Born this Way, Cynthia’s 28 years (and counting!) at Amara

Cynthia Williams has a pretty good handle on the Top 40. When asked whether she always wanted to work in social services, she references the popular Lady Gaga song. “I think I was born for this…Who’s the one who says I was born this way?” Cynthia’s been serving children, teens, and families for 36 years, 28 of those with Amara. As our longest tenured employee, she’s earned the title of the “Amarasaurus,” made official with a plaque she keeps in her Tacoma office.

Cynthia Williams

Cynthia, March 2014

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Once Upon an Email: A Story of Two Dads

Jordan nervously messaged Freddie. “Did you get the email too?”  Most people don’t find out they’re going to have a child over email, but one magical email changed Freddie and Jordan’s life. They remember the EXACT moment they got “the email” informing them of a potential match with a baby for adoption – before Thanksgiving in 2012. Little did Freddie and Jordan know that they would find out whether they were going to be fathers in just a matter of days.

Our Family PRIDE!

Our Family PRIDE!

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Father’s Day: A New Reality

I grew up in rural Louisiana, so far out in the country that we had only two industries; farming and families. I knew from an early age that the former was not the life for me. When I came out at age 25, I assumed that I had given up the latter.   I have always loved children but I never thought that it would be in the realm of possibility for me to have a family of my own. For much of my life, there wasn’t even the concept of gay marriage, let alone gay parenting.  Now, same-sex couples can get married more than a third of this country, including my home state of Washington, and even if same-sex parents aren’t routine, we are no longer an exception.   For me, having a spouse and family has gone from being an abstract concept to an achievable reality.

D&K&E&L 2

Erin, Dan, Kyle and Lucas enjoy family time on vacation, April 2014

Even now, with a wonderful husband and two amazing children of my own, I still marvel at this blessing.  For Dan and me, parenting was not a biological imperative or an intellectual choice; it was a choice about love and sharing our lives with children.  There are a lot of options available to those who want to become parents, but for us adopting through the foster system felt right. We are both caretakers by nature and had been very involved in the lives of our many nieces and nephews.   There are so many children in foster care who have never been nurtured or cherished in the way that we were as children, who never had the safety and stability that we had received from our parents. We talked over every aspect of the process before making our decision and decided that this was the way to go.

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Best Mother’s Day Ever

My son doesn’t call me “mom”. He and I met when he was seven. I don’t mind it. I don’t need to be called mom to be a mom. Maybe there was a better way to handle all of this, I’m not sure. But from the moment I met Kelvin, the role and the term “mom” just weren’t that big of a deal. Our family is just the two of us, so there are no other kids around to call me mom. And everyone we know calls me Karen. It took over two years for us to get from a foster family to an adoptive family with his birth family very present during that time, so there was a lot of figuring out who we were to each other and who we were going to be to each other.

Kelvin, May 2014

Kelvin, age 10

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One Family’s Story: Angela, Maria, and Jocelyn

Reposted from the Human Rights Campaign blog

We never actually thought we’d become parents, but slowly, the “Mommy Bug” hit. We talked it through for a good period of time, and when we decided to move forward, settled on foster to adopt because it fit both who we are and what we believe about the world.

We wanted to be parents and we believe that every child deserves to be deeply loved.

Angela and Maria for blogUnfortunately, there are children who don’t have permanent, loving homes; though the process is sometimes challenging, we were in a position to go through the process of providing a forever family for a child. If we could help make this a little bit easier for one child, then we wanted to do that.

As happens for many families, we felt a bit lost when we started. At the outset, we had clear ideas about what kind of child we could parent successfully, but after looking at countless referrals for children we realized that we were limiting ourselves too much.

Given that we live far from both our immediate families, it became clear to us that adult independence was an important marker. Beyond that, we could be really flexible. Family networks – however you define them – are essential to raising any child; this is even more important for a child who needs extra support.  The “it takes a village” isn’t just a catchphrase!

