A Fresh Start
At the beginning of the new year, you might have set some goals for yourself, decided to try out a hobby, or chosen a different career path. For some adults, this is the year they will embark on the journey of parenthood. For some children in the welfare system, this may be the year they finally find their new forever family. Adoption offers the chance for transformation and new beginnings. Those who choose to adopt a child or a sibling group this year will not only transform their own lives, but the lives of every young person they now call family.
At Greenlight Family Services, we are honored to work with adoptive parents and the children we serve to help create new Illinois families. Our mission is to achieve the best outcomes for families, young adults and children by providing the highest quality services. But what is the best outcome for a child? Permanency!
What Is Permanency?
The Juvenile Law Center defines permanency as “having positive, healthy, nurturing relationships with adults who provide emotional, financial, moral, educational, and other kinds of support as youth mature into adults.” They state that it ideally involves a legal parent-child relationship. Greenlight is committed to finding the most suitable caregivers for every child and providing the aid necessary to legally establish them as a forever family.
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, it is essential to place youth in foster care into safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible. This is because Youth in Care experience distress from frequent disruptive changes in their lives. Changes in caregivers, caseworkers, homes, schooling, and more contribute to insecure attachment, mental health and behavioral issues, and academic and employment struggles.
The Juvenile Law Center highlights that “the average person is not prepared to be fully independent until their mid-twenties” yet foster care services end at age 18. This makes the adoption of older youth critical to give them the permanency essential to “transitioning into adulthood and achieving educational and professional success.” Youth who age out of foster care at 18 without finding permanency have a higher likelihood of facing homelessness, becoming pregnant before the age of 21, struggling with substance use, and becoming incarcerated.
Greenlight’s Role in Achieving Permanency
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption created the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids ® (WWK) program to find permanent families for children in foster care who are most often overlooked. That includes teenagers, children with special needs and siblings. With grant support from the Foundation, Greenlight Family Services hired two full-time WWK recruiters to serve children in this focus population. Our recruiters use the Foundation’s evidence-based, child-focused recruitment model, working with smaller caseloads to provide the time and focus every child deserves. A rigorous, five-year national evaluation revealed that children referred to the WWK program are up to three times more likely to be adopted.
With permanency achieved through adoption, youth in care have a much higher likelihood of living a happy, healthy, fulfilled life. Being part of a permanent forever family greatly increases the chances of having stable mental, emotional, and physical health, stronger peer relationships that reduce depression and bullying, deeper secure attachment to caregivers, and better chances at success with academics and employment. Greenlight offers a variety of adoption services to achieve permanency for every parent or child’s unique circumstances across the entire state of Illinois.
Establishing permanency is not always the last step in achieving the best outcome for a family, young adult, or child. Sometimes, post-adoption services are necessary to ensure the continuity of the legal relationship established between a caregiver and their child or children. Click here to learn more about Greenlight’s post-adoption services.
Greenlight Family Services is proud of our team of Family Development Specialists who are so dedicated to truly achieving and maintaining permanency for the children we serve. One of our specialists, Kelia Beck, recently ensured that one child, Keyonna, was able to stay in her forever family after the death of her adoptive mother.
At only two days old, Keyonna was placed in foster care with a caring woman named Martha. Just a few years later, in 2014, Martha officially adopted young Keyonna and became her legal mother. Keyonna was happily a part of a forever family.
Sadly, on Christmas Eve of 2021, when Keyonna was only about 10 years old, her adoptive mother Martha passed away. This put the permanency Keyonna had gained through adoption in jeopardy. Without anyone as a legal caregiver, Keyonna was at risk of re-entering the foster care system and experiencing the disruptions and retraumatization that occurs with such a change. Fortunately, a relative in her adoptive family stepped up to help, and Greenlight was there as a support in the process.
Martha’s daughter Casey, Keyonna’s adoptive older sister, became entrusted with the care of Keyonna after her mother’s death. Casey was already a hardworking mother to three and a nursing student. She took on the role of mother to Keyonna with pride, proclaiming she had become the mother of “four amazing kids!”
Casey left her own home and moved her family into the home where Keyonna and Martha resided. In doing so, she provided Keyonna with stability and the ability to continue her normal routine. Greenlight aided Keyonna in keeping her loving, permanent home and forever family by assisting with successor adoption. On December 7th, 2022, with the dedicated guidance and follow-through from our specialist Kelia, Casey became Keyonna’s new legal mother. This ensured the continuity of the permanency so essential to a happy life and bright future for Keyonna.
Greenlight is dedicated to ensuring every child is given the opportunity to thrive like Keyonna by obtaining permanency.