on from a mother’s addiction. Children rejected by those who were to love them most, their parents. When placed into a foster home, many of these children carry with them the physical and emotional scars that prevent them from accepting the love of another. This journey as a foster parent is the most difficult thing John DeGarmo has done.
Through the sleepless nights with drug-addicted babies, the battles with angry teens, and the tears from such tremendous sadness, John DeGarmo learns that to follow God’s call in his life means to take up His cross in his own home.
Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Journey is the true-life account of his experience as a foster parent, along with his wife and their own three children, as he followed God’s call to take foster children into his home. This is a story of heartbreak, sadness, and ultimately love as he came to find God in the tears and smiles of many foster children.
Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 10 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 40 children come through their home. Dr. DeGarmo wrote his dissertation on fostering, entitled Responding to the Needs of Foster Children in Rural Schools.
Jeanette Yoffe, M.F.T.
30 Interventions for Parents, Social Workers and Parents to heal Anxiety, Fear, Worry, Stress, Anger, Aggressivity, Frustration, Poor Impulse Control, Grief, Loss, Depression, in order to build Self-esteem, Identity Formation, Family, Trust, Safety, Security and Attachment and Bonding for Attachment Challenged Children.
Groundbreaking Interventions is comprised of creative treatment methods to be used with children and adolescents designed in an easy to use approach which makes therapy healing and fun. I have used these methods frequently in my work and am constantly adapting them to new children and circumstances. Using these ideas helps to bridge the gap between child and parent/therapist and create an environment of “play without pressure” and encourages children to develop a creative spirit which instills hope and transformation. Children find the methods easy to use and understand because they are geared towards helping children interact, play, and learn.
The activities in this book came about by my own need to be more creative with children, especially those in foster care and adoption whom had many great difficulties and hurdles to overcome externally and internally. I found that through encouraging a child to create, encourages a child to learn about themselves and the world around them. So, I sought out and tested each idea in this book with different children. I would first begin with a child’s interest and elaborate how I could tap into that resource so that the child could use it for them rather than against them. Resiliency is what I sought to create with each child. And found that they too, could transform shame, mistrust, low self-esteem into pride, dependency and confidence.
The general aim of this book is to encourage creativity within the therapeutic relationship, break down the walls with children who have been highly traumatized and tap into a child’s natural resources. I cover a wide range of topics and materials. The methods can be used with children and their parents at home or in therapy sessions: individually, in group settings and in family therapy. Each method is clearly laid out so that the parent/therapist can choose an intervention for a particular set of symptoms, age range, learning skill, and type of therapy. All activities can be used for girls and boys ages 5 through 17.
An important note about using this book: certain items such as play-doh, large poster paper, clay, craft sticks, pipe cleaners and other miscellaneous items will have to be purchased beforehand in order to do the project successfully. I have included websites where you can purchase such items. I also encourage parents to explain the project to the child first and then follow the client’s lead. Most of the methods follow a path of their own.
The Therapeutic Models which influence this book, are Object Relations Theory, Attachment Focused Family Therapy, and Psycho-dynamic. A creative parent/therapist should be able to utilize any of the methods regardless of their modality.
Jeanette Yoffe, M.A., M.F.T., is the Executive Director and Founder of Celia Center.Celia Center is a support center which meets the critical needs of all those connected by Foster Care and Adoption and all those who serve the community of Foster Care and Adoption in Los Angeles and beyond.
She is an adoptions and foster care psychotherapist. Yoffe’s desire to become a therapist with a special focus on adopted and foster care issues derived from her own experience of being adopted and moving through the foster care system.
She earned her Masters in Clinical Psychology, specializing in children, from Antioch University. She has specialized for the past 18 years in the treatment of children who manifest serious deficits in their emotional, cognitive, and behavioral development.
In 2006 she won Los Angeles Foster Care Hero Award for her dedication to children and families in foster Care. Jeanette founded the non-profit she named, Celia Center, after her first mother, Celia.
She has been in the field for over 20 years and has worked as a psychotherapist, foster care social worker, clinical director, trainer for Los Angeles County Child & Family Services and the Department of Mental Health for parents, social workers and therapists on adoption & foster care challenges, parenting, impact of pre-adoption trauma, grief/loss, open adoption, and provides support to adult adoptees searching for long lost family members, as well as assists in reunion and family reunification. She is a Court Appointed Reunification Expert for Los Angeles Superior Court in cases involving children at risk for separation. She has appeared on the OWN and TLC Network, as a Psychotherapist teaching about Adoption in the shows Raising Whitley and Long Lost Family. in 1999 she wrote a one-woman play about growing up in foster care and adoption called, “What’s Your Name, Who’s Your Daddy?” and was accepted into the Los Angeles Women’s Theater Festival.