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Instant family: going from 2 to 5 overnight

Three Together

Siblings Alexis, Max and Alex, June 2012

Jacob and Trina have always been the adventurous types. Within a few years, they earned their Doctorates in Psychology (Jacob in pediatrics and health psychology and Trina focused her work on victims of childhood trauma and abuse), traveled around the world, and spent two years in Costa Rica with the Peace Corps.

When it came time to start a family, no two people seemed better equipped. But as any parent can tell you, nothing can totally prepare you for the emotional investment of raising children. And the emotions become even more complicated when diving headlong into the foster-to-adopt process. Add to that equation not one child, but three, and you can imagine the true adventure they are now on. Read full post »

How do you have the capacity to love 78 children? The Madisons show us how.

“Oh, we talked about it before we decided to be foster parents,” says Karen Madison very matter-of-factly.

“We did?” questions her husband Ted with a crooked smile on his face and twinkle in his eye.

Ted, Karen, and their daughter Kristin on the day they adopted David

Ted, Karen, and their daughter Kristin on the day they adopted David

As a child, Karen always wanted to have an orphanage.  As a newly married couple in 1967, their home wasn’t quite equipped to care for scores of children simultaneously.   But they could care for one or two additional children at a time.  Multiply that over two decades, and the number of children they cared for, diapered, rocked, fed, clothed, and loved totals 78.  Yes, you read correctly:  78.

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Beyond Lucky – what to say when families foster adopt

When people find out that my younger son is adopted a very common phrase I hear is, “Oh he’s so lucky!” While his adoption was finalized over a year ago, our family continues to provide short-term care for babies waiting to be adopted, and I frequently hear “What a lucky baby, to get to come to your house!”


New shirts & silly brothers

I understand the sentiment of these statements. Our friends and family are trying to tell us that we are good parents, a good family, and will provide lots of care and love to little ones. I appreciate this affirmation and take these comments as a compliment, but they always make me cringe a bit too. It’s that word, “lucky”. No one in foster care is “lucky”. A baby relinquished at birth, alone in a hospital room, is not “lucky”. The lives of all these children have started with a tragic, sometimes sudden loss of their entire family.  They often live in more than one home before they finally find their forever family. Adoption, no matter how wonderful in the end, is always rooted in loss.

“He’s so lucky” also bothers me because it feels like a judgment against my son’s first family. When people say he is lucky to be with us, it implies he was unlucky to be with them. While they were not able to provide a permanent home for him, they all love him fiercely and did the best job they were able to do. Having the people who love you be unable to care for you is not lucky.

While I have a hard time hearing that statement, especially the word “lucky”, I have a harder time figuring out how to correct people. I don’t want to make my friends and family feel bad for giving me a compliment. At the same time, I feel like it’s my job to provide a bit of education and context when it comes to foster care and adoption, seeing as how it’s been a big part of my life for the last several years, and will always be a part of our family’s story.

Maybe I can offer some ideas for something more meaningful to say when someone tells you they are providing foster care or pursuing (or are in process of) adoption. So here are a few suggested alternatives to “what a lucky baby”:

“Do you need anything?”  When a child is placed in your home through foster care it can happen very quickly. We only had a few hours from the time we first read about one little girl to the moment she was dropped off in our living room. It was overwhelming, and I would have loved someone to come by with dinner! Sometimes in that busy time of transition it’s hard to even figure out what you need, let alone ask for it. If you know someone who has recently had a child (of any age) placed in their home consider showing up with coffee, or a meal. You will probably not be turned away.

“What an exciting time for your family!” When our son was first placed in our home it was indeed a big, exciting time of change for our family. It’s also exciting every time I get a phone call telling me about a baby who needs short-term care. I think it’s ok to acknowledge that having a child placed with someone you know is exciting, even though the reasons they are there might be hard, sad, or unknown.

“You’re going to do a great job.”  I think this is a nice, direct way to say what the “what a lucky baby” phrase implies. If you think a family will be great parents or caregivers, you can say it directly. It’s always nice to know someone has faith in you and thinks you’ll be a good parent.

As I’m writing this my boys are running around playing some sort of superhero game I only vaguely understand. They are laughing, chasing each other and having a great time. They both have a forever family where they are cared for and loved.

That’s not being lucky, that’s what every child needs and deserves.