Friday, May 30, 2014

Turn around and do something

It all started with a salad.
One I never got to eat.

I worked a longer than normal day yesterday and was emotionally drained after wrapping up an interview with a 13-year-old girl in foster care, wishing to be adopted.  

I sank into the driver seat of my car after "clocking out" and hit the gas trying to get to some food quickly.

I eat way too much fast food.  On this day, I decided to opt for a salad instead of a burger at Wendy's.  The thought of having to wait the 10 extra minutes to get home to eat it wasn't exciting, but neither was the idea of complaining about wobbly bits for another day.

So here I am, trucking down Lake Street when I notice three kids and a woman trying to cross this busy street with overflowing suitcases in tow and arms full of personal belongings.  They are trying to get to a bus stop, but keep dropping what appears to be all they have.

I start to ask myself questions: Are they running away from someone?  Do they have anywhere to go?  Do they need help?  Should I turn around?

I knew the answer to that last question and felt God stirring it up in my heart.

Still, I continued on my planned route into the long drive-thru line at Wendy's to get that salad.  I could see other drivers pass this family - slowing down and craning their necks around to see what was happening as more personal belongings fell out of their bags.

Someone else will stop, I thought.

It took about 10 minutes to get through the line and get the salad.  My stomach was rumbling!

My eyes are still glued to the bus stop family and at this point, I can see the teenage boy who had been carrying the largest suitcase wiping the sweat from his face.

It was hot. I looked at my car temperature and it said 87 degrees.

Turn around, Britney.  My heart started racing.

I put my salad on the floorboard and pulled into a parking space directly across from the bus stop family.  We are separated by five busy lanes of traffic.

I step out of my car and simply holler, "Do yall need help?" during a traffic lull.  "Desperately," is the response I hear from across the street.

I get back in my car, zip across the street to the closest parking space and before I can even get out of my car, this family of four is hauling everything toward me.  

Lord, give me the words to speak and calm my nerves, I pray.

I introduce myself to the family and they introduce themselves to me...sweaty, exhausted and dropping shoes and shirts from their overflowing bags.

I get the rushed story: they are homeless, but have a meeting at a Section 8 housing office about a possible place to stay.  They've been in Lake Charles for a few weeks after leaving another Louisiana city to get away from a bad situation. (I'll keep that city and their names private for their security)

I don't get many details.  The children's father is dead.  They have been staying at a temporary shelter for homeless women and their children, but had to leave after reaching the maximum number of days to stay.  They've spent the past couple of days in a hotel and on the streets with what little money they had.  They've been on a waiting list for a couple of weeks for a place to live, but didn't get a call until today.  They need a ride to the housing office.

We take off: mom in the front seat, a teenage son and daughter in the back with little sister wedged between them.

Our first stop is Little Caesar's to get a couple of pizzas and drinks.  The kids slowly eat one piece in the car, tearing it in smaller pieces.  I tell them the pizza is all theirs.  "We want to save some for later," they say.


We arrive at the housing office and after a long wait, the mother is told the only available unit is dirty.  She volunteers to clean it.  A few more minutes pass and a call comes in to the housing manager. 

A small three bedroom unit is available.

We head over there and mom goes inside to check it out as the kids and I wait in the car.  She walks out beaming.  "It's so nice.  We'll take it," she says.

The kids and I can't wait to see it with our own eyes.  I guess I don't really know what I was expecting to see when we walked inside.

This is "nice?" I thought.  There is no A/C or ceiling any room.  It's hot.  And tiny.  And a roach just ran out of a burner in the kitchen.  And the floor looks like it's rusting.  The bathtub comment. The windows are thin and I can hear music blaring from a car outside.

But the kids all say, "This is perfect!  This is such a good day!"

We unload the car and I notice that the only items being unpacked from suitcases are clothes and a couple of toiletries.  "Where are you going to sleep tonight?" I asked them.  "The floor.  It's okay, we're used to it," says the oldest girl.

I felt the tears rising to the surface and told them I needed to step out to make a phone call.  Matt had no idea what his wife was up to today.

I break down as soon as I start explaining what's transpired over the past two hours.  We agree that we can find some extra bedding from our house for them, give them our air mattress and buy them a window unit air conditioner.

