Giving Life: Father Receives Kidney From Adopted Daughter

Leah Tripp

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27 years ago, Billy Houze and his wife, Karen, adopted their daughter DeLauren McKnight from foster care, giving her a new family and a new life.

27 years later, McKnight is returning the gesture in a miraculous way: she’s saving her father’s life.

In 2016, Houze received the devastating news that his kidneys were failing. His prognosis was not favorable; if he didn’t receive a kidney transplant in five years, he wouldn’t survive.

The 64 year old pastor and father of five immediately began searching for matches within his own family, knowing that he may not live long enough to get moved up on the transplant list.

Houze’s biological sons were tested, to no avail. Three years passed with no match.

McKnight, who “never thought [she] would be a match because [she] was adopted,” decided to get tested just in case. On February 1, she received a life-changing call at work, confirming that she was a match and could donate her kidney to her father.

McKnight called her father right away, telling Good Morning America that she wanted him to be the first person who heard the news.

“I called and said ‘Daddy, I have to tell you something. I’m a match.’”

McKnight explains that the phone call with her father was very moving, saying that she was shaking as she told Houze she was a match.

“He stopped talking and he was crying...It was overwhelming”

Houze, who McKnight lovingly calls her Superman, says that he is immensely proud of his daughter.

“She told me, ‘Daddy, you thought you were saving my life pulling me from foster care but in actuality, you were saving my life so I could save yours later.’”

The father-daughter duo is expected to undergo the transplant surgery in the coming weeks, and are excited for the opportunity to live a happy, healthy life alongside one another and their family for years to come.

5 Myths About Foster Care

By Leah Tripp

The conversation surrounding foster care can often contain misconceptions or inaccuracies that can make fostering seem intimidating or impossible for potential foster parents. The following article will debunk five common myths associated with foster care. 

Myth 1: “I have to be married to foster a child” 

There is no marital requirement associated with foster parenting. In fact, according to The Foster Coalition, 30% of foster parents are single. Foster parents can (and do) come from a variety of backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and stages of life. To learn more about what AGAPE of NC requires of foster parents, click here

Myth 2: “I have to be wealthy” or “it’s expensive to adopt”

In contrast to some international and private domestic adoptions, the process of adopting through foster care is essentially free. Many agencies, such as AGAPE of NC, offer free trainings, financial reimbursement, and ongoing support for foster families. In addition, many states and government programs provide tax credits or reduced costs for foster children and their families.  

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Myth 3: “I have to be willing to adopt to be a foster parent”

While adoption can be an option for foster parents, it is not a requirement. The ideal goal for foster children is permanency, which can be found in the form of reunification with parents, kinship care, long-term fostering, or adoption. Respite care is also an option for individuals who are interested in providing short-term care only.  

Myth 4: “I need to have children/parenting experience” 

While parents with children are more than welcome to become foster parents, there are many foster parents who do not have children of their own, and have never parented prior to their participation in the foster care system. Many foster care organizations, including AGAPE, provide training for potential foster parents, as well as ongoing support groups and sessions for new foster parents.

Myth 5: “Foster parents have no say in which children are placed in their home”

Foster parents reserve the right to say “no” to any potential placement for any reason. AGAPE, and many other foster care agencies, also allow parents to express preferences regarding the children they feel comfortable accepting as placements. Foster parents will never be forced to accept a child into their care. 

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that there is no equation or situation that creates the “perfect” foster parent. Children in foster care need stability, compassion, and support. If you feel that you can provide a loving home for a child in foster care, please visit https://www.agapeofnc.org/foster-care/ or call AGAPE of NC at (919)673-7816. 

The Power and the Impact of the Dave Thomas Foundation

By Jordan Upton

While most Americans are familiar with Dave Thomas and recognize him as the founder of fast-food restaurant chain Wendy’s, many are unaware of his philanthropy. Thomas’ most passionate mission and the role he embraced the most was as an advocate for adoption and ensuring every child had a safe, loving, and permanent home.

Thomas was born in 1932 in Atlantic City, New Jersey and was adopted at six weeks old by Rex and Auleva Thomas. After his adoptive mother passed away when he was only five, Dave spent the majority of his childhood traveling the country with his father and spending summers with his grandmother, Minnie. Dave spent the rest of his life working in restaurants and eventually opening Wendy’s in 1969. Wendy’s would become a commercially successful restaurant and now has over 6,500 locations worldwide.

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While Dave had a passion for food, his greater passion was advocating for adoption and ensuring that all children had a loving home. Thomas established the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in 1992 as a national non-profit charity. It remains the only public non-profit in the United States focused exclusively on foster care adoption.

