Category Archives: SunCoast Region

Her last move

Jazmine, 14 year old who was adopted by Kim and Tim today in DCF’s SunCoast Region: 

Jazmine and her family talk with Channel 10 Tampa Bay before she enters the courtroom to be united with her forever family.

Jazmine and her family talk with Channel 10 Tampa Bay before she enters the courtroom to be united with her forever family.

It feels GREAT to finally have a family.  Mr. Tim and Mrs. Kim are nice and kind to me.  I finally have someone who will be there for me, like at my school activities and all.

I didn’t like being in foster care.  I was moved a lot, couldn’t keep friends and was always going to a different school. The hardest part has been other adoptions not working out and being in foster care so long.  I didn’t really trust that this one would work out.

I would encourage other teens to not give up and to keep hoping and dreaming of a forever family.  I hope all of them have a chance to be adopted and have a great family too.

 

 

 

Kim, who adopted Jasmine today:

We have felt for several years a call to adopt.  We don’t really know why, other than God placing that on our hearts.  We have also been called to adopt an older child who has been in foster care for awhile.

I saw Jazmine’s profile on the Pinellas/Pasco Heart Gallery first, and then on the state’s website.  I felt an instant draw to this child, but it would be more than a year later before we were finally able to pursue finding out about her.  There were challenges since she was out of our county.  We had a private adoption home study done through Adoption Home Study Services.  As soon as this was completed we forwarded to the adoption specialist at Eckerd.

We were very nervous the first time we met her.  The case manager had warned us she was a little jaded towards adoption and so we kind of did a “blind” meeting.  Jazmine did look like a deer in the headlights when she spotted us with her case manager.  She chose to ignore us at the beginning.  About mid-way through the visit she started warming up to us and even allowed my husband to hold her Chuck E. Cheese tokens while she played a game.   By the end of the visit she was interacting with us, but still a little guarded.  On the way home we were still nervous –what if she thinks we’re too old, what if she refuses to see us again, what if she doesn’t like us?  We knew in our hearts she was our daughter and we were hoping and praying she would feel the same way eventually.

On the second visit she was excited to see us and jumped from the car with colored pictures for us and her Heart Gallery pictures!  Priceless!!

Jazmine chatting with her Guardian ad Litem Paige Cable after her adoption was finalized.

Jazmine chatting with her Guardian ad Litem Paige Cable after her adoption was finalized.

At a doctor’s visit, the nurse asked her what she calls me.  Jazmine responded, “Mrs. Kim because the adoption’s not final yet.”  It really caught my attention and I said, “So that’s what you’re waiting on,” and she responded simply, “Yes!”  I knew I would do what I could to make this child understand unconditional love, safety and security.  It also gave me a better idea as to why she acted a little weird when people she was very familiar with, like her case manager and therapist, came to visit in our home.  She was so used to people coming and removing her that she had that continual fear that was the reason they were coming now.  I then began telling her before they came the reason for the visit and assuring her no one was coming to move her anywhere else.  I also told her she experienced her last move when she came to live with us and any future moves would be her decisions when she got older to live on her own or go to college.

We feel so honored to be Jazmine’s parents.  We have typical teen behavior but she is responding very well to structure and consistency.  We’re so glad she accepted us as her parents and forever family.

For more information about adoption and children available for adoption in Florida, visit www.adoptflorida.org or call 1-800-962-3678.

Big Dreams for Joey

Guest post by Carey Thurman, who today during Pinellas County National Adoption Celebration adopted a two-year-old foster child with Spina Bifida.

Thurman Family (Joey sitting on Carey's lap).

Thurman Family (Joey sitting on Carey’s lap).

Our first medical foster child was a little girl with Spina Bifida. So when SunCoast Center Inc. called us about Joey, an almost 1-month-old boy with the same condition, we were excited to take him in as a foster child. When I arrived at the hospital he weighed only 6 lbs, his legs would not lay down flat and were permanently fixed straight in the air. One of his club feet was so bad it was almost C-shaped, and this was only a couple of the problems this precious little boy suffered from since his birth. His bottom was bleeding from having constant bowl movements caused by his condition; his legs were just skin and bone … no fat or muscle. The doctor told us he would most likely break his legs within the first two years of his young life. It broke our hearts knowing he had spent the early weeks of his life getting surgery to close his back. And the worst part, he had no family there for him, he was all alone.

