November 18, 2015

“A Table Full of Unconditional Love” – A Project Family Adoption Story

Posted in Adoption, DCF, Project Family tagged , , , , at 11:36 am by Lund

“The visual of the night he came into custody is forever burned in my memory. The sights, smells and sounds trapped in my muscle memory so different than any of the other memories I have. How late it was, how sad he was, how relieved he was when he saw it was me waiting for him. Even now that picture brings tears to my eyes. I cannot believe that three years have flown by because truly it feels like just yesterday.

At first he was with me “just the weekend” and that first weekend was pure fun. Trying to keep his mind off of things, showing him around the farm, driving the tractor, making s’mores over the fire.  It wasn’t until the following week when he found out he wouldn’t be going home for at least 3 months that things got real. The honeymoon was over. All bets were off and I met the angriest, saddest, guiltiest, most self loathing little eight year old boy there ever was.

And even then in our darkest hours he was also plainly the sweetest most compassionate, brilliant glowing ember I am sure I will ever know. People ask me how I could see that in him so clearly when so much was trying to quash his true self. I don’t know. And yet, there it was. Big as life for anyone who spent time with him to see.   Never has there been a more committed team of people from Project Family, DCF, the school, and mental health to Post-Permanence Services. I continue to feel that this group of people truly created a positive outcome where there could have been a much different one. We had this table full of unconditional love that just wouldn’t give up.

I should interject here that there were certainly moments when I thought I couldn’t go on, times when the boulder felt too heavy. There were thousands of dollars of property damage, physical aggression that left me
breathless and bleeding and the running away!!!!! That was tough. It was the self harm though and threats to self that finally pushed me to ask for a higher level of care.  It took three bouts of residential in two different places as well as a couple of short term crisis placements to teach, heal and nurture my child to the point of stability but we made it. He has been living at home for over a year now. He has friends. Real friends, the kind who invite him over for sleepovers and to their birthday parties. It may sound like just a normal kind of kid thing but it isn’t. Recently when he got his first base hit the bleachers and dugout were full of screaming children and adults. He is all of ours. To know him is to love him and he is enveloped in a community of love.

Credit: Steve Allen, Creative Commons on Flickr

Credit: Steve Allen, Creative Commons on Flickr

He used to say that his dream was to one day be a normal kid. Somehow, that reality just snuck up on us. Here he is, my normal, so much more than normal, football playing, avid reading, friendly, well balanced kid.

I hope anyone reading this doesn’t think I have blinders on to the reality of our world and what it may always be because I don’t and I recognize that statistically we are an anomaly and that this may be short lived. Every time we have a good day it goes in the savings to be stockpiled for the next storm. Man, do we have a small fortune in there right now.

-Bianca, Adoptive Mom

June 10, 2015

‘I found my home’ – The real voice of foster care

Posted in Adoption, DCF, Foster Care Program, Project Family tagged , , , , at 12:07 pm by Lund

Sierra was adopted through foster care at age five. She has memories of her previous foster homes and living with her birth parents. As part of a school project, Sierra wrote about her story. Her poem, “I’m Just an Orphan” captures the experiences of early trauma, foster care, and adoption. Her writing is expressive and provoking. Sierra shows courage and awareness in writing about her story. She is willing to share her poem in hopes to create more awareness about the adoption journey for adoptive parents, service providers, and educators. Sierra also hopes other adoptees will read her poem and know they are not alone.

 

I’m Just an Orphan

From the day I was born,

I’m pretty sure everyone knew I was different,

The parents at each and every house I went to,

They would treat me different too,

They treated me like I had no brain,

When really I knew it wouldn’t last there either.

 

I finally got a real house,

A real family,

More siblings too,

Animals,

And even food,

Something that you think everyone should have,

But that’s not the cold hard truth.

 

I started going to church with my new mom,

Her mom too,

Sitting in the back row,

Felling judged,

But also feeling at home.

 

Listening about how God has a plan for everyone.

Everything happens for a reason,

Questioning my faith,

 

Well if everything happens for a reason,

Why the hell did this happen to me?

Why do I listen to fighting,

And witness my birth mom getting hurt?

Why did my parents get into drugs,

And treat me like I was worthless,

Pretend I wasn’t there one minute,

Then yelling at me and throwing stuff the next,

Did they not think I was too young to remember what they did,

Did they not realize that someday I’d be looking at my ceiling and wondering,

What did I do wrong?

 

Why didn’t you love me,

What was wrong with me,

Why didn’t you care?

 

I thought that was all done,

I thought you were finally out of my life,

I thought I could move on,

It was time so I did.

