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Friday, March 31, 2017

"You are worthy of love. You are worthy of success. You are worthy of great things."

By: Whitney Gilliard 

“Hi my name is Whitney, I'm in foster care because… it’s very nice to meet you.” These words are engrained in my brain because after entering foster care at 14, I had to recite these words to a new social worker every year. I dreaded these introductions. Without any emotion, I would tell them of the abuse I endured for 9 years, and the reason why I was sitting in front of them as if it were my fault.

This went on for a while: the recycling of people, the recycling of placements, and the reciting of my story.

My life consisted of moving around with a trash bag full of my belongings.
I had 18 placements before I was placed with the foster parents who would come to be my support system. The desire to succeed and chase after my passion would not have been possible without my foster parents.

Trying to make the best of the world is anything but easy especially if you are coming from a life of foster care, social workers, court visits, residential placements, inconsistent medication, and even juvenile detention.

When I was in school, I would tell everyone about my dreams and ambition. The minute they realized my background, their immediate response would be that I was incapable of fulfilling my goals in life. It was as if being a foster kid was a handicap to success. The rebel in me wanted to refute that belief.

Society has labeled foster kids as troublesome, but when given parents and a loving environment, we are anything but trouble. I want every child in foster care to know that you have made it so far day after day. Never forget the mornings after a dark night of crying and fear; those mornings are proof that you will be fine as long as you persevere. Pay attention to the questions your social workers ask you and understand that it is brave to advocate for yourself.

Use what you have gone through to let this world know that pain does exist, but hope is powerful. It is your destiny to show the world that you have made it, and you must stay resilient. It’s common for people to say, “It doesn't matter where you came from.” I disagree. Remember where you came from, get your education, and go back to make it better. 

It may not seem possible, but give God a chance. The second you let God in you will start giving your foster parents a chance, and ultimately give yourself a chance. 

My husband was the first man that loved me with all my baggage and my scars. At 20, God gave me the chance to break the vicious cycle of abuse and neglect with my son.

You are worthy of greatness.

Friday, January 27, 2017

We Are Not Perfect - But We Are Enough: The Raicharts

By: Dedri Raichart

We thought about adoption for years and had talked about it on many occasions. However, it was not until 2015 that the Lord fully put it in on our hearts and minds and propelled us to take the proper steps to become an adoption resource for a child. There were so many children that wanted families but the Lord placed Damian on our hearts even before we had the chance to meet him.

During GPS (Group Preparation and Selection) classes and during all of the required preparation for approval all but one of our birth children lived with us. This too had a purpose. This gave us the ability to help our children fully understand our hearts and how we wanted to continue to love and be there for other children. After this conversation, we all opened ourselves up to the scrutiny of the State in order to be able to open our door to the child(ren) that the Lord would send.

Most everything fell right into place. We were blessed that the state adoption recruiter for Damian was really on the ball and took notice of our home study and how closely we matched Damian. She joked that we even look alike, which we do! She also worked really well with our county worker which made things that much easier.

Both worked tirelessly in order to make sure it was a solid and secure fit. They even helped us find a reasonable adoption attorney and other resources for Damian's immediate needs upon arriving to his new home. It may be cliché to say, but we really did feel that Damian was our child from the moment we met him and our parental protection factor went off the charts. We could barely stand to leave him after our first afternoon with him and were so pleased that he felt the same. We couldn’t have asked for a better match!

We enjoy our son immensely and have felt increasing love and tenderness for him. He in turn has begun to lean on us to meet his needs and to know how much we deeply care about him whether he is having a good or bad day. In the end, all ended up as it should have and Damian is a highlight in our hearts and minds and has added a new happiness to our souls.

Damian is now the "not so little" brother (at 6 foot and 180 lbs) to our grown children and an accepted part of the Raichart clan. He is ours now and forever and nothing can change that!

Heart Gallery Alabama enabled our family to get a glimpse of the personality of our child, which made it easier to get an idea of whether we might be a good fit as a family. This was made possible not only through biographical information but also through the dedication of the photographers who really make the spirit of the child shine through in the photographs and videos that they take and create.

If we had to offer advice to another family who was considering adoption from foster care, we would say that while you may fear that you are inadequate concerning parenting a child that you did not rear. This is a small concern when you consider all of the love and unconditional support you have to offer a child.  This child is brave enough to open their heart and take a chance on being part of your family.

And to those who fear parenting a teenager, just know that your life experience as a teenager will give you insight into what they are going through and how you can help during their transition into adulthood.

And a special insight I learned is that you will totally miss out on the intense love that a teenage boy can bring into a home if you never risk your heart. Despite the misgivings society might teach us about parenting older boys, my son’s chant of “momma,” his gigantic hugs, along with his willingness to learn from us has added so much richness to our lives. He is thriving in his forever home and all the new familial connections he has, has caused him to grow and change in such positive ways.

His biological sister and her adoptive family have also become valuable members of our extended family and we enjoy each other and the opportunity for shouldering the emotional needs of our children together.

We are not perfect but we are enough!