Jordan was 5 years old when he entered the foster care system, a victim of abuse and neglect. For the next five years, he was in motion, switching from one school to another, missing a third of the school year every year because he moved around so much. He survived the loneliness he felt by holding on to the idea that someday a family would adopt him.
When he was 10, his luck changed thanks to a loving family and a wonderful woman.
Nine years ago, my friend Karen Mack came up with the idea of doing a television show about foster kids looking for homes. She called it “A Home for the Holidays.”
The first year, she thought she’d do it once and see if anyone watched. They did. Denny’s, founded by a former foster kid, became the sponsor. The show featured entertainers – many of them popular stars I’m too old to have heard of – but mostly it featured kids and their families, and kids without families. Almost every year, I’ve gone to the tapings with my own kids and sat with Karen’s husband and her kids as we marveled at what one woman who cared, not because she was a foster kid or an adoptive mother, but just because she’s that kind of person, could do.
Two years ago, Patrick and Patty Smith were watching when they saw Jordan on the show, on the segment entitled “Children Waiting.” They saw something special in his eyes. What Jordan said two years ago was that when he grew up, he wanted to be a nice dad, not mean, but nice. He also said that he was 10, and that he wanted to be adopted by the time he was 11.
And he was.
His new parents promised him he wouldn’t be moving anymore, that from then on he’d be staying in one place.
Last month, the folks from “A Home for the Holidays” were filming at Jordan’s house as he offered hope to other kids who would be waiting this year. “There’s a family out there that will love you,” Jordan said for the segment to air this December on what is now the ninth installment of the annual “A Home for the Holidays: Children Waiting” segment. “It just might take a while to meet them,” the now 12-year-old told the kids who are still waiting.
His parents talked about seeing him on the show for the first time two years ago, about how they knew they wanted him to be their son. On Sept. 8, 2006, Jordan was adopted and officially became Jordan Smith, the son of Patrick and Patty. He was 11 years old, just as he wished.
“I feel safe with my parents,” Jordan said on camera. “The best thing is just spending time with them.” Having missed so much school along the way, Jordan was eager to catch up with his classmates. “It was such a joy to be together and see him accomplish his goal,” his mother said.
Last month, as they were filming his segment, talking about not moving anymore, catching up in school and feeling safe, the fires came to the Smiths’ neighborhood. There are some promises even the best parents can’t keep. One of them was about not moving again. The fire consumed much of the Smith house. The family was forced out, and most of the structure was destroyed.
But unlike his past moves, Jordan is not alone. He lost his house, not his home. He will still be home for the holidays, and thanks to my remarkable friend Karen, and to all the families like the Smiths, so will some other kids who have never known what it means to be safe, even in the midst of a storm.
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