 

Christmas came,

My first real Christmas,

I got real presents,

Not just stuff that could have been stolen,

I got food,

Not just scraps that weren’t eaten,

Smiles and laughing,

Not tears and yelling,

The feeling of warmth running through my veins,

The love I could feel,

The love I could feel until the end.

 

I thought I was done with you,

I thought you were in the past,

I have a new family,

A new family that will last,

But I started school and the teachers gave us a task,

What they asked, Made me think different about myself and I know now you’re going to last.

 

My teacher said we all have to do a task about our family,

What parent you look like,

What parent you act like,

When did you start to talk,

When did you start to walk,

All these questions in my head,

They make me feel well dead.

 

How am I suppose to know,

These are my parents,

You can see it,

I can too,

But these aren’t my biological parents,

None of us know these answers,

So how am I suppose to?

 

It’s not my fault,

I didn’t mean to,

If you want me to be honest,

I don’t know what to do,

I think of them all the time,

What I did wrong,

Why they didn’t care.

Not everyone lives or knows their mom or dad,

So why should I have to do this,

To remind me that I’m different,

Or to remind me that they didn’t care,

Truth be I think about it all the time and I don’t think it’s fair.

 

But now kids have started saying stuff,

Stuff that keeps me up at night,

Stuff that should never be said,

Stuff that keeps running through my head.

 

They look and they stare,

Trying to pick something out on me to make me feel bad,

As I’m walking through the hallway,

I can start to hear them saying,

She’s the one, who could be at different houses different days,

Then I go home to get away from everything,

Then I that that DING,

The,

You have a message DING,

Dreading opening it after that day,

I bite my lip and do it anyway.

As I hold back my tears,

I reread it over and over again,

The words stinging the back of my head,

Reminding me of all the hell that people have said,

This one is the worst,

 

This one is always in my head,

“IF THE TWO PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WHO WERE SUPPOSE TO LOVE YOU MORE THAN ANYTHING COULDN’T NO ONE CAN”

 

I know what they mean,

I feel it too,

How do they love me,

Is it true,

They say I’m amazing,

They say I’m worth it,

They say everything I’ve never been told,

I try to believe them, but because of everything people say,

It gets harder every day.

 

But I know I’m worth it,

I know I’m amazing,

I know I can be loved,

My parents chose me,

Yours are stuck with you,

And I know that to be true.

 

But this is life,

We are all just orphans,

The only difference is,

I found my home,

Have you?

March 10, 2015

Outreach and Information is Key in Finding Homes for Children in Foster Care

Posted in Adoption, DCF, Employees, Events, Foster Care Program, Project Family tagged , , , , , , at 3:13 pm by Lund

February 21, 2015: Ashley Sargent, Lund’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter set up an informational booth at the University Mall in South Burlington as part of NFI’s 4th Annual Youth and Parent Expo.  This event provides information and resources to families as well as lots of hands on activities and fun.  Ashley’s main goal was to inform the public about children in foster care waiting for forever families and encourage people to learn more about foster care. “I believe it is important for Wendy’s Wonderful Kids and Project Family (Lund’s partnership with DCF to find homes for older children in foster care) to have a presence there to help inform individuals that every child deserves a loving and nurturing family that will support them. Every child is adoptable and it is important to provide recruitment and informational events to educate families. On any given day there are about 60 children in foster care that are waiting for families to adopt them. The youth on my caseload are typically over the age of 8 years old and individuals need to be aware that even older youth need families.”

 

Ashley at the Expo

Ashley at the Expo

Ashley works as part of Lund’s partnership with Wendy’s Wonderful Kids which is a program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.  The Wendy’s Wonderful Kids website gives this description of Ashley’s work and that of the other 203 recruiters across the U.S. and Canada – “These professionals, known as Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters, work on caseloads of children the system has forgotten, ensuring they have the time and resources to give each child as much attention as he or she deserves. These recruiters employ aggressive practices and proven tactics focused on finding the best home for a child through the starting points of familiar circles of family, friends and neighbors, and then reaching out to the communities in which they live.” (www.davethomasfoundation.org)

Many people just don’t know that there are older children in foster care in need of permanent homes and forever families.  Events like this one allow people a chance to learn more and to find out what they could do to help.   “During the event people were most interested in speaking about how they wish they could help the youth; but that they were currently unable to. I was able to refocus them on seeing if they have any friends, family, etc, that would open their heart and home to the youth,” says Ashley.   Families are created in many different way and families find each other in many different ways so every outreach event has the potential to start a chain of action or open up a door for a youth currently in foster care.

