Success Stories

Success Story Elijah Dewanza Success Story Nyshia

Adoption and foster care have the power to change lives. They offer rewards not just for the child, but for the whole family as well. But don’t take our word for it! The photos above show families that have adopted from foster care, and the video below features families talking about the impact of their decision to adopt. These families discuss the joys, challenges, and rewards of building a family through adoption.

Over the years, the Illinois Center for Adoption and Permanency has helped countless children in foster care find forever families. The following stories illustrate the wonderful work of our largest program, the Adoption Information Center of Illinois. They also demonstrate the positive impact a stable, permanent family can have in the life of a child.

Hailie's Story

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Many young teenagers in the Illinois child welfare system have had the grueling experience of being separated from their siblings, separated from their families. This was the case for a young girl named Hailie. Hailie entered the system and her and her siblings and were quickly placed into different homes.

Hailie was referred to the Illinois Center for Adoption & Permanency on February 9th. On February 22nd, iCAP recruitment specialist, Jessica Covelli, received an inquiry about adopting Hailie from Jeri and Jeremy Larrow. The Larrows are foster parents that had wanted to adopt for three years when they saw Hailie’s picture and knew that she was to be their daughter, even seeing a shocking resemblance to Jeremy in Hailie. Jessica helped the Larrows reach out to Hailie’s case worker to begin setting up meetings. After inquiring about Hailie, in about a month they were able to set up a first meeting through Skype. When they were finally able to meet, Hailie and the Larrows immediately had a connection. During the Skype call, Hailie turned to her case worker, unaware that the Larrows could hear her and said, “I really like these people.” They really liked her too.

Jeri and Jeremy’s first chance to meet Hailie in person occurred April 6th, 2015.  The Sunday before that, the Larrows were called to foster a newborn and subsequently had the newborn with them on their first in person visit. Despite the unplanned circumstances, the connection between Hailie and her new parents couldn’t be dampened. They continued the adoption process, officially adopting Hailie on April 28th, 2016, which is also Jeremy’s birthday.

Not wanting to pull Hailie out of school with only a month left, Jeri and Jeremy drove to pick up Hailie every weekend in May to have her stay with them, all the while Hailie was leaving more and more behind at her new parents’ house each time. And on June 10th, Hailie made the full move to Peoria with her forever family.

“There was no adjustment period, we just clicked. She (Hailie) has called us Mom and Dad since day one,” said Jeri.

Hailie, now 14 years old, was nervous about adoption at first. She loved the idea of adoption, but was apprehensive when it came to moving further from her siblings, particularly her sister. After spending time with the Larrows, the apprehensiveness fell away and although Hailie is now living in Peoria, she has ongoing contact with her sister in Rockford.

From house hunting to the loss of Jeremy’s father to the classic struggle of who does the dog like best, this family has already been through so much together and is only looking to keep growing as Jeri and Jeremy move forward in adopting another young girl.

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Ashari’s Story

Success Story Ashari

As a four-year-old child living with elderly caregivers, Ashari knew exactly what she wanted in a family. Thanks to the love and nurturing she received from her foster parents, Ashari knew she wanted to join a family that consisted of “me, momma, and daddy.”

As the parents of one teenager and one pre-teen, Tracy and Reva McGrew knew exactly what they were looking for when they began the adoption process. With input from their other children, they had their hearts set on adopting a little girl.

Fortunately, the Adoption Information Center of Illinois was there to listen to both sides and facilitate a match. It all began when Mr. McGrew called our Adoption and Foster Care Information Line and spoke to Olga Dotson-Landingham, a Resource Worker.

Mrs. Dotson-Landingham referred Mr. McGrew to a private child welfare agency so he and his wife could become licensed. She also followed up with him on a regular basis to answer questions and to make sure the family had all the support they needed.

“We were told so many different things and we had so many different expectations, good and bad,” said Mr. McGrew. “Olga kept us on an even keel.”