I feel helpless and overwhelmed.  I know people have extra beds, food, clothes and more that they would be willing to donate if they saw this family's need, but how do I connect them?  Matt tells me to call our sweet friend, Becky, who has helped other families in need and might be able to direct me on where to find these emergency items.

The next hour was the most amazing reaffirmation of my faith.

Becky tells me she's got her two young kids with her, but she's ready to help.  She calls a man named Tom who is the main facilitator for Boulevard Baptist Church's Mission in partnership with Trinity Baptist Church.

The Mission isn't set to reopen until August...but Tom says he and his wife, Sue, will be there in 30 minutes to open it up.

I load the family back into my car and we head that way.  Becky sends out a message to a few guys in our Sunday School class who have trucks.  One of them, Scott, drops what he's doing and immediately heads to the Mission.

Let me tell you: if you live in the Lake Charles area and need to clean out your closet, kitchen and old furniture - this is the place to donate it.  It is a Mission and a ministry.

The mother and her children can hardly take in all the generosity.  They start grabbing clothes, shampoo, soap, toilet paper...even a TV!  There's one twin mattress set there for the taking and Scott loads it - knowing that at least one person will be off the floor tonight.

At some point during this "free shopping spree," Tom got a message from another Trinity member with some emergency items to donate.  Her father recently died and she was willing to give some of his belongings to this family in desperate need.

At this point, we're all sweaty and running on adrenaline...and God's blessings.

Scott hands me a chunk of cash to help with the A/C purchase and any other items.  I start making my list with the family.  "What do you need me to buy at the store?" I ask.  The answer for each: underwear.  That's it...

We caravan back to the apartment and after unloading everything, the mom says, "This is such a blessing.  You just don't know."  Her oldest daughter tells me, "This day is such a beautiful day now."

The reality is still impossible to avoid.  There is nowhere to sit.  No sofas, no dining room table and chairs.

We are still short three beds.  The bugs are continuing to reveal themselves.

I tell the family I'll be back with Matt and an A/C, along with a few other items after he's done with work.  I say goodbye as they start relaxing in their new living room...on the bare floor.

Then Tom calls me.  A furniture store has three twin mattresses they can donate.  He also has a used sofa we can get to the family the next day from the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at McNeese State University.

Thank you, Lord for providing!

On my way home I call Matt.  He hasn't heard from me since the emotional breakdown a couple of hours ago.  He tells me he's ready to not just buy emergency items for the family - but the stuff that will make this apartment feel like a home for the family that started the day off homeless.

Cue the largest shopping trip of our lives!

We return to the apartment with a packed vehicle - full of food, dishes, pots, an A/C, bedding sets and a side table.  Matt meets the family and gets right to work to cool off the apartment that is uncomfortably hot at this point.

The family and I start unloading everything and finding a place for it all.  The mother tells me how the shower curtain and soft mat make her feel like she's "in a nice hotel."  The kids make their beds...even though it's just a twin mattress on the floor.  The living room now has one piece of furniture: a side table.

When we get in the car, I realize it's almost 8:00 P.M.  For a morning news anchor, that's equivalent to midnight!

When we get back to our house, my mind is still racing with what we need to help secure for this family.  I know a dining room table and chairs is a top priority so they don't have to eat on the floor.

We will find it.  The Lord always provides.

When I pulled out of our driveway this morning at 3:15 to head to work, guess what I see in the neighbor's yard next to the garbage can...

Yep, a dining room table and chairs.

Matt pulled them aside before work.  He also told me he spent part of his morning scouring local job listings for a housecleaning position - something the mother is hoping to find.  There's an opening where he works and he personally brought her an application this morning.  While he was there, Tom showed up with another helper to unload the sofa.  Their next stop was my house for the salvaged dining room table.

I finish the morning show, totally distracted and get a text from my Uncle Jody that he's brought our old microwave from Dry Creek to Lake Charles for the family.  That's a saved trip for us and a huge help for the family!

My reason for sharing this is two-fold.

First: We see needs every single day.  

I am so guilty of walking past them or looking past them, rather than turning around and doing something.  We don't all need to bring strangers into our cars...I know.