To learn more about Wendy’s Wonderful Kids and their child centered recruitment, check out this video.

December 4, 2014

Elizabeth Lund Employee of the Year 2014

Posted in Adoption, Awards, Employees, Events, Foster Care Program, Project Family tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:34 am by Lund

Melissa Appleton, Post Permancy Worker in Lund’s adoption department, was awarded the Elizabeth Lund Employee of the Year Award at the all staff retreat last month.  Melissa provides specialized support services for families after they have finalized their adoptions or guardianships.  Her focus is to help families manage the joys and challenges of adoption and guardianship and grow stronger by offering support, education and information.  Having worked for 8 years at Lund, Melissa felt honored and grateful to receive the Elizabeth Lund Employee of the Year Award, “I know how special the Elizabeth Lund award is. Lund is a great place to work with committed and skilled staff. I am grateful to receive this award-especially knowing that I work with other Lund staff who are equally deserving.  Knowing these peers nominated me is very special. I could not do this job without the support and encouragement of an amazing team and co-workers. I am also grateful to the Lund families who have taught me about being a social worker and have helped shape my work here at Lund.”

Executive Director, Barbara Rachelson with Melissa, Christina and Director of Adoption, Wanda Audette at the 2014 All Staff Retreat at Hotel Vermont.

Executive Director, Barbara Rachelson with Melissa, Christina and Director of Adoption, Wanda Audette at the 2014 All Staff Retreat at Hotel Vermont.

Christina Shuma, Post Permanency Services Coordinator, presented Melissa with the award referring to her as a “very special and extremely skilled social worker.”  She also remarked on her admirable commitment to professional development and her role as a go to person for post permanency issues not just at Lund but at other organizations she works with.  Everything Melissa does is driven by her commitment to the families, “At the core of her work with families she believes that families want the absolute best for their children and are doing the best they can with what they already know. She sees it as her mission to help these families, who are parenting children not born to them, learn as much as they can about this unique role that they have with their children, how they can parent their children at the child’s developmental level, how parents can learn more about their own parenting style, stress and coping skills; and to ensure that the community of providers involved with the families are sensitive to the adoption or guardianship needs of the child and family,” said Christina.

Doing work that can be frustrating and sometimes difficult, Melissa takes time to focus on the positives, “One of my favorite parts of being a Post Permanence Service Provider is being able to sit with an adoptive or guardianship family and celebrate the successes. These may not be considered huge successes in general terms: it may be a month at school free of write-ups for behavior or a parent finally getting nightly hugs from their child. To many these may not seem that substantial but to some of our Post Permanence families these small successes are so important. These children and families have not always traveled the easiest road and being able to recognize these celebrations reminds me how important this work is.”

In her free time Melissa enjoys getting outside as much as possible – skiing, mountain biking, swimming, horseback riding.  Activities which she uses to refuel herself to face the considerable demands of her job.  Thank you, Melissa, for your dedication and hard work for families who need you.  We are all very lucky to have you at Lund.  Congratulations on this well deserved award.

 

November 20, 2014

“Love Builds a Family” –

Posted in Adoption, DCF, Events, Foster Care Program, Project Family tagged , at 2:36 pm by Lund

“He’s finally my brother!” Said one little girl as the adoption of her brother was finalized this morning at the Chittenden County Probate Court in Burlington.  This finalization was one of 12 happening in Burlington which, when combined with 10 in St. Albans and seven in Woodstock, makes a record breaking 29 adoption finalizations in one day.  29 new families were created today through the work of  Lund’s partnership with the Department of Children and Families – Project Family and Lund’s adoption program.

There were balloons, stuffed animals, flowers and cookies for every adopted child and the waiting area outside the court room was packed with an ever rotating crew of friends, relatives, Lund employees and DCF employees as adoption finalizations happened every 15 minutes.  In the courtroom, the prodigious Judge Susan Fowler presided over the adoptions and made every one a party with music, balloons and letting the children bang the gavel.  “I’ll let you off making the speech we were expecting from you,” she said to one 19 month old. “Let’s make this official.”  She handed him the gavel and waited patiently while he put it in his mouth before encouraging him to bang it on the table.  “Give me my baby brother,” an older sister cried the minute the gavel hit the table, scooping her new little brother off his mom’s lap and lifting him high into the air.

Helium balloons wait for every child adopted today. Celebrate!

Helium balloons wait for every child adopted today. Celebrate!

