Nov 17 2015
By Steven Olender
I am not a brave man, but last week, dressed as the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz, I learned what it means to have courage. November 5th was Adoption Day in Austin and 33 brave families adopted 44 brave children at the Gardner Betts Courthouse. Since all of these families know that there truly is no place like home, members of our staff dressed as the characters from the Wizard of Oz. I was chosen to be the Cowardly Lion, which was fitting because I was terrified. I don't normally work with kids in my job at CASA and I was sure that I was going to do something that ruined this special day for everyone.
For these families, their journey of bravery started well before Adoption Day. One family stuck out to me in particular. An eight-year-old girl was being adopted on Thursday, but she and her three younger siblings entered care more than three years earlier. The four kids had all been victims of severe neglect and the original foster family they went to was overwhelmed trying to help the kids through the trauma they were experiencing.
The kids were already known in their foster family’s church, so instead of splitting them up and sending them away to different unfamiliar foster homes, the community they'd built had different ideas. First one and then another family came forward for these kids. They went through foster parent training and all three families took one or two children. This way they could ensure that each child gets the attention they need to heal and grow, but without being completely separated from their biological siblings. The girl who was recently adopted even has extra beds in her new room so that her siblings can always come visit.
I can't imagine what it must have been like to go into the courtroom that day, how scary it must have been to join a new family, opening your heart to and building trust in new people. Walking into the courtroom, though, I can also see how the kids found their courage. I have never seen a room so packed full of love. All three families, including her birth siblings, were there to witness and take part in the adoption and every other seat and all of the standing room were filled with members of the community there to celebrate with her and welcome her to her new family.
But their courage doesn't end when the adoption papers are signed. Adopted children have to learn how to be part of a functional family. Simply being adopted doesn't clear away the trauma they have experienced and kids have different behavioral and emotional issues as a result. Parents need to learn to take care of these individual kids and their own individual issues. That can be scary for any parent.
And ordinary life doesn't just disappear when you adopt. Families still have to deal with all the large and small stresses of life from big meetings for parents and difficult tests for kids, to job loss, bullying and illness. One family, shortly after adopting two kids, lost their home in the recent flooding. It was unbelievably difficult for the family to go through, but doing it together really helped solidify the bonds of the family.
I learned a lot about courage in my day dressed as the Cowardly Lion. The families that came together on Adoption Day are jumping into something scary, but also something beautiful. Waiting for the adoptions to happen, I was blown away by the sheer amount of love in the courthouse. There was the love of parents and their new children, the love of siblings by birth and adoption, and the love of communities who came together to support kids, and that's all anyone needs to find their courage. Ain't it the truth? Ain't it the truth?
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