The story below was written by Lisa Ahmann, a Foster Care Specialist at KVC Nebraska where she supports foster parents and youth in foster care with direct support and services, as well as training. Lisa submitted this story during KVC’s Annual Story Contest to share about the time she helped a child find his forever home and forever family.
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Have you ever been close to finishing a puzzle and you look at the remaining pieces and think, “There’s no way these pieces will fit?” Sometimes, foster care can be like those last few pieces of a puzzle. Last year I was working with a young man, Terry, in one of the foster homes I support. He had been through a lot in just 12 years of life. He experienced abuse and neglect before entering foster care and unfortunately, he thought he was the problem. Terry’s care team would sit at home visits and he would say, “I’m a bad kid!” It was hard to hear. There were struggles with some rules at home and school was challenging, but no child should ever feel responsible for the trauma they experience.
And even though he had been through so much, he was full of life.
After months in foster care and repeated efforts toward reunification, Terry’s team decided that going home wasn’t in Terry’s best interest. The next step was finding Terry his forever home. The team asked Terry, “What does your forever family look like?” Terry said he wanted a mom and a dad, lots of brothers and sisters, and maybe a farm with animals. That was Terry’s piece of the puzzle. With this information, Terry’s team started working to find the piece that fit with Terry’s.
I had a home in mind so I talked to the team. We all agreed it could be a perfect fit, but… it didn’t look exactly like the piece Terry described. This piece included two dads, no other kids and no farm with animals. The two dads, James and Jesse, lived in the city. They talked about adopting but originally wanted to adopt a younger child, maybe under 10 years old. Looking at Terry’s puzzle piece and James and Jesse’s puzzle piece, it didn’t look like they would fit together.
In foster care, you’re always looking for outside-the-box options and this situation was a perfect example. Terry agreed to meet James and Jesse and they agreed to have Terry over for a preplacement visit. The team was cautiously optimistic. After his first visit, Terry said he liked the two dads and would like to visit them again. James and Jesse also said they enjoyed their time with Terry and would like another preplacement visit. Could these two puzzle pieces fit together after all?
After a few more visits, Terry moved in with James and Jesse, and things were going great. There were a few bumps along the way but James and Jesse were patient and understanding. They worked through issues as a team. During home visits, I would sit and listen to Terry, James and Jesse all laugh and talk over each other. They talked about Star Wars, bobbleheads and recipes they wanted to try. Those home visits were my favorite. Terry’s caseworker, court-appointed special advocate (CASA) worker, and I would all walk out to our cars after the home visits and talk about what a great family they made and how Terry seemed to be blooming. We would quietly ask ourselves,
“Is this Terry’s forever home?”
After six months, their puzzle was complete, and James and Jesse officially adopted Terry! Terry has his forever home and James and Jesse have their forever son. In the end, their pieces fit together perfectly. We just needed to look at the pieces in a different way.
There are more than 5,000 Nebraska children and teens in foster care, and you can change a child’s life by becoming a foster parent! Fostering provides a child who has experienced abuse or neglect with a safe, loving environment. On top of this, it gives you the opportunity to show a child the love and care they deserve while helping them grow emotionally and mentally as you teach life skills and give support. Click here to learn more about the process to become a foster parent in Nebraska.