The children adopted this morning were aged between 6 months and twelve years.  There was a little girl who was celebrating her birthday on the same day as her adoption, a little boy flanked by the proudest grandparents in a 100 mile radius, “He’s such a joy, such a blessing,” his grandmother said to me, another boy so excited he couldn’t stop jumping up and down and a family who were adopting their seventh child after fostering more than 100 children.  Everywhere you looked were smiles, happy tears, and hugs.  Even the security guard was getting into the swing of things clapping as the families came out of the courtroom and handing out chocolate.  ‘It’s going to be boring here tomorrow,” he said regretfully.

The scene will be repeated this afternoon at the courthouse in St. Albans and at different times of the day in Woodstock.   “Love builds a family,” said one Dad. “Adoption is that love.”

Watch news coverage of the days events from Fox 44 here

November 18, 2014

Lund Celebrates National Adoption Month

Posted in Adoption, DCF, Events, Foster Care Program, Project Family tagged , , , , , , , at 12:04 pm by Lund

Every November, a Presidential Proclamation launches activities and celebrations to help build awareness of adoption throughout the nation. Thousands of community organizations arrange and host programs, events, and activities to share positive adoption stories, challenge the myths, and draw attention to the thousands of children in foster care who are waiting for permanent families.  At this time, there are 68 children in Vermont who need forever families and permanent homes.   Lund’s partnership with the Department of Children and Families, Project Family, is working hard to find homes for these children.  Last year Project Family found homes for 169 children who had been living in foster care or in residential treatment environments.

To celebrate National Adoption Month, Lund in partnership with  the Department of Children and Families  will finalize 29 adoptions this coming Thursday, November 20th, at three court houses across the state.  This is a record for Lund and the Department of Children and Families and a record for Vermont.  29 children will go to bed on Thursday night knowing that they never again have to wonder where they belong or who will look out for them when they need help.

Also in celebration of National Adoption Month, we are sharing some micro interviews with our adoption staff.  Get to know these fabulous people and their work to make sure that every child has a home, below:  (Click on the picture to view it larger)

julia#human

 

 

donna#humanKarisa#human

 

kate#human

christina#human

 

November 29, 2013

Help Lund while you shop during December!

Posted in Adoption, Donor Spotlight tagged , , at 8:04 am by Lund

Do you have a North Country Federal Credit Union Kasasa checking account?

Do you use your North Country Federal Credit Union Kasasa checking account debit card?

Excellent!  Every time you swipe your Kasasa debit card in December, North Country Federal Credit Union will donate 5 cents to Lund’s Adoption program.  Thank you to North Country Federal Credit Union for supporting Lund in this way.

For those of you who are interested in opening a Kasasa checking account, please go to the website at http://www.northcountry.org/home/personal/checking.  But do it before December!  North Country Federal Credit Union is NCUA insured.

October 2, 2013

An Impressive Milestone for Karisa!

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Adoption, Employees, Project Family tagged , , , , at 10:29 am by Lund

Karisa Thompson is the finalization case manager at Lund and she works with our adoptive families in the final stages of their process to bring children into forever families.  Wanda Audette, Director of Adoption, stopped me the other day to ask that I come and take a photo of Karisa as she had reached the amazing milestone of her 500th finalization.  By the time I could take a photo she had reached 504.  By the time you read this, the total has probably jumped up yet again!

Finalization is the point in time where the court grants the petition to adopt of the adoptive parents and the child officially becomes part of the family.  The children can be anywhere from six months old to 17 years and 364 days old.  It is an exciting, joyful and celebratory time and is the end of the legal process of adoption.  “I love being in court,” says Karisa. “I like looking at the parents’ faces and the child’s face.  You can see a huge sigh of relief.  OK it’s done, I have them, they’re not going anywhere.”

Karisa has worked at Lund for nine years, seven of those in the adoption department.  She usually has around 30 children on her caseload at any time.  Some other impressive statistics to end:  Karisa once finalized six adoptions in one day and in her busiest month she finalized 15!

Thank you Karisa for all that you do to make forever families.

Karisa "500" Thompson at her desk at 50 Joy Drive.

Karisa “500” Thompson at her desk at 50 Joy Drive.

 

June 13, 2013

A Lund Adoption Story

Posted in Adoption tagged , , , , at 3:42 pm by Lund

“For us it was never about the process because we were so well taken care of with Lund; it was about the result.  It was about their lives.  My boys were dealt a pretty rough hand from the start and I saw this as my chance to give them an opportunity at a really good life.  People ask me why would I adopt and I just ask them, “Why wouldn’t I?”  Without Lund my life would be very different, my wife’s life would be very different, my family’s life would be very different.  The realities of now far exceed what might have been.”

overcome

Mike is the adoptive father of two boys, now aged 9 and 7.  He and his wife adopted their sons through Lund as infants.  It wasn’t a straight forward procedure but as he repeatedly says, they were all in from the start and committed to doing whatever needed to be done to bring their boys home to a forever family.

