Kimberly, Keishaune, Ke’Rel and Keimarla were four siblings ages 3-10. Like all children, they simply wanted the love, safety, and security that family provides.
But in 2010, their family was having difficulty meeting their needs. Their mother struggled with substance use, and her boyfriend physically abused one of the children. When the abuse was reported, he threatened the other children, saying he would burn down the house or kill them. For their safety, the courts brought the children into foster care.
While foster care is a necessary intervention to keep a child safe, this began a difficult road for the four brothers and sisters. At times, they were separated from each other or had to move houses, which is not the intent of any foster care program. There were not enough foster families in their hometown, and of those families who were available, few had the bedroom space to care for all four children.
After two years, it became clear that their mother was not able to provide a safe home and the courts terminated her parental rights. The children dreamed of being adopted together by a loving family, but as the years went by, that dream seemed more and more out of reach.
Searching for the Right Family
As a lead agency on behalf of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, KVC provided foster family care for the children. When they became in need of an adoptive family, KVC worked in collaboration with Adopt KS Kids to help them find a family by listing their profile on AdoptKSKids.org and the KVC adoption website. Driven by the knowledge that “children grow best in families,” KVC wanted these four kids to be among the 4,000 youth it has matched with adoptive forever families in its history.
By having their profiles on AdoptKSKids.org, the children were in front of the perfect audience: adults looking to grow their families.
Tate and Meriam Thompson of Pratt, KS were one of the couples browsing the website. Tate is a high school English teacher and coaches wrestling and tennis, and Meriam works for a state government agency. They had three biological children already, Hogan, Jadyn and Tiger. While they started with the idea of adopting one child, they eventually set their hearts on adopting a sibling group. They specifically searched for African-American siblings that included teens because they knew these youth often wait longer to be adopted. They became a licensed foster home through the Kansas Children’s Service League, while also inquiring on children available for adoption.
“We always talked about adoption even before we got married because my wrestling coach informally adopted Meriam,” said Tate. “He took her in when she was in high school. So when our daughter said that she wanted a little sister, we told her that can only happen if we adopt. We asked our kids, are you interested in adoption? And they were.” In fact, it was unanimous and the whole family took the required training class together.
Meeting for the First Time
By the time the Thompson family found the four siblings’ profile, the kids had given up hope that they would be adopted. They believed it was their fate to age out of foster care without a permanent family. In fact, the kids’ online profile didn’t include oldest sister Kimberly who was almost 18 and had decided to age out of care. The Thompsons researched to find there were four and invited Kimberly to be part of the adoption.
So when the four heard there was a family that wanted to meet them, they were not interested. “I can remember going to the children’s foster home with their case manager to tell them about the family,” said Jenna Parker, an adoptive resource coordinator at KVC. “Prior to our meeting, the children had written letters to the family saying they did not want to meet them or be adopted by them. As we went over the family’s profile book, one of them actually took notes about the family as he soaked it all in. In the end, when I asked them if they were willing to at least meet the family with no commitment to agreeing to adoption, they all agreed except for Ke’Rel. He let me know he was not willing to meet them, which I told him was fine but if he changed his mind he was welcome to come.”
“We were able to facilitate the first visit to our office, and thankfully Ke’Rel decided to come. It would be difficult to put into words the transformation that occurred during that visit in watching the children open up to the idea that this could really happen.”
Tate confirmed there was a little magic at that first meeting as their three children and the four siblings met for the first time. “The four kids were expecting to meet only Meriam and me, but we don’t do things that way in our family. When we’re going to meet someone important to us, we all go. So we brought our kids too.”
Jenna shared how the siblings processed that unexpected interaction. “The four children asked to go into a room by themselves to talk. Essentially they had a family meeting where they talked about changing their mind about being adopted by them. Soon after, they visited the family’s home, and a month later, they requested to move in with them.”
From there, the adoption process moved along. The kids adjusted well to the new community which was much more rural than they were used to. “They weren’t sure initially,” said Tate, “but really they were just happy to be somewhere where they were wanted. They all made friends easily and got involved in tennis, wrestling, musicals, plays, anything they wanted to do. They’re thriving with all the activities here.”
Dreams that You Dare to Dream Really Do Come True
As adoption day grew closer, Tate says, “They were excited about it but they weren’t sure because other possible adoptions had fallen through. So until it happened, they just didn’t believe it would. We kept telling them we were permanent.”
On finalization day, they all wore the shirts that said, “Thompson Family – Get on the bus” and had all nine family members’ names. A TV station reporter came to cover the happy story, and since the court was running about an hour behind, she got to see them interacting positively and even let them take the camera. Their parents say it made the kids feel special.
The parents felt special, too. Oldest daughter Kimberly always wished for a dad. She found that in Tate. “She moved to Pratt for her senior year, which was a big change, but we spent a lot of time together all year.”
Ke’Rel loves his big brother Hogan and wants to do everything he does. The feeling is mutual, as Hogan says the adoption means getting “two best friends” in brothers Keishaune and Ke’Rel. “They’ll be able to be my friends throughout my whole entire life because, well, they’re going to be my family,” he said.
All seven kids understand they are equal. There’s no difference between biological or adopted kids; just seven brothers and sisters.
“Since the first visit, they started calling us Mommy and Daddy,” said Tate. “It felt good because we thought that might be difficult. It turns out, they just wanted a home where they belonged and where they could be loved and supported, permanently.”
Encouraging Others to Foster or Adopt a Child
To those considering adopting a child from foster care, the Thompsons say, “Keep pushing and working at it and it will happen. It can be a long process, but try to be positive. It’s worth it in the end.”
They also want to dispel the myth that adopting from foster care is expensive. “On social media, I always see people talk about the expense. Yes, you will pay more for food! But the adoption itself is essentially free, which is different than a private adoption. There are so many kids in need, so if you want to make a difference, this is something you can do right now.”
Today, about six months after the adoption, the Thompsons are doing well. Their house is abuzz with all the energy you’d expect from seven happy, flourishing, well-loved teenagers and all are feeling the love of a family that they needed for so long.
In the U.S., nearly 450,000 youth are in foster care due to abuse, neglect or other family challenges. Of these youth, nearly 120,000 are currently awaiting adoption. You can make a huge difference in the life of a child or teen in need by becoming a foster parent or adopting a child in need. If you live outside of Kansas, learn more about becoming a foster parent or adopting a child in your state.