Over time, Mrs. Dotson-Landingham learned more about the McGrews. She even met the family in person and spoke to them about their plan to adopt. Although very young children are not frequently listed with AICI, Mrs. Dotson-Landingham promised to notify the McGrews if she learned of a young girl that they could welcome into their home.

Shortly after this in-person meeting, Ashari was listed on our website and on the national AdoptUsKids website. At this point, Mr. McGrew was calling every few days to follow up. When he received a call from Mrs. Dotson-Landingham, he started to get excited.

“She already had an idea of the kind of child we were looking for,” said Mr. McGrew. “She called and said, ‘I have the perfect child.’ Before we even met [Ashari], we knew she would be someone special.”

The family’s optimism was not misplaced. Mr. McGrew said the initial visits with Ashari went so well that it seemed like she was already part of the family. Within months, the McGrews had painted Ashari’s room her favorite color, decorated it with her favorite toys, arranged for ongoing contact with her younger brother and former foster parents, and welcomed her into their home.

As Ashari said to one of her workers, “I’m going to have a new mommy and daddy!”

Christopher’s Story

Success Story Christopher

Christopher entered foster care shortly after his first birthday. Sixteen years and twenty-one placements later, he was still looking for a permanent family. At an age when many youth are eager to gain independence, Christopher recognized the importance of strong family connections, even as he was nearing adulthood.

In central Illinois, miles from Christopher’s residential home on the south side of Chicago, Robert and Lesley Yoder were beginning to think seriously about adoption. One day, Robert found the Adoption Information Center of Illinois website and began to browse through the list of waiting children. Then he encountered a video of Christopher explaining why he wanted to be adopted, and felt an immediate connection.

Mr. Yoder called AICI that fall and spoke to Resource Worker Olga Dotson-Landingham. “He saw Christopher on the website and said that was his son,” recalled Mrs. Dotson-Landingham. “He watched it five or six times and each time his reaction was the same. He told me, ‘that’s my son.’”

According to Mrs. Yoder, one reason for the strong connection was the fact that her husband was also adopted as a teenager and identified with Christopher’s story. “It was the same story as Rob’s,” she said. “Rob was adopted when he was 13 so there were a lot of similarities between them.”

The Yoders spoke with Mrs. Dotson-Landingham several times to advance the process of adopting Christopher. The entire process took several months, but was kept on track through the enthusiasm of the Yoder family and the diligence of AICI staff.

Once the Yoders had completed some preliminary steps in the licensing process, they met Christopher for the first time in the spring. The meeting confirmed their impressions of him and all parties began to build strong relationships. Soon the family was licensed and Christopher was making extended visits to see them, culminating in final placement during the summer.

Christopher is enjoying his transition and is getting to know his new brothers, sisters, and classmates. He is doing well in school and has joined the football team. Christopher is also looking forward to building lasting memories with the Yoders, especially during the upcoming holiday season.

“He never had a Christmas with a Christmas tree,” said Mrs. Yoder, “or little things that we take for granted.” She added that the whole family is eager to embrace Christopher and provide him with the family he has always wanted.

“He’s a good kid and he deserves a good life,” she said.

Zeanna’s Story

Zeanna Family

Zeanna entered foster care at age fourteen. She is a happy, upbeat young lady who loves Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and all things Disney.

Because Zeanna was diagnosed with autism, her caseworkers knew they would need to find a special family to care for her. They found this family – Paulette and Keith Day – through the Adoption Information Center of Illinois (AICI).

AICI maintains lists of children who need adoptive families and families who want to adopt. Then it promotes matches between the two.

Paulette and Keith Day registered with AICI when they decided to add another child to their family. They are parents who have been caring for children with special needs for more than 20 years, first as foster parents and then as adoptive parents. They have experience with challenges that range from Down syndrome to muscular dystrophy to fetal alcohol syndrome.

One day, as Mrs. Day was looking through the listings of waiting children, she came across Zeanna. “As soon as I saw her little picture, I knew this was the right girl for us,” she said.

Mrs. Day called AICI and was put in contact with Zeanna’s caseworker, who recognized that the Day family could be a great match for Zeanna.