This cathartic experience of separating from her birth family led her on a continuous search for answers, and need to understand the adoptee’s experience of love and loss, as well as the love and loss a birth parent endures during separation trauma and their lifetime.
In 2009, she created a support group called Adopt Salon Los Angeles, which brings together all of the constellation members involved in an adoption and/or foster care placement, as well as ignite strength and community, and bring education, awareness and support for all of these members in forming healthy reunions, open adoptions, healing and understanding for all.
She is also the clinical director and founder of Yoffe Therapy, more info at YoffeTherapy.com
When I was two years old, my fondest memory was not receiving my first doll or anything like that. It was waking up in the middle of the night and finding Dee crying. My father was nowhere to be found. My house was a crazy place all the time. All they did was fight, scream, and yell at one another. My father would throw things around the house and sometimes, he would grab her. After all the screaming and fighting was over, he would just walk out of the house. He would go downstairs to the bar and put even more liquor into his body, than he already had to begin with. When he returned home, he would just act as if nothing had ever happened. Even Dee would play the same game. She believed that if you act like it never happened, then it really did not. But, in reality, it really did happen and will again.
My father was an alcoholic and went out drinking every night. He would come home late, and the fighting would start. I would hear lots of yelling, hitting, and screaming. In addition, to things beings thrown and broken. It would then get quiet after that. Peeking from around the corner, I would see Dee picking up the broken things off the floor. Afterwards, she would go to the bedroom, where it smelled so bad. He would not be able to hold all the alcohol he consumed and would go on himself. Instead of leaving him in the wet pants, she would help change his clothes. He would help a little, but for the most part he was completely under the control of what he was putting in his body. This was a repetitive cycle that was very normal in my life.
Seeing this behavior from such a young age, you start believing that this is normal, but then you find out different. I was awakened, and after that my entire image of normal was completely messed up. This was my normal life from the time I came into the world. From people looking in, they would see dysfunction while I saw normal. I was walking around in a daze. As they spent all their time and energy fighting--trying to kill themselves--they failed to realize that they were still parents. Whether biological or not, they were the adults. They were supposed to be taking care of me, but that just was not happening. From the way it looked, it was not going to happen anytime soon, either.
I was just a little girl, but I wished it would all stop. I wanted to be normal and just a child. All I really wanted was to go to the park and not have to worry about if something happens to my parents. Who would take care of me? What would happen to me? I was a kid, and I was not supposed to worry about things like that, but in my mind, I felt that it was completely necessary. Dee was not an entirely strong person, and she was getting weaker. There was something just not right about her. I did not refer to her as mother, as she wasn’t. I called her by her first name. I felt no love from her, and no love was ever returned to her. There was no exchange of any emotions. It was as if she hated me and had a great deal of bitterness towards me.
Raised in Chicago, IL, until age 5. After that, became a foster child and moved all over Illinois. I spent some time in Florida and California in foster care, as well. Graduated from Roosevelt University with a master’s degree in Psychology. Works for the Illinois Department of Human Services as a social worker for the last seven years. I started writing fantasy stories at age seven. These stories were always the same of what I wanted my life to be like. These stories lead to more realistic stories of what my life was really like. Writing helped me survive the foster care system. I decided to share my stories and experiences from my dysfunctional home and my journey in the foster care system. This is my first book in the book series. This is not only my story, but the story of many foster children forced to grow up this way.
“Why are children so childish?” Robin groused to herself as she sat valiantly attempting to put two coherent thoughts together for her newspaper column that was due tomorrow. But every time she had an idea, it disappeared through the leaky sieve of her brain before she could formulate it into meaningful words on her computer screen. Her powers of concentration were becoming increasingly more difficult due to the continuous racket of yelling, slamming, stomping, and arguing threatening to tear the house apart. Tuning it out had not worked. Nor had ignoring it–and she was becoming concerned about what she would find beyond her office door.
Muttering under her breath, she threw open the door and ventured forth into the fray. God give me patience and give it to me now!
