October 2013

Fashion show matching event brings together waiting youths, prospective families

Youths who participated in the Diakon Adoption & Foster Care matching event pose for a group photo following their turns on the red carpet.

Alisha describes herself as honest and helpful—and she wants a new family that exhibits those same qualities.

At 15, she has made great progress in overcoming trauma in her life and is now poised to be part of a “forever family” that will support her dreams and love her every step along the way, while also providing the stability, structure, and guidance she needs to be successful in life.

A year older than Alisha, Dominick says he is “adorable and lovable.” He enjoys school and Pokémon and believes people should be nice to one another, while expressing their emotions by talking. He says following that advice has worked for him—though he's not lived with a family for many years. He wants that situation to change.

Alyssa, also 16, has been nicknamed “Smiley” by coworkers because of her infectious smile. She describes herself as a “well-behaved but also loud girl with a never-ending fountain of words.” In fact, one day, she hopes to use that gift to be a mental health therapist—which is the reason she doesn't like to shop or spend money; she'd rather save it for college!

These three young people were among the 18 who recently participated in a fashion show matching event sponsored by Diakon Adoption & Foster Care. The event was held in the Henry Auditorium at The Lutheran Home at Topton, where a Diakon Adoption & Foster Care office is located.

The event has resulted in matches, “the most important thing.”

"There are currently 2,500 children and youths in Pennsylvania waiting to be adopted—to have a family to call their own," says Melanie Rehrig, permanency services supervisor at the Topton office. "The youths in the show were older, 10 and up. They have been waiting the longest and are the most in need so, as part of our Older Child Matching Initiative, we develop events such as this fashion show specifically to highlight them. Through such events, they can meet families and interact with them, and the families get to learn more about the youths."

In addition to Alisha, Alyssa, and Dominick, the event included, among the 15 others, Tyler, a talented 15-year-old writer who creates his own poems and songs ... Mikal, 17, who enjoys cooking, who enjoys music, performing, and reading ... and Samantha, 15, who hopes one day to become a stylist, nurse, or chef. She hopes to become part of a family with older siblings.

A youth available for adoption walks the red carpet at the Diakon Adoption & Foster Care matching event.

For the teenagers, though, the most important part of the event wasn't the new clothing, though many said they certainly enjoyed the shopping experience (one girl, an adoption staff member noted, chose a skirt because she had never owned one). Rather, the importance was about finding a family to call their own, one that will adopt them and provide the love and security for which they have waited so long.

"We do find," says Rehrig, "that when we get families and kids together, that interaction leads to more adoptions."

Similar events have resulted in matches, she adds, “and that is the most important thing.”

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Diakon Adoption & Foster Care parent training gains international attention

Cathy Balliet, a recruitment and family development supervisor with Diakon Adoption & Foster Care, is interviewed by Nathalie Gros, producing a documentary for the French television network, Canal Plus.

Diakon Adoption & Foster Care's parent-training program has gained international attention.

A journalist from the French television network Canal Plus recently filmed a session of family training conducted by Diakon Adoption & Foster Care staff members based at the program's Topton office. Nathalie Gros, associated with production group CAPA Television, interviewed Diakon staff members, prospective adoptive and foster families and, later that day at a Diakon-sponsored fashion show matching event, older youths who await their own “forever family.” According to Gros, the 10-minute program will air only in France, with voices of those interviewed dubbed in French.

The piece will be shown on “a current-affairs program called L’Effet Papillon (which means The Butterfly Effect, a bit similar to Frontline in the U.S.),” says Yves Schaeffner, a New York City-based associate of the network. “Every week, we produce three different reports from three different countries.”

The filmmakers located Diakon Adoption & Foster Care through an Internet search for adoption programs that include parent training. “We place great emphasis on providing training and support for our prospective and current families,” says Lauren Conzaman, vice president for Diakon Child & Family Services. “Our goal is that every adoption succeed.”

The French filming of Diakon's adoption training program is the second time Diakon has garnered international-media interest.
It was, in fact, issues with adoptive placements in Europe that prompted the report. “We are ... [producing] a report about the issue of re-adoption (or re-homing),” indicates Schaeffner. “The starting point of our report is a recent investigation by Reuters [in Europe], but we would like to show that certain groups and organizations like yours are trying to prepare parents who want to adopt children to make sure that the adoption goes well.”

Nathalie Gros of French television interviews prospective resource parent Kathleen Gaughan during an adoption-related training session.
In addition to filming the parent-training session, Gros interviewed youths and parents involved in an afternoon fashion show “matching event,” also held on The Lutheran Home at Topton campus. Eighteen youths available for adoption were treated to new clothing, makeup, and a chance to be “stars of the show” in front of prospective adoptive families.

The filming by the French network is the second time Diakon programs have attracted international media attention. Several years ago, a Japanese film crew developing a documentary on the Appalachian Trail interviewed and photographed youths taking part in Diakon Youth Services’ 30-Day Wilderness Challenge Program, part of which takes place on the trail. The challenge program helps youths who have been adjudicated delinquent or dependent by county courts learn to work with others, face and succeed at challenges, and reflect on the circumstances that brought them before county officials.

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