All children are deserving of a chance to blossom into their full potential. As a nation, we have a responsibility to safeguard each one of them and provide the love and protection of a forever family. November is National Adoption Month, and during this very special month, the children who are awaiting permanency are given a voice. Their voices are calling out for an opportunity to experience the bond that ties adoptive parents with their new children.
While many people are interested in adopting babies, there are also people who are not only willing, but embracing the idea of adopting foster children. Adoptive parents are driven in different and unique reasons to add a new family member or members to their households. Anyone who had been fortunate enough to provide a foster child with a home knows the joy that accompanies watching a child who has been mistreated or neglected grow and thrive in their care. There are times when a birth parent is not able or willing to comply with the court ordered instructions a judge assigns them and a child’s goal changes from returning home to adoption. Thousands of children living in America hope for the comfort and security of a loving family.
In our area, a number of special families have chosen to change their lives forever by fostering and adopting children. Theresa and Ed McConnell of Gallitzin happen to be one of those families, and they shared some of their story with me.
I asked Theresa what one of the biggest misconceptions about foster children is. She said that 99% of people think they are all “bad”. As a foster mother myself, I can tell you that she is absolutely right. The children are not normally “bad”; they have just come from a bad environment with little or no structure. Foster parents are often misunderstood, too. She told me, “Often times people think that we crazy for taking on the responsibility of raising other people’s children. “ What they don’t realize is that after a short period of time, the children that you bring into your home, as complete strangers, form a bond with you and your family. After a while, they are just one of the gang.
In the 26 years the McConnells have been foster parents, they have given a home to nearly 160 children, six of which they have adopted. As a matter of fact, her newest adoptees include four young boys ages two, five, six and seven.
When asked if the situations children are being put in a lot worse today, Theresa said, “I think things are a lot worse. 25 years ago, I would do it all over starting from scratch. The kids were so much better behaved 25 years ago. “ Over the years, the McConnells have had to experience telling children goodbye, and I asked her to share how they are able to deal with it when children leave their home. “It is hard,” Theresa said, “because we had a sibling group which included a four month- old, and four, and five year- old, that we had for a year and a half that ended up being adopted by another family after going back with their mother for a short period of time. It never gets easier to see them go.”
Theresa also said that she would like people to know a few things about fostering and adopting. “It can be very, very rewarding if you get the right children. It helps, at times, to have a sense of humor and a good outlook on fostering. People think that you have to be perfect to foster, and that just isn’t true. If you are good people and have a clear background, you may be considered. When you first open your heart to it, it is too hard to close your heart and not take another child.”
So, if you ever find that you have it in your heart to give your love and patience to children who so need it, you can get in contact with a local foster care agency. They are always happy to answer any questions you may have and will not pressure you. The McConnells are foster parents with Adelphoi Village from Duncansville, PA. The phone number for Adelphoi Village is (814) 695-5076. Other resources are county children and youth agencies, and the statewide adoption network otherwise known as SWAN. SWAN’s web site is www.adoptpakids.org/