From Foster to Forever Family

From Foster to Forever Family

We all speak a common language. Sometimes, we just have to find it.

That was the case with Kathleen Herrick, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids adoption recruiter, and an 11-year-old boy she worked with. Who knew the language would be football and that the connection would help the child settle into his forever home?

Getting comfortable in a new foster home
Young Marcus came to live with an active foster household in April. He joined five other kids, two of whom had been adopted.

This happy clan kept Marcus engaged with sports, scouting, and family activities. And they were sensitive to his behaviors because they understood his background. Marcus had an inconsistent relationship with his mother before she died while he was in foster care. And he’d had one adoption fall through because that family wasn’t sure if they could manage his behaviors long term. Marcus’s desire to stay with his new family was palpable, but he faced some challenges.

“Like many traumatized kids, he was behind in school,” Kathleen says. “When kids are going through trauma, they’re in basic survival mode. Education and learning aren’t at the top of the list. Almost all of the kids I work with are behind in school.”

His foster parents were dedicated to helping Marcus succeed. But they weren’t sure how to curb the behaviors that made his schooldays difficult.

Finding the keys to school success
Kathleen first met with Marcus when she started her job in August. The two connected immediately over their shared love of the Chiefs. Kathleen is a season ticket holder, and Marcus knew everything there was to know about his favorite player, Tyreek Hill.

The parents, on the other hand, knew they didn’t know everything there was to know. They shared their concerns with Kathleen and asked for help. Marcus was behind in school and frustrated, and he was expressing those frustrations through unwelcome behaviors in the classroom. They knew an individualized education program (IEP) at school could be a helpful tool. But they weren’t sure what they could ask for or how it would all work.

“IEPs can be a challenge for parents,” Kathleen explains. “So I spoke with someone at Cornerstones of Care who knows a lot about IEPs. He gave me the rundown of what the parents could ask for, so they went in feeling more prepared because they knew what to expect and request.”

At this meeting with school leaders, parents and educators initiated a plan to help Marcus thrive. Within a month, his behaviors turned around. Tying his behavior at school to rewards at home helped Marcus turn a corner. He loves choosing the movie for family movie night. So now, good behavior at school means he can pick the film. Connecting home and school helps Marcus keep an eye on the big picture.

Celebrating a much-wanted adoption
Every time Kathleen and Marcus would talk, the Chiefs would be part of the conversation. But the real highlight for Kathleen was Marcus himself.

“This child just brings happy tears to my eyes,” she admits. “He’s doing so well, and I wanted to do something really special for him.”

So when Marcus’s adoption became final, Kathleen spoke to his parents. Then, she reached out to the Chiefs. The team sent Marcus some goodies. It was the first mail he ever received with his new last name.

Adoption recruiters like Kathleen work with kids and their families until a month after the adoption is finalized. However, she doesn’t forget them.

“From my very first meeting with Marcus, I was blown away,” Kathleen says. “He’s just a really special little guy, and he was trying so hard to be adoptable. And this family showed him that he’s good just as he is.

Become a foster parent
Every child in foster care has something extraordinary to offer. They just need a family to help them thrive.

“These are kids who haven’t had a chance in life and feel kind of like leftovers,” Kathleen shares. “We get to show them that somebody wants them and that they are special and can have a family, regardless of if they’re a baby or a teenager or 11. Every child deserves a family.”

There are thousands of kids who need loving, temporary homes. You can help by becoming a foster parent. Check out our Become a Foster Parent 101: Everything You Need to Know video. Attend a Real Talk with a Real Foster Parent virtual event. Or start the process with Cornerstones of Care. Our kids and our community need you.

* Names have been changed to protect the identities of the child and family.