They found Lund initially through a colleague who had himself adopted through Lund.   “It was frightening and exciting at the same time,” says Mike as he begins to tell the story.  “We didn’t know how many questions we had until we started asking them.  But Lund held our hands and steered us through.”

Mike and his wife, Susan, had already begun the process with Lund when the opportunity for a private adoption, outside of Lund, arose.  They talked with Wanda Audette, Lund’s Director of Adoption, who advised them to do what felt right.  They kept Lund informed about what was happening as they moved forward in this adoption and in the background Wanda counseled and supported them.  While driving to pick up the baby from the hospital in North Carolina, the birth mother’s social worker called and told them that she had changed her mind.  They were devastated and after first telling their families, the second call they made was to Wanda. They told her that this wouldn’t deter them, they still wanted to adopt.

A few months later, Wanda called and said that they had been selected to be the family for twins – a boy and a girl.  About two hours later, Mike received a call saying that his office was being closed and that he would be without a job. Not wanting to deplete their savings and cause problems for their older children, they had to turn down that opportunity. Lund fully supported their decision. “But things happen for a reason,” says Mike, “I just needed to get back to sustainable employment and then we were ready again.  In the meantime we visited Lund several times and we became more and more enamored with the organization as we learned about all the other things that it did.”

Soon another call came. There was a baby boy in Baltimore.  “Wanda held our hands all the way through and again encouraged us to do what we felt was right.  We jumped on it and drove down to Baltimore, not knowing what to expect,’ says Mike.   “Wanda kept in communication with us and reassured us at every turn.  72 hours later, we had James.”

Mike spent some time at home with the baby and in about 7 or 8 months, they were ready to adopt again.  They went through the whole process again and after another 8 months they received a call, again from Baltimore, saying that there was another baby boy waiting to join their family.  They packed up James, now 17 months old, and drove down to Maryland.  It was July and desperately hot.  They found themselves in the middle of an extremely destitute neighborhood surrounded by boarded up tenements and trash lying in the streets.  They were a long way from their home in Vermont.  They met the birth mother at an agency that was very different from Lund, “It was very businesslike, very corporate.  With Lund it was more familial.”

Their second adoption was more complicated.  They were dealing with three different states, things got hung up and the expected 72 hour turnaround stretched to 8 days.  Mike, Susan and James were cooped up in a one room efficiency waiting for their new baby, Henry, to come home to them.  Mike was working, Susan was nervous to leave the hotel and James was busting out of the walls of that one room, during the hottest part of the summer.  They called Wanda at least twice a day for reassurance.  It was a stressful situation and all they could do was wait.  After 9 days they got the call that they could go and pick up baby Henry.  It was 6pm.  They drove home to Vermont straight away and when they arrived, James was so happy to be home that he ran around the house for an hour and a half.  Their family was there, it was a happy scene.  Nobody cared that it was 4am.

“James plays sports – baseball, football, hockey. He is half a head taller than kids a year older than him.  But he’s so gentle and sensitive. Henry is 50lbs soaking wet and not interested in sports at all.  He couldn’t be a happier kid” says Mike smiling, as he talks about his sons.  “I couldn’t love them more.  I think about those little guys every minute. They know they’re adopted.  It hasn’t caused any problems yet and we’ll handle it as best we can if it does.  I’m in it for the long haul and I know Lund is too.  When I’m 130 and my sons are wiping oatmeal off my chin, I know Lund will be there.”

“You know what? They say that there are no angels on earth but I think that there are some and that they just hide their wings well.  I think that Wanda is one of those people.”

You can support Lund’s many programs, including adoption, by making a donation.

Thank you.

March 15, 2013

Exciting Days at Lund–50 Joy Drive Capital Campaign Video

Posted in Capital Campaign tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:20 pm by Lund

Produced by Cat Cutillo
We are halfway to our goal of $3,500,000.

Your support will enable us to continue to help children thrive–contributions of $250 and up will be recognized within the building.

For 122 years Lund has been a stalwart supporter of Vermont’s children and families, helping break cycles of abuse, poverty and addiction. Our new facility at 50 Joy Drive, South Burlington, is home to nationally-acclaimed programs in adoption, early childhood and parent education, and life skills and job training programs.

CONTACT: David Huntington, Associate Campaign Director
(802) 861-2571 or davidh@lundvt.org

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