We were determined to make that up to him. Since that time, he has been through five more surgeries, but thankfully from that point on, my husband Mike or I have always been able to be by his side to comfort him and give him our full support. We have showered him with love and we couldn’t possibly put into words the joy he brings our family. We thought our family was complete, but then Joey stole our hearts.

We believed we were done adopting since we had adopted three children and had two of our own already. And the fact that we are both in our 40s was a bit intimidating; our youngest is already 11. But as we started meeting families as part of the process to find Joey an adoptive family we were struggling with the decision we were about to make. The week before they were to have the final match meetings and make a choice, Mike and I went to dinner together and started talking and came to the conclusion that we wanted to adopt Joey. We simply couldn’t let him go. Needless to say, the kids were very excited that we would be adding Joey to our forever family.  We know he is going to do amazing things and we want to be a part of that and be there for him.

Joey fist bumping with the Tampa Bay Lightening Mascot during Pinellas County Adoption Ceremony celebration.

Joey fist bumping with the Tampa Bay Lightening Mascot during Pinellas County Adoption Ceremony celebration.

He has made leaps and bounds since the day I picked him up from the hospital. He is now at a normal weight, has chubby legs and his legs no longer stick out. He crawls and scoots to get around and he is a wiz with his wheelchair, we call it his “zroom zroom.” He is all boy and loves to play with his trains and cars. He has a sense of humor and loves to make us laugh.

Our home has all kinds of equipment. A stepping platform sits in front of the couch that he uses to come snuggle with us, diaper changing takes more time and has to be done more often, he sometimes uses a wheelchair, he has therapists in the home and many different specialists. He will most likely have more surgeries and we don’t know how well he will walk or for how long. But at the end of the day he is Joey, the little boy who points out every truck, car, and school bus everywhere we drive, throws 2-year-old tantrums when he doesn’t get his way and gives the best snuggles. His giggles melt our hearts. When we look at him we see our little boy who we have big dreams for, not a handicapped child.

At his last court hearing the judge thanked us for stepping up and adopting him. We are the ones that are thankful to have the honor of being his dad, mom, sister and brother. The reward involved with our decision has surpassed anything we could have ever imagined possible. And we are truly thankful to our church and friends, as well as family members who have and continue to support us.

It is astounding the limitless boundaries to which children with medical conditions can gain by simply living in a home where they receive unfailing love and attention from parents and siblings. Adoptive parents can be taught to take care of their medical needs and with time they become routine. These wonderful children need parents that are willing to love them and see their full potential.

For more information about adoption and children available for adoption in Florida, visit www.adoptflorida.org or call 1-800-962-3678.

Someone

Guest post by Sara Davis, a 46-year-old single mom who today adopted three more foster children to complete her family of five.                         

Today, their adoption day, was so important to them that they wore their Christmas best!

Today, their adoption day, was so important to them that they wore their Christmas best!

I am a single mom. A 46-year-old single mom to five beautiful kids, none of which I carried in my tummy, but all of them I carried in my heart. People say it is unconventional. I say nothing is traditional anymore. We make our own traditions and they come in all colors, designs and sizes.

I remember the first day Ceinna asked me if she could call me mom. The first time Michael and Dominic made snow angels. Our first road trip together to visit my family in Alabama. I knew I was a mom the first time Vanessa fell asleep holding my hand. The specials things we look forward to doing together as a family are our traditions.

Vanessa and Gracie are my first-borns, in the sense that I adopted them first a few years ago. Today we could not be more thrilled for Ceinna, Michael and Dominic to officially join our family during Hillsborough County’s National Adoption Day.

