Volunteering has always been a part of every day life for me. Although my children are all adopted, this innate quality has been passed down and accepted by all of them. I think the fact that they have been adopted makes a difference. So many times a child in foster care feels their life means nothing, but volunteering and helping others makes them feel that they can actually make a difference in the life of others. This principle instills a path of self esteem and confidence within them.
After my second adoption there became an age disparity (8, 13, and 14). The older two were biological sisters and had already shared a close bond. My dilemma was in trying to help us all bond as ONE unit. I contacted Indy’s Racing Cheetahs, a track program in my area, and was immediately drawn to it because all ages practiced together, ran at meets together, and traveled together. It was the most beautiful sight…all three of my daughters encouraging the other to run faster, at home practicing together, helping each other with the blocks before a race, etc. Five years later, we are all coaches for Indy’s Racing Cheetahs, the track club that helped unite our family. The girls serve as junior coaches for the elementary track program and I serve as an assistant coach and site coordinator. From the outside it looks like we are volunteering, but from the inside we are giving back to a program that helped our family bond. We love it so much that we don’t see it as “work.”
My older two daughters were looking ahead at their future career goals. One wanted to be a physical therapist and the other wanted to be a massage therapist. During their summer break, one decided to volunteer at a summer camp and the other a day care. They volunteered at each for 8 hours a day. They could have gotten a job, but decided against it. Out of their volunteer experiences both of them changed their career goals. My oldest daughter is in her freshman year at Anderson University majoring in elementary education and my second oldest daughter is a senior and wants to major in early childhood development. No one would have ever thought that a volunteer experience would have changed the direction of their lives’ like it did.
We have also volunteered time at exhibitions, writing articles, serving as a state spokes family, etc. for AdoptUsKids (adoptuskids.org). This organization has helped me locate two of my daughters from the photo listing on their website. I believe they are sincere in helping children find permanency, so whenever we are called upon to help from AdoptUsKids we always accept the call. Our most fun experience with AdoptUsKids was staffing a booth for a Disney exhibition at an area mall. All of us got the opportunity to talk to a lot of families about adoption. I have also co-founded a post adoption group in my area. AdoptUsKids was instrumental in helping our group by giving us a $3,000 grant. These funds are used to assist families who need help with their transitioning adopted children in our area.
I cannot remember a time that I have not wanted to adopt children. I have always had a passion around this and knew that I wanted to not only parent children but encourage others to do the same. As a family we go out and speak to perspective adoptive families from the perspective of a child in foster care becoming a part of a permanent family and from the perspective of a parent helping with this transition. One may see this as volunteering, but we see it as a healing process. To have the courage to openly reveal to others the “dark” experiences of your past while paving the way for others to have a victorious adoption experience is liberating. After one of our sessions one of my daughters expressed to me that they were glad that something good could result from the things they experienced in their birth and foster care homes. So often when we hold our past as a secret it eats at us and holds us in prison. It is only when we have the courage to speak it in the open that we are free from its bondage. My words of wisdom to them have always been; the devil meant it for bad, but God did it for our good.