But we do have to recognize when we could be the difference-makers for someone in need.

When my Grandpa Clayton was alive, one of the Bible passages I can remember him sharing and living out was  Matthew 25:35-40.

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go visit you?'"

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"

Secondly: we are each uniquely equipped to serve.

While I was behind the steering wheel that turned around to check on this family, the blessings that came about are because of other fellow believers stepping out.

Becky strategizing to get the Mission opened up and resources flowing.
Tom and Sue heading straight to the rescue of strangers.
Scott using his truck to haul a precious bed and donating money for other needs.
Matt immediately getting on board with the commitment to help, installing an A/C and job hunting.
The local furniture store owner donating mattresses.
Uncle Jody taking the time to dig through Maw-Maw's storage shed for a microwave and going out of his way to deliver it.

Romans 12:4 says, "For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function."

I'm so thankful for our different functions that can come together as one body.

I don't know what's next for this new family I didn't know at this time yesterday, but I do know that they feel loved.  They have a home.  They have a place to rest their heads.

They know they are not invisible.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fostering the most fragile children and teens

Foster parents are heroes.

They open their homes to children and youth in desperate situations, love them, nurture them and grow attached to them.  Then the day comes.  These heroes say goodbye to the children that they cared for during the crisis that might have lasted one day, one month, one year...or even more.

Foster parents don't always know how safe or loving the home will be when the child returns.  Biological parents are required to meet certain standards before this reunion happens.  When the parents aren't able to meet the standards or they simply refuse to, these children will end up in the foster-to-adopt scenario that opens them up to a lot of uncertainty, mixed with the hope of a new, stable family.

I've met several foster parents over the past couple of months of working on The New Family Tree.  They love the children that they know are not their own.

One of these special foster moms is a woman named Carolyn Dunning.  She raised her three biological sons, but knew she still had more love to give.

Carolyn worked with special needs children and youth for nearly 20 years.  When she heard about Louisiana Mentor, she knew she found her calling: fostering the most fragile children and teens.  "They have a lot of needs that some people might look over," she said, "and you can help these children if you just give them the time and just working with them to see what they are able to do."

Louisiana Mentor has been around since 2005, offering training for foster parents to care for children and youth with emotional, behavioral and medical challenges.  This empowerment sets the foster child up for success and stability in a caring home.  "I completed 36 hours of training," said Carolyn.  "I learned how to work with them on their behaviors.  You learn about their medications, how to give them their medications."

There are a couple of different programs offered through Louisiana Mentor: therapeutic foster care and medically fragile foster homes.  This program fills the gap with the Department of Children & Family Services, Office of Juvenile Justice and Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities.

Foster parents are compensated with a standard foster board payment, as well as a monthly stipend that varies depending on the child's or youth's needs.

Carolyn was placed with two girls, ages 10 and 12 a year and a half ago.

The neglect was so extreme with the younger girl that Carolyn had to start with the basics.  "She didn't know how to tie her shoes, she couldn't open up the door, she couldn't bathe, she couldn't put her clothes on.  It was just a lot of things that were lacking with her."

But through love, stability and consistency, both girls are now thriving.

Mentors may be married or single, men or women - they just need to have the compassion for a person in need and the commitment to make a positive difference.  "Somebody helped us, so we're just turning it right back and helping another child," said Carolyn.

BJ Gallent is a recruiter with Louisiana Mentor and she says there is a big need for more adults to open their homes to these foster kids.  It's about never giving up on a child, no matter how big their needs may seem.

If you want to learn more about Louisiana Mentor or Mentor programs in other states, click here.
To talk to BJ about becoming a mentor, call her at 318-451-7556.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tyrene says he will "give thanks" to adoptive family

Sometimes we just need to have a good cry.

There's something about the privacy and seclusion of my car that gives me permission to let that happen.  Don't worry...the car is parked when the floodgates open.

My most recent driver seat outburst was after wrapping up an interview with a boy named Tyrene.

I first met Tyrene a couple of weeks ago at a foster child celebration event hosted by Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles.  It was an eye-opening evening of fun and heartache - all rolled into one mush of emotions.  Some of these children were there with their adoptive parents.  Some were there with foster parents, knowing that it's just a matter of time until they are reunited with their biological parents.  And then there are the others, like Tyrene, fully aware that they are in the system until someone steps up.