Of course. They were arguing about the fly swatter. There were only two million, five-hundred thousand, six hundred and seventy four (give or take) assorted toys of every shape, size, color, and model in the play room, as well as enough outdoor play equipment to make it look like their home was the site of a perpetual yard sale, and the kids were arguing about the fly swatter. She put her hands on her hips and glared at the three youngsters engaged in the heat of the battle.
“I had it first!” Jeremy declared.
“But I saw the fly!” Jenny countered.
“Miss Robin,” Melody cried, turning her big blue “Precious Moment” eyes on Robin, Jeremy said he had it first, but I really did! Honest!”
Award winning author, Ellen Fannon, is a practicing veterinarian, former missionary, and church pianist/organist. She originated and wrote the Pet Peeves column for the Northwest Florida Daily News before taking a two-year assignment with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. She and her husband have also been foster parents for more than 40 children, and the adoptive parents of two sons. Her first novel, Other People’s Children, the humorous account of the life of a foster parent, was released last November and is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the trunk of her car. She lives in Valparaiso with her husband, son, and assorted pets.
Aging out of foster care can be a terrifying experience for teens—especially if they don’t have the skills necessary to tackle adult living. Transition 2 Life and Daily Living Skills meet federal mandates for transition education and provide the foundation teens need to address a wide variety of “real life” skills. Subject areas include Adult Living, Cooking, Social Skills, Job Skills and Character Building. Individual workbooks range from Cleaning House, Paying Bills and Grocery Shopping to Everyday Manners, Safe Dating and Making Conversation. Other titles include Interviewing Skills, Getting a Paycheck, and Time Management, to Building Character, Decision Making and Overcoming Failure. All books are written on a 3rd/4th grade reading level for easy independent use while honoring a young adult’s humor and sensibilities. All pages are liberally sprinkled with age-appropriate cartoons and illustrations and bullet-point information is used whenever possible. This highly affordable series includes assessments, grading sheets, answer keys, ITP Goals, and mandated Parent/Guardian information sheets designed to meet national standards.
Award-winning author Susan Traugh is a former teacher and holds a Masters in Education with an emphasis on curricula. Her Transition 2 Life and Daily Living Skills series have received acclaim from educators around the world. Susan is the mother of three incredible children, all with special needs. Working with both public and private schools to secure the best education for her kids, Susan realized the need for a comprehensive, age-appropriate transition program for at-risk and mildto-moderately affected special needs teens. The resulting program has received acclaim worldwide
Nathanael & Christina Matanick
Who knew the words of a woman who had no obligations to me, spoken at bedtime, would be the superpower I needed to survive and succeed the rest of my life?
14 years old
Nothing, worthless, alone.
It's not your fault.
Sitting alone in the dark.
You're so much more.
Tears run down your face.
A light in the dark.
Sound breaks through the silence.
There you are.
Happiness, longing for love.
It's all right here.
Nathanael & Christina Matanick are foster/adoptive parents, award-winning filmmakers, and advocates for kids. They firmly believe that a kid's perspective deserves to be told, seen, and heard. Creators of the viral short film ReMoved, they founded a non-profit to elevate the voices of youth who have experienced foster care. Their first book, LISTEN, is an inspiring compilation of short stories, poetry, insights, and art from former and current kids of foster care.
Judge Michael Ryan
“ I saw a rat jump out of the linen closet onto the bathroom floor and scurry from the bathroom floor to the carpet in my bedroom. Then it climbed up the bed and ran towards me. I screamed ‘Ahhhhhhhh’ as I simultaneously placed my right hand, which was outside the covers, onto the rat, which was underneath the covers, as he ran near my thigh. I then squeezed the rat with my right hand for approximately 30 seconds. My [step] grandmother yelled...by the time she made it into the room I had jumped out the bed and was standing against the wall with the dead rat and it’s blood and guts on my sheets.”
Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Juvenile Judge Michael John Ryan is a native Clevelander. Judge Michael John Ryan was first elected to a full six-year term on the Cleveland Municipal Court bench in 2005 and re-elected to another six-year term without opposition. He was subsequently elected in November 2012 to his current position as judge in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Juvenile Division. At age 30, Judge Ryan became the youngest person ever appointed to a full-time Magistrate position with the Cleveland Municipal court. Judge Ryan is married, has two children and is a Deacon and member of the Board of Directors at the Pentecostal Church of Christ.
