By Tim Wieland
DENVER (CBS4) – When was the last time you took a leap of faith? Do you remember how it made you feel? Scared. Nervous. Excited. Hopeful. Keep those feelings in mind as I share my personal connection to adoption, which begins with the story of one boy’s leap of faith.
The story was originally shared with me by Dixie Davis, the founder and Executive Director of the Adoption Exchange. CBS4 and the Adoption Exchange have been partners for more than 30 years, so the relationship was already going strong when I arrived in the newsroom 25 years ago. As an introduction to the organization, I was invited to a dinner with Dixie. I was warned that she is so passionate about adoption, she would often tell stories at dinner that would leave the entire table in tears. I was 23 years old, a young man, and I was sure I would not cry. I accepted the invitation, and when the evening arrived I confidently took the seat next to Dixie.
Toward the end of dinner, Dixie shared the story of a special boy.
The boy was just 10 years old, and had already been placed in nearly 20 foster homes. Families interested in adoption thought he was too emotionally distant, and he had “trust issues.” As a result of all those placements, the boy kept his belongings in a trash bag – one of those big Hefty Lawn and Leaf bags. Every morning, when he left for school, he would put everything he owned – all of his clothes, a couple stuffed animals, a few pictures, a toy or two – back inside that big trash bag and then leave it by the bedroom door. He did this, not knowing if he would be back to the house that day – he wanted to make sure his few belongings went with him. The boy did this every single morning.
Finally, at age 12, the boy was adopted by a foster family that decided to take a chance on him. Still – every morning, just as he had done for years, he stuffed all of his belongings into that big trash bag and left it by his bedroom door. The parents came to the Adoption Exchange for help re-building trust, but the bag was still there. They met with counselors, but the bag was still there. They had lots of talks around the family dinner table – but every day, the bag was there. Then one morning, after the parents had given up, the boy’s mom opened his door after he left for school and she was speechless. His clothes were put away neatly in the drawers. His toys were on a shelf. His stuffed animals were on the bed. The mom looked around for that big Hefty bag and she found it – in the trash can.
For just a moment, try to put yourself in his shoes on that morning. Imagine what must have been going through his mind, the strength it took not to pack that bag. A scary, nervous, exciting, hopeful leap of faith.
CBS4 SPECIAL REPORTS: Aging Out
The evening I heard that story – like everyone at the table – I cried. This wasn’t a little silent weep, either – it was a serious cry. Once I composed myself, I decided I wanted to do everything I could to support those life changing moments. I officially joined the Board of Directors for the Adoption Exchange a few years ago; and most recently, we have been working to help older children find a family or make a meaningful connection with an adult who can help them transition to adulthood.
This mission by the Adoption Exchange, led by current Executive Director Lauren Arnold, got us thinking about all the issues that surround the problem of “Aging Out.” So last year, I met with reporter Britt Moreno, producer Libby Smith and Assistant News Director Kristine Strain to talk about producing one of the most in depth editorial projects we’ve ever done. This week, we will air more than dozen stories, post exclusive reporting to our web site, and talk about problems and solutions on Facebook Live. Our hope is that this series will be a catalyst for change – a call to action for state agencies, non-profits and people across Colorado to take a chance on these vulnerable young people. A leap of faith.
The following are helpful resources for people who are aging out of foster care and for the people who care for them.
Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Public Awareness Campaign
Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline
Learn more about foster care and adoption in Colorado.
United Way Bridging the Gap
helping teens live on their own after foster care
Dream Makers Project
making dreams come true for former foster care youth
life skills program provided through human services dept. of each county
CBS4 Wednesday’s Child Section
The Adoption Exchange
promoting adoption for foster care youth
Adoption Exchange’s Birthday Wishes Program
Office of the Lt. Governor
SOAR! Youth & Adult Choir
soaryouthandadultchoir.org 720-218-1433 (Youth)