For Tyrene, there has not been one phone call throughout his years in foster care.  Can you imagine what that must feel like?

Tyrene does not have behavioral or emotional problems.  In fact, he is the most polite and gentle child I've ever met.  That's not me making a statement just to get you to think about adding him to your family.  It is 100 percent true.

On my second meeting with Tyrene, two cameras, microphones and lights were involved.  I could tell Tyrene was nervous, but he bravely agreed to talk on camera because he knew this could be his best shot at getting adopted.

I started off with the basic questions: 

What grade are you in?
What are your favorite subjects?
Math and reading.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
A police officer.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like playing with my foster brother.  We play outside.  I like basketball a lot.  I wash the dishes and the cars, too.  And I like learning about Jesus.

Then the conversation needed to shift to the heart of Tyrene's story.

What kind of parents would you like to have?
Any parents.
Would it matter to you if they were black or white?
That doesn't matter to me.
What about if they lived in the country versus the city?
That doesn't matter either.
What kind of things would you like to do with a family?
Just spend family time together.
Do you know what it means to be adopted?
That I could be in a home forever.
I know you have older siblings, what has it been like being separated from them.
If a family told you that they could give you a home and love, what could you give them?
Thanks.  I would give them thanks.

Tyrene is another "hard to place" foster child.  As an older African-American male, he is likely to spend more time in foster care than other children, particularly those that are Caucasian, younger and female.  This classification as hard to place also means that Tyrene could qualify for financial help to offset monthly expenses.

I pray that you consider adopting Tyrene.  Sure he's a little older and you aren't going to see all of the "firsts" that come with a baby or toddler.  But think about the firsts Tyrene still has left to experience!  His first Christmas with a mom and dad.  His first time at school to write down the names of parents.  His first time to have a forever parent cheering him on at basketball games.  He has a lifetime of love to give and you will undoubtedly receive it in return.

Tyrene is legally ready to be adopted.  To learn more about adopting him or one of the other 350 children in state care, call the Department of Children & Family Services: 337-491-2470 or 1-800-814-1584.

Check out Tyrene's story on KPLC's The New Family Tree here.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Glean: gathering bit by bit

We are surrounded by needs each day.

Women who need housing after escaping an abusive partner.  Hungry families desperate for a warm meal.  Abused teens in need of a positive influence.  Children pulled from their unsafe homes in the middle of the night.

Noelle Mills could not turn a blind eye to these needs.  She saw them, felt burdened by them and decided to do something.

Noelle is a married mom of two beautiful girls and manages Signatures Salon in Lake Charles.  She said one night the salon hosted a spa night for women living at the Potter's House, a local women's homeless shelter.

She said these women were to be set up with a full night of pampering, from free haircuts to facials and massages.  The problem for Noelle was that she was not a service provider...but really wanted to help.

So, she came up with the idea to organize a free "garage sale" so the women could shop around while they were at the spa night.  Noelle asked the Signature clients to donate purses, shoes, clothing, jewelry - really anything they could to these women.  The response was overwhelming.

That got the wheels turning even more for Noelle.

She recognized these items were excess items that most of these women would not miss, but items that would mean so much to the women receiving them.  Noelle wanted to take this idea to the next level, but knew that there were already tons of great non-profits.

That sparked the idea and creation of Glean.  The definition of Glean is to gather or collect bit by bit - and that is exactly what Noelle and her gleaners do.  They have collected items for Abraham's Tent, Oasis Women's Shelter, City of Refuge, Boys Village, Filling the Gap and many other local non-profits. 

This month marks the first time Glean has partnered 
with a government agency: 
the Department of Children & Family Services.

Noelle and I had the chance to chat about this project and how you can help.

What made you choose the Department of Children & Family Services?
*Partnering with the Department of Children & Family Services was a little different for us, because we have never supported a government organization. But after speaking with them and learning more about what they do, we knew it was a perfect fit. 

They informed me that many times, when a child is taken from an unstable environment, it is in the middle of the night and they are unable to immediately place the child in a foster home. This means the child has to go to their offices, and the government does not provide items to make these children comfortable overnight. 

