Babies are the most desired, but least available, for adoption.
Teenagers are the least desired, but most available.
That’s why adoption advocates highly value people like Cheryl and Gary Pounds, a Blanchard, Idaho, couple who have adopted five children since 1999, three of them as teenagers. Now they are trying to adopt two more children, one of whom is a 15-year-old boy.
“We have a crying need for people who can take kids who are foster age and up,” said Donna Euler, adoption coordinator for Idaho Youth Ranch in Coeur d’Alene.
Cheryl Pounds will be a speaker Tuesday at an Adoption Information Night sponsored by Idaho Youth Ranch Adoption, Foster Care and Family Services. Also on the panel will be parents who adopted internationally, foster parents and others who can speak to the challenges and joys of adopting and fostering children.
“When we started, we were looking to adopt a baby, at least a younger child,” said Cheryl Pounds, who was adopted herself. She and her husband were urged to try foster parenting first, because they had no children. So they got a foster license.
“At first, all we got were angry teenage boys that no one else would take,” she said.
And that’s how Pounds found that she had a knack for helping kids relax and be themselves, and that she could make a loving family out of society’s unwanted children.
“They weren’t really a problem,” Pounds said of the angry teens. “They want respect. They want love, and they don’t want to be told to change.”
Most of her children arrived with prescription drugs for their behavioral and mental problems, she said, but most went off all medications once they were able to relax and be themselves.
“The point is to give them a place to grow and be all they can be,” she said. “It’s adults who made these children who they are. They were born as perfect as a child you would hatch yourself. Everything that is different, that you would find unacceptable, they learned from adults.
“Until they can safely be who they are, they’ll never be able to grow.”
But making a blended family work with children who have been traumatized and may have already lived in several foster homes doesn’t happen on its own.
Helping the Pounds through the adoption process and select children who can thrive in their family is Kristina Brennan, an adoption specialist with Idaho Youth Ranch who recently was awarded Adoption Advocate of the Year by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Brennan, 29, became interested in adoption as a high school student dating her future husband, who had two adopted siblings from Guatemala.
In college, Brennan sought out the courses and degree she would need to work as an adoption advocate, and her first job as a social worker was in the foster care program, licensing foster parents.
Now she does the paperwork for adoptions out of the foster care system and supervises adoptive families to make sure the children are doing well in their new homes.
“Older teenagers are the hardest to place,” she said. “There are so many kids nationwide who are waiting to be adopted.”
Brennan helped the Pounds adopt a brother and sister out of the foster care system in New Mexico.
“She had to lay eyes on them every week,” Pounds said. “She became a fixture in our home. She’s like an auntie to the kids. She’s an adult who comes to protect them.”
Pounds said Brennan also asks tough questions about the recent adoptions: for example, how new children may affect other relationships in the household.
Successful adoptions are what make her job satisfying, Brennan said.
“It’s really neat when you see a kid meet their forever family,” she said. “Some kids think that might never happen for them.”