People wonder how I manage with five kids all under the age of 10 and just me as the schedule juggler, master chef, problem-solver and comforter. I tell them I depend on friends, family, daycare and an understanding employer. I feel like every other biological parent.

I would encourage any single person to not let the stigma of single parenting scare you away from this incredible chance to be a parent to a child in need. Everywhere you look there are children who need someone. What if you were that someone?

For more information about adoption and children available for adoption in Florida, visit www.adoptflorida.org or call 1-800-962-3678. 

Forever Home, Forever Commitment

Guest post by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, MSW, is the New York Times Bestselling Author of the memoir, “Three Little Words.” She and her husband, Erick, have cared for nearly 20 children and are now adoptive parents. 

photoBy the age of 12, I had already been in 14 placements and had spent nearly 10 years in foster care. Finally a family stepped forward to adopt me and give me the unconditional love I craved. Today that circle of love is complete: Almost exactly 16 years since I moved in with my forever family, my husband and I are adopting one of our own foster children.

I am also keeping a promise I made to myself to become the caregiver I had always wanted for myself and the parent every child needs—and deserves.  We finally get to affirm what our hearts already knew: Skyler is our son. We are making a forever commitment to this amazing little boy and will dedicate our lives to ensuring he never has one day of abuse, neglect, loneliness or fear in his future.

Children, by no fault of their own, come into foster care for a variety of reasons. Not all are able to return to their biological families. As we celebrate our new addition, we are mindful that there are more than 100,000 children in the United States still waiting to be adopted. There is always a way to give back and become involved. I was nearly a teenager when a family was brave enough to love and take me in all those years ago, and I now have the chance to do the same for another child.

Leaps and Bounds

recoverypicRecovery exists on a continuum of improved health and wellness that emerges from hope and gratitude. This principle lays the foundation to DCF’s SAMH program office. DCF received the Access to Recovery (ATR) grant in 2010 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. This substance abuse treatment grant continues through September of 2014 and emphasizes client choice. The grant allows individuals to choose where they receive clinical treatment and recovery support services in the community among a network of community-based and faith-based providers.  Research has found that client choice in treatment is crucial to a successful recovery. 

Our clients put a real face on ATR:

I came to New Beginnings Women’s Program in April 2013 after I lost my job in January and became homeless. I have a long history of severe Depression and Bipolar Disorder. The devastation of my situation caused my depression to worsen severely and I was hospitalized.

The New Beginnings program has been a godsend to me and the ATR benefits I received allowed me to settle into the program the first month I was here. I wouldn’t have been able to pay for my housing, transportation or counseling had I not received assistance from Access to recovery.

I am extremely grateful to ATR and am now working for the church. My life is improving by leaps and bounds!

Thank you so very much!

Elizabeth

***

When I entered the New Beginnings recovery program, I was homeless, broke, badly addicted to cocaine and fresh off a week-long binge. I had nothing but a small shopping bag with a t-shirt and pair of shorts in it. The last thing I was going to be able to do was find a job to pay for my program fees. ATR funding gave me an opportunity to be able to focus on getting clean and staying clean for my first couple months in the program. I’m not sure I would have made it otherwise. Now I have about 16-months clean and independent and have reconnected with my family. Thank you for the help! It was much needed, and much appreciated!

Roger

***

I am 59 years old; the second oldest in a family of four children. We are second- generation Ukrainian-Americans and our family did not have much addiction. I was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church with a devoted family until I still resorted to alcohol and drugs for 20 years. ATR was a gift from God on my second month of recovery when I came to New Beginnings’ Women’s Program. ATR’s assistance took the pressure off me worrying about rent and finding a job right away in order to afford the program at NB Faith House.

The ability to jump start my recovery has been a huge gift! I hope and pray that more needy people will be able to benefit from the services provided by Access to Recovery. I am safe and secure in the women’s house I live in, which provides the needs necessary to get my life together.

I volunteer in the church office, which makes me feel like I’m giving back. I thank ATR and pray that you keep helping New Beginnings’ clients and many sick and needy people in the Tampa Bay area.

Sincerely with love,

Tricia