Faces of Foster Care has heartfelt and frank messages from twenty people around the country who have been involved in some way with foster care. Their stories are like mini memoirs, so inspiring and sometimes heartbreaking. All profits from the book go directly back into the organization for which the author volunteers and is a board member, the DC Family and Youth Initiative (dcfyi.org). Please support this work and foster care by ordering a copy and learn from this incredible window into foster care in the U.S.
Carl Hancock Rux, author of the novel Asphalt (Simon & Schuster) and alumni of the NYC Foster Care System reviewed Faces of Foster Care:
“No child thrives without a sense of place, identity, or familial nurturing. In the mid-19th century, over 30,000 children lived on the streets of New York City, facing the harsh elements of homelessness without public or private assistance. The initial campaign to extend benefits to, and provide families for displaced children (then known as ‘The Orphan Train Movement’) eventually morphed into a bureaucratic agency constantly entrenched with all manner of budgetary constraints, agency mandates, policy changes and revisionist statutes. What often gets lost in the ever flowing current of systematic alternative child-care are the actual children themselves. Lisa Aguirre's brilliant Faces of Foster Care finally gives voice to the voiceless, allowing a firsthand articulation of what it means to be a ‘foster child’ placed front and center in the age-old narrative of conflict, devaluation, and dehumanization; children challenged to redefine for themselves the word, ‘family’, and ultimately, to survive. Listen closely. At once, troubling, heart breaking, and full of hope, Faces of Foster Care is a must-read, if only because, as James Baldwin once brilliantly stated, ‘For these are all our children, we will all profit by or pay for what they become.’”
Lisa Aguirre grew up in a small town in Maryland but travelled all over the world in her work for many years in public service at the U.S. State department. More recently, she transferred to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and enjoys this work. She holds a master’s degree in clinical psychology and a law degree from Tulsa University. She is married to Wilde with five adult children and one grandchild. When her youngest was nearing the end of high school, Lisa had a deep sense that she wasn’t quite finished. She began volunteering as a mentor to older teens and young adults in foster care. She discovered what can happen to children who spend many years in an unfair and sometimes tragic system. Her relationships with her mentees and experiences as a volunteer changed her life and she determined to do what she could not only to mentor and support, but also to advocate for older teens and young adults in foster care.
The Bond: How a Mixed Bag of Foster Kids Became a Family for Life is a powerful memoir that chronicles the strength of the relationships formed among a collection of unrelated siblings who forged a remarkable, separate, and permanent family within a foster home.
Ever since we arrived at the Nelsons’ home, the thought of belonging to this family had grown from an aspiration to motivation. About a year after we came to the house, Mrs. Nelson surprised Charles and I with the idea that she was interested in adopting us. For a foster kid, this is like getting released into a toy store with no spending limits.
I was puzzled at first. Adoption had been a dream of almost everyone’s at St. Michael’s, but the word scared me, and apparently Mr. Nelson as well. I secretly heard him and Mrs. Nelson arguing about the cost. So, I looked it up in the Encyclopedia Britannica set in the house in secrecy, avoiding Mrs. Nelson’s cherished Time-Life books. I was researching a promise made.
It said: Adoption, the act of establishing a person as parent to one who is not in fact or in law his or her child.
So that’s how a parent was gotten, I concluded, if you didn’t already have one. I just had to establish someone. In my mind, I had settled on the Nelsons as my parents. It felt good saying the word out loud.
As it turned out, all the other foster kids had been promised adoption as well, so the idea was sounding better and better. I needed a mother and father, desperately, and we were all doing it together. That’s all the motivation I needed. My biological father had to agree to the adoption, but there was no resistance from him. On May 23rd 1975, after eight years of living with the Nelsons, Cosmo (whom we had taken to calling “other father” at this point) agreed to sign papers relinquishing his parental rights forever during a preliminary adoption hearing.
During the proceeding, and on a break from college, Rose Ann testified before the court that she “approved” of us all being adopted and paved the way for Charles and me. She herself was not interested and never warmed to the idea of a new mother. Yet, for Cosmo, letting us go meant scribbling his signature on an unsympathetic piece of paper. It should not have been so easy.
So, even if Rose Ann didn’t want a new parent, I did. Andy had been adopted by the Nelsons, and I was eager to be part of the club…
A.M. Grotticelli is a veteran technology journalist. He's lived in the NY/NJ area his entire life, and currently resides in Mahwah, New Jersey. The Bond is his first book.