That is where we will come in.

As a mom of two young children, tell me how seeing the needs of the children in state custody has impacted you.
*As a mom, the efforts this department makes are very admirable. It breaks my heart to think of the situations that lead the children into needing our efforts, but makes me that more passionate for providing any and every need they may have. No child should ever feel abandoned, abused or forgotten. If our little bit can help ease any of those emotions, then we did our job.

How can people pitch in?
*We are collecting bottles (preferably the ones with drop-in liners), blankets, and any items that would make a child feel comfortable overnight.  That could be items like coloring supplies or stuffed animals. 

They also asked if anyone has a gently used playpen that they are no longer using to consider donating it to them. It would provide a place to sleep for young children brought to their offices.

Where can people drop off their donations?
*We have seven sites across Southwest Louisiana.  In Lake Charles, they are Signatures Salon, Sale Street Baptist Church's warehouse, Christ Community Church and Robichaux, Mize, Wadsack and Richardson Law Firm.

In Moss Bluff, you can drop off at Crossroads Church.  Sulphur has a site at Shear Innovations Salon and in Westlake, go to the Church of God.

Donations will be taken through the entire month of May.

To learn more about Glean and stay up to date on each month's project, click here.

Way to go, Noelle!  You are a difference maker!


P.S. Noelle will be on Sunrise Wednesday morning at 6:40 for a live interview about this month's partnership with DCFS.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lisa Addison: Blessed beyond belief

"Pursue the things you really want or they'll disappear forever."  Those are the words freelance writer, Lisa Addison, read one day that signaled her "aha moment."

Lisa is like a lot women today.  Career-driven.  Independent.  Unwavering in her high standards for faith and family.

Lisa's career brought her across the United States and eventually back home to Lake Charles.  She felt the clock ticking.  

There was no man on the horizon, but she knew she wanted to become a mom.  "I just somehow instinctively knew I would be a mom," she said.  "I didn't know when, didn't know how, but I knew I would be."

The prayers for a family lasted for years.  Lisa never lost hope.

Ten years ago, Lisa decided to pursue adoption through foster care with the Department of Children & Family Services.  She says half of the people in the certification class with her dropped out.

Lisa says she knew this means of adoption could bring heartbreak.  She wanted a young child,  but that also meant that parental rights might not be terminated and the child would be returned to his or her biological parents.

Still, Lisa pressed on with blind faith.  "I specified ages zero to four, male or female, any race and even disabilities."

Over the next two years, Lisa was matched with four foster children, ranging in age from just hours old to 18 months.  She loved them all, but so did their families that needed time to grow into the caregivers that could properly love them.  Lisa gave these babies love in order to make that reunion happen.

Then came an adorable little boy named Hadley, removed from a home where he had been neglected for some time.  "He came running, barrelling into my house," said Lisa.

This was her son and these two instantly became a family.  His adoption was a long road and it took two full years to make him legally hers.

Lisa was blissfully happy, enjoying time with Hadley when an unexpected call came from her case worker.  "She told me that a baby girl had been found," said Lisa, "her birth mother has just been murdered and they found her at a local motel.  She said, 'We want to know if you would consider,' and I said, 'If you hadn't told me all of that, I would've said no,' but I said, 'yes I will.'"

That  baby girl, Lexi, is now a Banner Roll kindergarten student.  She knows adoption changed her life.  
Adoption means I have a family that loves me forever, that loves me more than everybody and anything except Jesus," said Lexi.

Hadley never has to worry about being neglected again.  "I have a family and they wanted me," said Hadley.

Lisa says she once questioned her career path and whether or not she would ever marry.  Now she says this is the path God had for her all along, leading her straight to a precious boy and girl.

"I am blessed beyond belief," she said, "I have my family.  To me, that's the ultimate."

Check out Lisa's story that aired as part of The New Family Tree on KPLC-TV.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Dawn Brand: A heart's desire to be a mom

Do you ever question God when life doesn't seem to be going exactly how you think it should be going?  Why didn't I get that promotion?  Where is my financial windfall?  Why don't I get a Mr./Miss Right?  Why does she get to have a baby?

