DENVER (CBS4) – One of my favorite quotes comes from Maya Angelou: “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Home is where we get to be ourselves. We can talk about a tough day or celebrate a personal success, be alone or enjoy the support of family, laugh or cry. Take a moment to think about what “home” means for you — now imagine not having that “safe place where we can go as we are.” That’s why the work of one particular organization in Colorado is so important, and why CBS4 has been supporting their work for nearly four decades. This month marks a milestone for that organization. “The Adoption Exchange,” founded in 1983, is now “Raise the Future.”
My personal connection to the organization began in the early 90s. I was a young journalist at KCNC-TV and was assigned to help produce the weekly “Wednesday’s Child” segment — profiling a child in foster care hoping to find a forever family. I enjoyed meeting the children each week, many of whom were teenagers not much younger than me, and it was rewarding work. In those days, very little information was shared among neighboring counties and states about children in foster care, so The Adoption Exchange sought to “exchange” information about these children with the goal of finding families interested in adoption. Our “Wednesday’s Child” segment was one way of sharing their stories. The founder of the Adoption Exchange, Dixie Davis, and her team were sharing their stories in other ways — writing biographies and creating photo albums, and then delivering them throughout Colorado and other states.
I was fortunate to join the Board of Directors in 2013, shortly after Dixie retired as Executive Director. Dixie had asked me to join the Board, along with Elaine Torres, our Director of Community Affairs. I still remember the story Dixie shared to demonstrate the value of their work. It was the story of a little boy who had bounced from one foster home to another. He kept all of the special things in his life in a large plastic bag. Every morning he would wake up, get ready for school, pack everything into his bag and leave it beside his bedroom door in case he was moved to another foster home. Eventually, The Adoption Exchange found an adoptive family for this little boy. But even in his new house, every morning, he would pack his things into a plastic bag. Every morning, his new parents would look in his room after he left for school and see that plastic bag. With guidance from Family Support, the parents talked with their son about his new home, supported him, and loved him. Then one morning, in a hurry, his mom checked his bedroom — and there was no plastic bag. All of his special things were still on his shelves. The boy knew he was home.
Joining the Board will always be one of the great honors of my life. I have loved playing a small part in the work of this remarkable organization, and supporting the team as they have grown The Adoption Exchange. Today, while the mission of the organization remains largely the same, the work is evolving. It was time for a new name that reflects the programs and projects supporting children and families.
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The name “Raise the Future” captures the value and importance of their work in today’s world. Adoption remains a wonderful outcome, but it is also important to recognize the value of making a connection between youth waiting in foster care and a caring adult willing to be a stable force in their lives. Raise the Future helps make those connections through programs like the CHOICE mentor program. A staff member shared this story from recent CHOICE matching event. It was attended by older children who have largely given up on finding a forever family, but were interested in interacting with adults who might become a mentor. At the end, the kids and adults are given a form to fill out to indicate which child or which adult they are interested in getting to know. One child quickly filled out his form and then called out to a couple he had connected with during the event. “Hey! Hey, did you pick me? Did you pick me?” And before they could answer he said, “Because I picked you!” They had, in fact, picked him. The hopefulness in the boy’s voice and his desire to belong — to be chosen by a family — is why this new work is so vital.
Raise the Future also recognizes the importance of supporting families — so connections are successful and relationships last. To that end, the organization offers critical family support as well as mental health resources. It has continued, despite the pandemic. The family support team is hosting virtual coffee breaks for parents, story time for kids, and sensory breaks for kids and families. All of that work is designed to not only make a connection, but also support a relationship that will last a lifetime — to raise the future.
You can read more about Raise the Future and all of these wonderful programs here: raisethefuture.org/what-we-do.