ST. LUCIE WEST – Their young faces are hopeful, and their voices – often quiet and sometimes barely more than a whisper – speak a tale that is both universal and yet uniquely their own.
They are children looking for adoptive homes, and they have been appealing to prospective moms and dads every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. on WPEC’s News Channel 12 Forever Family segment.
Videos featuring 34 children have aired since the program began running local stories in 2018. Of those children, 20 have been matched, placed or adopted.
Most of those successes were the combined result of multiple recruitment efforts, including Forever Family, said Christina Kaiser, community relations director for Communities Connected for Kids, the organization that oversees the child welfare system in Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties.
A 9-year-old boy named Da’Shawn is the only child so far whose adoption was the direct result of his Forever Family segment. His older sister, Mya, also was featured on the program and would have been adopted with him, but she chose to stay in foster care.
She is now having second thoughts and was featured in a new video produced earlier this spring.
“That’s just how it is with the older kids, sometimes,” said Lorrie Snodgrass, adoptions recruiter for Children’s Home Society, the nonprofit organization contracted by CCKids to provide adoption services. “It’s a big decision to make and we can’t make it for them.”
Mya’s story is not unique, Snodgrass said. Teenagers often are reluctant to give up connections to their biological families, or they’ve been in care long enough that they begin to feel they can make it on their own.
Many of them are tired of having every decision made for them by professionals and just want to turn 18 and leave the system – and their childhood – behind, she said.
That was the case for Elise, who was featured on the program last September.
“Elise had a family come forward after seeing her Forever Family video, but she recently decided she no longer wishes to be adopted by the family and wants to remain in foster care,” Snodgrass said.
Still, there are many successes to celebrate.
Amerion, a special needs boy featured in March 2020, recently was matched to an out-of-state family and is currently in the adoption process.
Despite cognitive delays, Amerion’s speech has improved thanks to the efforts of his adoptive mother, who is a speech therapist. And he is participating in activities that the child-welfare professionals in his life could only dream of for him.
“Amerion’s new family discovered his love of basketball, and most recently they purchased his first skateboard,” Snodgrass said.
He also rides a school bus, and he sits next to his adoptive brother on the ride home every day, she said.
“For the first week, he was beaming from ear to ear and would proudly tell everyone he saw that he rode the bus,” Snodgrass said.
For Snodgrass and the adoption specialists she works with, the unmeasurable value of the Forever Family project is its story-telling potential.
“It’s one thing to read about a child available for adoption on paper and something else entirely to see the child in action,” she said. “It really helps to paint a better picture of the child.”
That was the case for Jonathan, a young boy with aspirations of becoming a fashion designer and someday traveling to Paris. Jonathan recently found his Forever Family after being featured on the show earlier this year.