The Days made several trips to visit with Zeanna, and then she came to stay with them for a weekend. The other Day children got along really well with her. “The whole family loved her,” said Mrs. Day. Soon after, Zeanna came to live with the Days, and her adoption was finalized.

Mrs. Day said she was pleased with how AICI helped her in the search for a child. She found it very empowering, since she didn’t have to wait for a worker to call her, but instead could be proactive. “We like that we can look over the listings of children, read about them, and see their pictures. We know our family’s chemistry and can make a good decision about which child might be a good fit.”

Today, Zeanna is enrolled in school and doing well; she’s the only one in her class who can read. And the Days are planning a vacation to Disneyland so Zeanna can meet her favorite Disney characters in person. “Our experience with adopting Zeanna has been wonderful,” said Mrs. Day.

Joshua’s Story

Success Story Joshua

Joshua was 12 years old and beginning to despair. He had been in the child welfare system for four years. For much of that time, he was hoping that he would be adopted. But it hadn’t happened. “I started to lose hope that there would be a family out there for me.”

Then his caseworker registered Joshua with AICI and scheduled a photo shoot through the Heart Gallery of Illinois. Shortly thereafter, things began to change. His worker received leads on three possible families. Joshua began to have visits with them, and tried to imagine what life would be like with each one.

When his caseworker asked him which family he was most comfortable with, the answer came easily. He chose Bernard Rupe. “It just felt right,” said Joshua.

Mr. Rupe had spent 15 years as a volunteer mentoring teenagers. So, when he made the decision to adopt, a teen seemed a natural choice. He registered with AICI and soon after saw information about Joshua on AICI’s website.

“I could see he was a kid with potential,” said Mr. Rupe. “He had some good strengths, like his school work.” (Joshua was getting As and Bs and enjoyed his classes.)

Mr. Rupe contacted AICI resource worker Olga Dotson-Landingham, and she relayed his interest in Joshua to the young man’s caseworker. Within a short time, a meeting was arranged.

On the appointed day, Joshua and his worker waited for Mr. Rupe to arrive. Joshua was wearing his backpack, which he had filled with board games, like checkers and chess, so he and Mr. Rupe would have some activities they could do together. When Mr. Rupe arrived a few minutes later, he too was carrying a backpack filled with board games and activities.

“The caseworker said that, at that point, she had a feeling I was the right family for him,” chuckled Mr. Rupe.

Joshua said of this initial meeting, “I thought he was a pretty cool guy. He gave me a booklet about himself with a lot of pictures and descriptions that he’d written. It talked about the things he liked to do, like hiking, biking, rock climbing, and camping.”

On their next visit, Joshua gave Mr. Rupe a tour of his home town, taking a hike that covered four miles. Mr. Rupe said, “I thought, this is great, if he likes doing this and we have other common interests, I think this is going to work out.”

Mr. Rupe had also been considering a child who lived in Missouri. But when it came time to make a decision about adoption, he chose Joshua, just as Joshua chose him.

Since Joshua came to live with Mr. Rupe, the two have gone on several outdoor adventures, including one that would be a dream come true for most hikers. “Last summer, we went on a four-week road trip that covered 6,600 miles, 12 states, and seven national parks,” said Mr. Rupe.

“It was cool,” said Josh. “My favorite stop was Big Bend in Texas, where I got to swim in the Rio Grande.”

The Rupes have also gotten their first dog, a field spaniel named Mocha, who loves to accompany them on their river trips.

Joshua’s adoption was ultimately finalized, and Mr. Rupe said their time together as a family has been very rewarding. He encouraged other parents to consider adoption, saying, “There are kids who need families, especially older kids. Keep an open mind to them. A 19-year old still needs a family. Hey, I’m 42 and I still need a family – a mom, dad, sisters, brothers. You never outgrow that need.”

Joshua agreed, “Everyone needs a father or mother figure in their lives.”

To learn more about how you can provide a loving, nurturing home for a child (or children) in foster care, please contact us today.