December 2016: Santa's Helper

By: Maggie Blaedow, Alabama CASA Network Executive Director

For most of us, this is the most wonderful time of the year. We sing about it, talk about it, make our lists, save our money, and celebrate to the fullest extent possible. For many of us, this is also the time of year when we are most generous and we give to others because we have been given so much. The story below is one that warms my heart and breaks it at the same time. It is a true story that I experienced myself several years ago while managing a local CASA program in Alabama. I hope that it touches you in a way that leads you to appreciate all that we’ve been given, but also encourages you that your gifts of time and money to CASA are so very worth it!

Several years ago, CASA was appointed to a young boy named Juan*, who has been exposed to unimaginable abuse. Juan’s behavior was out of control.  We worked with him diligently, and ultimately helped him begin to trust again. It is so very heartbreaking the effects that abuse has on young children. Juan had younger siblings who remained in his home of origin with their mother, but they were living in poverty and barely making it. 

Since Juan was in foster care, Christmas gifts was provided to him by another agency, yet his siblings would receive nothing. He had one request and that his siblings could have gifts for Christmas, even if that meant that he didn’t get anything. I was so touched by his sense of responsibility for his siblings, and decided asked a CASA community partner to provide Christmas for these children.

As I pulled up to the home to deliver the gifts on Christmas Eve, I remembered that Juan’s mother did not speak English, and we may have a bit of trouble communicating. This was a run-down home, that did not even have a heating unit. I walked up to the door and knocked. The mother answered and although I did my best to explain why I was there, she did not understand. She motioned for me to wait and left the door way. I could see inside the house and saw a very misshapen Christmas tree in the corner – think Charlie Brown’s Christmas meets Clarke Griswold. Half the lights were not working, yet it touched me that there were handmade ornaments that the children had brought home from school all over it. Juan’s mother came back to the door with one of her children and he began to serve as an interpreter for us.

After I explained who I was and that I had some gifts for the children, I told him that I had been sent by Santa and that Santa had known that the family had moved in the last year and he could find their new home. That young boy, probably about 7 years old, looked up at me and said, “Oh good, thank you! He couldn’t find our house last year either.” 

Without CASA’s involvement with the older sibling, and without working to get him to a better place in his life, his siblings would have been left alone again, with no Christmas. In my opinion, no child should have to endure a year without Christmas.

I urge you to remember just how much CASA does every single day in the lives of children just like Juan and his siblings. Together, we can have an impact on others, and that is truly the most valuable gift we can give this holiday season.

*Names have been changed due to confidentiality rules and regulations.

November 2016: Find Your Place

By: Jessica Morales, Alabama CASA Network Development Director
Contact Jessica

 

Writing about adoption has become somewhat of a hobby of mine. For several years I have written an adoption blog called mrsblogbacktome, and it is such a joy to get to share some thoughts with you from this platform.

Adoption is my world – both professionally and personally. Professionally, I have the honor and opportunity to work for an organization that strives to attain permanency for children who have endured actions against them that are both unwarranted and unthinkable. Personally, I have spent the last three years of my life working toward bringing children into my home through adoption who are all but forgotten. Adoption, orphan care, caring for the fatherless, it is my whole world. I’m so thankful that I have the opportunity to share it with you, and I hope that it encourages you to find your place in this world as well.

On paper, my adoption story began three Novembers ago, also known as three Adoption Awareness Months ago. As a twenty-something-newlywed, I checked a box on a card at a fundraising event that indicated that my husband and I wanted to find out about applying to adopt a child. We had talked about this and prayed about this decision at length, but just days later, we received a packet in the mail with an application, and the course of our lives was forever changed. Truly, though, my adoption story began many years before that night, when I was a college student interning for an orphan care organization in Alabama. For the first time in my life, I saw up close the vast need for families to care for children who did not share their DNA. Much like many of you, I was a spectator seeking a place to jump in, and I’m so thankful that I have been able to fully submerge my life into such a cause.

There is so much that I want to share with you about this topic that is so near and dear to my heart, however this is neither the time nor the place for much of what I would like to say. If you visit my blog (which is a great way to hear more about my adoption story and all of my frazzled thoughts), you’ll see that I tend to be on the longwinded side of things. But, in an effort to be concise, I will just share one of the most important things I’ve learned with you and it’s this: There is room for us all at the adoption table.  

Three years ago we began the international adoption process of a little boy, under the age of two from Ethiopia. We knew a few things when we began this process: 1) This probably wouldn’t be our only adoption; 2) Our next adoption would probably be domestic because of the long waiting lists that is the current climate of international adoptions; and 3) The wait for our son from Ethiopia would be very long, but we would not stop pursuing him unless we were told we had to. After two and a half years of waiting, several setbacks, and quite a bit of heartache, we decided begin a concurrent domestic adoption process. There was so much that went into that decision, but best part is that it was a success and our daughter was born in Texas in September! While we still continue to wait for our son from Ethiopia, we are so thankful for the setbacks and waiting because it led us to our beautiful baby girl, Brighten.

So, how does this all fit into the topic of filling in the adoption table topic? It’s absolutely everything. Many people have asked us why we decided to adopt internationally when there is such a need in the United States. Others have asked us why we would begin another process while we were waiting for a child already. “Isn’t that expensive?” they ask, and yes, it is, and yes, I do work for a nonprofit J. I’m sure there are more insightful responses I could come up with that are more eloquent and all of that, but my true answer is this: Because there’s a need.

That’s just it – there is room for us all at the table because there is such a need for us to all be there. Whether you adopt domestically, internationally, out of the foster care system, become a foster parent, volunteer for respite care, become a CASA volunteer, give financially to an orphan care organization, or something else, caring for children who need families takes all of us coming together to do our part. There are approximately 153 million orphans world-wide, and to reach them all means that we all have to do something.

I’m so thankful for things like National Adoption Awareness Month that call our attention to the need for people to stand in the gap for children all over the world. I’m so thankful for organizations like the one I interned for and like CASA who provide practical and needed services to children who have been abused or neglected. And most of all, I am thankful for people like you, for the seat you will fill at the adoption table. In November, we all talk about the things we are thankful for which is such a wonderful practice! I would like to say, from the absolute bottom of my heart, and on behalf of my daughter and my future son, I count you among my most treasured blessings because of the role you play in their lives, and the lives of millions of children just like them.