November is National Adoption Month and a time to raise awareness about adopting a child from foster care. Currently, in the United States there are over 400,000 children in foster care with more than 100,000 of these children waiting for permanent homes. The children in care who need permanent homes range in ages from infancy all the way up to the age of 21 (in many states, including New York), as children never outgrow the need for a family.
Unfortunately, each year approximately 20,000 children age out of the foster care system without having found their forever family. Did you know that teens that are adopted are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in higher education and obtain a greater degree of emotional stability than their peers who remain in foster care?
In honor of National Adoption Month, the Tioga County Department of Social Services would like to honor one of their own foster and adoptive families who have opened their hearts and their home with the intent of providing permanency to a foster child.
Katie Tracy and Ryan Brainard have been foster parents since 2016. They have adopted four children since being opened in 2016. Katie and Ryan wanted to find a way to keep siblings together, as they recognize how important that bond is, as they both have siblings. Katie and Ryan feel that any chance to keep siblings together is a win.
Katie and Ryan both stated that foster care is one of the most challenging things that they have taken on, however it has also been one of the most rewarding. Although the goal of foster care is to return children to their primary caregiver, we knew “fairly quickly that we would be a lifelong resource for these kiddos, as they won us over pretty quickly.” Katie and Ryan have grown from a family of two into a family of six within a two-year span. Katie and Ryan feel that they have been blessed with adopting both boys and girls ranging from seven to 17, and learned so much about what family really means to them.
Katie and Ryan were asked to reflect on their experiences from fostering to adoption, and if they had any advice for families considering becoming a foster/adoptive parent.
Katie stated, “Once you choose this path it can be a rollercoaster, both in your everyday life / tasks and emotionally. Support and buy in from your spouse / significant other is crucial as you will weather this adventure together and go through many learning experiences. Maybe most importantly, be open; each child is different – their backgrounds, needs, family dynamics, etc. It takes time and understanding to figure out what the new normal is.”
Katie and Ryan continue to foster two children, which Katie said would not be possible if it was not for the love and compassion from their four adopted children.
Have you been considering foster care and adoption? Do you have room in your heart and in your home? If so, join the team that cares about kids, the Tioga County Foster and Adoptive Parenting Program, where they know that temporary care makes a permanent difference. Tioga County needs caring foster and adoptive families like Katie and Ryan, who can provide a nurturing home for children, especially those who can provide care to teenagers, sibling groups and children with special behavioral, developmental and emotional needs. For more information about becoming a certified foster and/or adoptive parent, contact Angela Figgs at the Tioga County Department of Social Services by calling (607) 687-8346 or emailing Angela.Figgs@dfa.state.ny.us.