Yep.  We have all done it and can list questions as personal as our real weight and not what we list on a driver's license:)  (It's a goal, right?!)

Dawn Brand has been there.

She loves children.  In fact, she is the Minister of Preschool at Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles.  Dawn says it was her heart's desire to become a mom one day.  During her 20s and early 30s, she watched friends get married and have babies.  Where was her Prince Charming?  Why would God give her a desire to be a mom and not give her a husband?

Isaiah 55:9: "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are MY ways higher than your ways and MY thoughts than your thoughts."

Doesn't our loving Father always have the best plan in store for us, even when we can't see it?

Dawn will tell you she knows that, but it took a little time to see His creative plan.

"I never really considered adoption," said Dawn, "because I wanted to have the child.  Adoption really wasn't an option."

The dream of a family was put on the back burner for a few years, but Dawn said she never stopped praying about it.  Then came one of those left field texts from a friend one morning, "She said, 'I was cleaning my bathrooms and had a thought.  Have you ever considered adoption through foster care?'" said Dawn, "That was the spark that started it all."

Dawn said she began rethinking what mommy-hood could look like for her.  She said James 1:27 illustrated that a caretaker of orphans does not need to be married.

James 1:27: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress."

That was three years ago and Dawn enrolled in the certification classes through the Department of Children & Family Services.  She got a crib, the blankets, the baby necessities - all she needed was the child God had for her.

Dawn knew she wanted to experience raising a child from as young as a baby if possible.  "In Louisiana, you can do race, age and gender.  You can tell them basically what you want and I did under two, girl and race didn't matter, because it doesn't to me."

Dawn said she wanted to raise "a little lady that would love the Lord."

Just a few months after completing the home study and certification process, Dawn got a call about a three-month-old baby girl that needed a home.  From the beginning, she knew that this child was not her child.  The infant's biological parents were doing what they were required to in order to regain custody.
Dawn took on the late night feedings, tears, firsts and nurturing - for this season.

Six months later, the little girl went back to her biological parents.  Dawn said it was hard.  "I would've adopted her in a heartbeat, but I knew she wasn't mine.  Still, that didn't help the heartache."

A roller coaster.

Regardless of whether your adoption plan is through foster care, private domestic or international adoption, 100 percent of the parents I have talked to say it is an emotional roller coaster.  Dawn says you have to prepare your heart for that and it took a few months until she was receptive to another placement.  "My heart needed time to heal," she said. 

Then, the call came.

Dawn's case worker said a two-day-old girl, not even weighing five pounds needed a home.  She was also told the child was an African-American girl and her biological mother used cocaine throughout the pregnancy.

Dawn didn't think twice.

She named the baby girl Lakeyn and was in love from the first moment she saw her.  The first few weeks were tough, as Lakeyn's tiny body tremored working through the cocaine in her system.

Dawn had some friends ask the "what ifs" about a drug-exposed baby.  "I said, 'You don't know the what ifs about a biological child,'" said Dawn.  "Would you not be willing to walk that road with your child if you knew it could be hard?  I'm willing to walk the road if this is my child and God will help me get through."

Lakeyn will turn two in a few weeks and she is developmentally off the charts!  She is pure joy, sunshine and smiles.

It took nearly 16 months for her adoption to be finalized, but Lakeyn is officially Dawn's for all of her earthly days.

"A lot of times people say that she's one blessed little girl," said Dawn.  "I know that I'm one blessed mommy.  With a heart's desire to be a mom, she's made my life complete."

Check out Dawn's story that aired as part of The New Family Tree on KPLC-TV.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"I want to be adopted."-Ke'vontre

Meet Ke'vontre!

This eight-year-old boy will steal your heart from the moment you meet him.

I must admit: I was already quite familiar with Ke'vontre before meeting him at a local park.  I skim through the Department of Children & Family Services link every week that lists some of the foster kids available for adoption through the state.  This link, though, does not share all of the children, just the ones that are in the category of "hard to place."

Age can land them there.  Race can land them there.  Health problems can land them there.  Sibling sets can land them there.

Ke'vontre was originally part of a sibling set...but nothing happened.  Then he watched his baby brother get placed into a home.  Next, his six-year-old sister got the good news that she had been placed in another home.

