By Ryan Mitchell The Afro News Vancouver
Keesia is a preteen like most; loves to sing and dance, is athletic and recently represented her school in a high jump competition. The biggest difference between Keesia and other preteens is that Keesia is waiting for a family to call her own.
“I really would like to be adopted and know that I am part of a real family that will be there for me through the thick and thin.’ says Kesha, a twelve year old Caucasian/West African girl.
Keesia is part of the Adoptive Families Association of BC’s (AFABC) Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program, sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Rachel Timmins, AFABC Communication Coordinator, talks about AFABC and the importance of families for all children, from babies to teens.
“AFABC Started back in 1977 around a kitchen table. Parents in the community felt a need to gather and support each other. It grew from there to this organisation that you see now with over 20 staff members. We have been around for more than thirty years. We serve all of BC, providing support and information to parents who are thinking about adopting, who have adopted, in the process of adopting or even adoptees themselves. One of our new initiatives is our teen project which focuses on teen adoption.”
Anne Melcombe, AFABC’s WWK worker is looking for that perfect fit for Keesia “She wants to be a singer or even a model . Keesia is athletic and musical; she has a good sense of humour and can be quite charming. ” Melcombe states. “Her enthusiasm and cheerfulness help her cope with the many transitions in her life.”
Melcombe states the reason for her urgency in finding a family for Keesia. “Keesia has had too many changes in her life, including many moves in foster care. She is a great kid who has not found a family yet.”
Melcombe emphasizes the importance of Keesia staying connected to her cultural roots, “Although Keesia has had some exposure to African culture, she would really benefit from knowing more about her cultural roots.”
Anne Melcombe mentions the importance of children’s cultural identity.
“The core of their identity is both their cultural background and their family background. For children who are visible minorities in our community, it is really important for them to understand where they come from, how they fit in the community, what to expect from the community, and connect with people who can help them figure out how deal with racism and be proud of who they are to help them feel good about themselves.”
“We would love to find Kesha a family in the African-Canadian community or a family with previous experience parenting adopted children of African descent.” Just before the interview, a family was interested in adopting Kesha but unfortunately they lived in New Mexico. “We really need B.C residents due to adoption laws in the province.”
“Five years ago the long term plan for Keesia would have been to put her in independent living once she reached 17 or 18.” Melcombe says.
Timmins reiterates that teenage adoption is still a new and growing initiative, “Only recently there has been a push for adoption plans to be made for teens.”
The founder of Wendy’s, Dave Thomas founded a charity called Wendy’s Wonderful Kids. As an adopted child himself, Thomas wanted the many children who are in foster care to be placed in permanent homes. Anne describes the new program under AFABC.
Melcombe talks about how she decided to be involved in recruiting children for adoption, “I now have more than 20 years experience as a foster parent, and when I wanted to a family I choose adoption.” She adopted two African American children. “It wasn’t a decision I went into lightly. I really thought about it hard and felt that I could serve their needs. One is 14 and the other is 17, and I feel that they are fairly connected into the black community. I also adopted one of my foster children, who was 15 when she was placed with me. She is now 29 and has three children of her own.” Anne felt a need to be even more involved in the adoption processes. “At some point when I was a foster parent, I made a decision to go back to school because I wanted to do adoption work. After I finished school a position opened for a child specific recruiter and it seemed like the right fit for me.”
Melcombe and Timmins look ahead to the future of adoption, and are quite optimistic about the increase of adoption of older children like Keesia. They hope the change in government policy and the popularity of adoption within American pop culture will create more awareness of the children and teens who are waiting for families.
BC’s Waiting Child Info Line: 1-800-ADOPT-07
anyone interested in finding out more about Keesia can contact Anne Melcombe at 604-320-7330 ext. 117