I recently spent a few days at the beach with my in-laws. I have two nephews that are six years old, super active and all boy! They love being outside, playing ball and getting one-one-one attention.
When I met nine-year-old Deniro at Chuck E. Cheese on our interview day, he reminded me so much of my nephews. Even though he is going into the third grade, Deniro is about the same size as my soon-to-be first grade nephews. He is small, but full of personality.
He was wearing a basketball jersey, much like I would expect to see on one of my nephews eager to shoot some hoops with dad. Deniro's reality does not include that part of the equation. He's got the jersey, the ball, the desire to play, but does not have the mom or dad to share in those basic, every day childhood experiences.
Deniro does have fabulous foster parents. The Shaws have taken in 20+ foster children over the past 20 years, even adopting through foster care. At this point in their lives, though, their calling is to temporarily care for a child until he or she is matched with adoptive parents. Deniro has been waiting for several months.
On the day of our interview, Deniro's adoption worker with the Department of Children & Family Services, Katrina Evans, told me that he knew the importance of talking on camera about his desire to be adopted. "It's so important to him," she said, "he talks about it often and recognizes the importance of having a family and I think having that stability and security is just going to go a long way with him."
Deniro definitely has a soft side - something that comes out when you sit down and have a one-on-one conversation with him. "I like to read books and I like to talk to my friends," he said.
When I asked Deniro about his friends, his eyes got teary as he told me about his foster brother that had just been moved the day before to an adoptive placement. While that is great news for the foster brother, Deniro had a heavy heart. "I miss my older brother," he said, "he's kind of like a friend. He's always there for me."
Someone who is still there for Deniro today is his foster father, Wiley Shaw, Jr., training this young man in the polite ways of a gentleman. "He is very respectful. He was taught before he got to me, but we've continued to train him into being a gentleman," he said.
Deniro describes himself as polite and a few other endearing qualities. "I would say I'm kind of funny and I'm kind of handsome," he said.
When I asked Deniro what kind of parents he would like to have, his response was simple: "A nice parent."
Yep. That's it.
Since launching The New Family Tree segment a few months ago, I've had a couple of viewers ask me about whether or not I felt like I was "exploiting the children" by putting them on the news. I know it's tough to see children on TV or a computer screen that are parentless. Yes, they are vulnerable. Yes, it can be uncomfortable for them to open up about how it feels to be living a childhood in limbo. But what is the alternative? Years spent in foster care? A new school every year while moving from one home to another? Callouses growing as another month passes with no hope of things changing?
I appreciate every single child, just like Deniro, who allows me the privilege of sharing his or her story. I would not do this segment if I did not truly believe the end result will be adoption.
These children need their stories to be told. In the words of Maya Angelou, "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better." Please be a part of the efforts to do better for these kids. They deserve it.
Deniro is ready to be adopted today through the Department of Children & Family Services. Call 337-491-2470 to make an inquiry about Deniro or any of the other children that can be adopted through foster care.
Check out Deniro's story on KPLC-TV's The New Family Tree.