But not Ke'vontre.

He has been moved around into different foster homes.  For now, he is in the care of a sweet 79-year-old woman named Ms. Easter.  She has three other foster children in her home and said, "Honey, if I can handle four, a family can definitely handle one."

I spent a couple of hours with Ke'vontre.  We played basketball.  He taught me his trick dribbling move.  He told me he dreams about playing on a team one day.

Then we sat on a couple of swings and got to talking about his life.  I asked him if he cared what his potential parents look like.  His response was raw, "I don't care what they look like.  I don't care if they're nice or mean.  I want to be adopted."

Ke'vontre's age and race will continue to classify him as hard to place.  His adoption fees through the state are minimal.  It would likely cost under $500 for everything to be completed and Ke'vontre will likely qualify for a monthly stipend to help in his placement.

Please consider making Ke'vontre a part of your new family tree.  He is legally ready to be adopted.

To learn more about adopting Ke'vontre or one of the other 350 children in state care, call the Department of Children & Family Services: 337-491-2470 or 1-800-814-1584.

Check out Ke'vontre's profile story that aired on KPLC-TV.


Monday, May 5, 2014

The New Family Tree

I love Mondays.  Really.  It's the idea of a fresh start - and a clean slate.  Something new and the hope of doing life even better this week than last.

This Monday is extra special for me.  This new week kicks off off a new series at KPLC-TV where my passion for television collides with my passion for an issue that burns in my heart: orphan care.

Television reporting can be emotionally draining.  I know watching the news can be, too!  But there is so much happening OFF SCRIPT that we are not always at liberty to share with viewers. 

Stories of abused children.  Stories of neglected children.  Stories of babies thrown aside like they are garbage.  Stories of toddlers wandering around local streets alone.

Where is the mommy?  Where is the daddy? 

We can report these stories when we get the go-ahead from law enforcement, but that is just not always in the best interest of investigators.

So, those of us who took the concerned call into the newsroom from a neighbor, aunt, passerby or heartbroken teacher are left burdened. What will become of this child?  Does he or she feel loved?

Many of these children will end up in temporary state custody - foster care. The Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services is currently serving 4,437 foster children.  Foster parenting is critically important to these children as they transition from whatever home they knew into a new "normal," with the hopes of being reunited with a biological parent.

Sometimes that doesn't happen, though.  Maybe the dad walked out on the family.  The mom might be struggling to overcome drug addiction.  There isn't enough food to go around.  The home isn't safe.  The reasons could go on and on - but for whatever reason, there are 350 children in Louisiana's foster care system today ready to be adopted.  That means the biological parents' rights have been terminated...and no one else in the child's life is pursuing a placement.  Heart. Breaking.

The more I learned about the need for adoptive parents, the more the Lord began to work on my heart.  My husband and I have always talked about the desire to have biological children and adopt - but we weren't sure when or how that would happen.

We still aren't quite sure...but are actively enrolled in the adoption certification process for a potential future placement.  There are lots of unknowns - and that's scary.  But can you imagine a scarier unknown than what these orphaned children face every day: will I ever have a family of my own?

KPLC-TV has aired several segments featuring children in need of forever families over the past 20 years.  We don't know how many of these children had their dreams come true and how many continued to bounce around between foster homes and eventually cycle out at age 18.

What we do know is that we can do better.  We can offer more resources, more information on how to pursue adoption or foster care, more profiles of successful adoption stories and most importantly: more profiles of children in need.

That is what you will see the first Tuesday of every month on The New Family Tree. 

I love the highlighted green "i" in the word "family." It says "I" could be the person to make a life-changing difference in a child's life.

You might not be called to open up your home for an orphan, but there are so many other ways you can help!  Support a family that has made that huge step, pray for them, pray for prospective parents, pray for the orphans, encourage your children to be accepting of foster/adoptive children...and this just skims the surface.

Do something.

My favorite song is Matthew West's song by that same title, "Do Something."

Here's a snippet:

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

The New Family Tree: debuts Tuesday, May 6 at 10:00 P.M.
and will re-air with a live interview Wednesday, May 7 at 6:40 A.M.