The Dave Thomas Foundation offers a variety of signature programs such as Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, which awards grants to local public and private agencies who are in turn able to hire adoption professionals who are able to place children on the longest-waiting placement lists into adoptive families. Another program includes Adoption-Friendly Workplace which works to make adoption an affordable option for working parents by establishing benefits, reimbursements, and financial aid for those who wish to adopt.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has funded nearly 400 adoption centers across the United States and Canada, helped co-found National Adoption Day, and as their mission statement says, “we strive to make the world a better place through foster care adoption” because the children in foster care “deserve nothing less than our best effort”.

https://www.wendys.com/daves-legacy

https://www.davethomasfoundation.org/

Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome

By Jordan Upton

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Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS) is not a formally recognized disorder but is a term that has been used since 1995 to describe feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression that some parents feel following an adoption. PADS usually affects adoptive mothers and can be attributed to a variety of factors.

The adoption process itself can be an emotional rollercoaster, but challenges may continue even after parents have brought their child home. There may be bonding issues, residual emotions about infertility, overwhelming pressure to be perfect, or a let-down that occurs after accomplishing a major goal or life milestone, like getting married or graduating from college.

Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome may present itself through:

●  Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities you used to enjoy

●  Fatigue or loss of energy

●  Excessive guilt

●  Feeling powerless

●  Feeling worthless

●  Sense of hopelessness

If you or someone you know may be experiencing these feelings post-adoption, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Reach out to a therapist or counselor. Contact AGAPE staff for their guidance and referrals. Take time off - whether it’s time off work or a day away from home to clear your head - take care of yourself so you can better take care of others.

Remember, you are not alone. A study by Purdue University found 18-26% of adoptive mothers reported depressive symptoms within the first year of bringing home a new baby or child.

Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of. You, your child, and your family as a whole will benefit when you are honest about your feelings and seek help to be and feel your best.

https://www.adoptionstogether.org/blog/2013/01/07/why-arent-i-happy-recognizing-post-adoption-depression-syndrome/

https://www.seleni.org/advice-support/2018/3/16/post-adoption-depression https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2012/120322FoliResearch.html

Adoption in America

By Jordan Upton

In 2007 the National Public Radio morning show Morning Edition began a series titled “Adoption in America”. This four-part series examines the highs and the lows of adoption with four families and adoptees. The listener learns various aspects of adoption and how lives are impacted in sometimes unforeseen ways.

Part one talks with Judy Stigger and her now 26-year-old adopted son, Aaron. Over 30 years ago Judy and her husband, after discovering infertility issues, decided to adopt. They adopted two biracial children. Judy and her husband are both white. Judy and Aaron discuss the obvious and unexpected issues (such as the skin color of the angels on the family Christmas tree) involving race the family have faced.

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In part two, NPR’s Steve Inskeep hears a harrowing story from the Smolin family who adopted two girls from India in 1998. The Smolins were told that the girls were orphans who were looking for a new home in America. But, when the girls arrive in Atlanta the Smolins learn this was not the case. The two girls, Manjula and Bhagya, were emotionally distressed and tell their new adoptive parents that they had a home and a mother in India and that they were taken from her. The Smolins learn that the biological mother of the two was poor and in order for her daughters to be taken care of had temporarily placed them in a boarding school. This school turned out to be an orphanage and the director essentially sold the girls overseas and had given false information to the adoption agency in America.

Part three has Susan Soon-keum Cox tell her story of being adopted by an Oregon couple after spending her first four and a half years in South Korea. Adopted in 1956, Susan was one of the first children from overseas to be adopted in America. Susan’s childhood was spent learning how to be an American and she essentially lost all touch with her Korean heritage. Cox, now the vice president of an adoption agency, advocates for the retainment of an adopted child’s heritage and culture, which was not the case when she was adopted.

Finally, in part four author A.M. Homes talks about being adopted just after her birth. Growing up with no intention of finding her birth mother, Homes, then 32 years old, came home to find a voicemail stating that “someone is looking for you”. That someone, was her birth mother who wanted to get in touch. Homes talks about the complicated histories of her birth mother and her birth father, who she would also eventually meet, and how these events and histories have shaped her own understanding of identity.

These heartfelt, unique, and diverse stories are all available for free online at

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12138181

Adoption and American Ninja Warrior Contestant

By Jordan Upton

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Season 10, episode 8 of American Ninja Warrior aired on July 23, 2018. The Dallas City Finals showcased contestant Katrina Ratcliff, a police officer from Austin, Texas.

In a heartbreaking video about her background, Kat tells the story of losing her father to pancreatic cancer when she was eight years old, and the troubled years with her mom that followed. Her mother had alcohol and drug dependencies and committed suicide when Kat was 15 years old.

When she was 16 yrs. old, Kat met Ellen. They were both working at their small town’s veterinary clinic when Ellen adopted Kat.

“I just felt like she needed somebody, and I felt like it should be me,” Ellen says in the video.

“She started nurturing me and loving me,” Kat says of Ellen. “And gave me the chance to believe in myself. That I was worthy enough to be loved.”

Kat and Ellen illustrate how important it is to offer opportunities to older teens who may have fewer prospects for fostering and adopting. Kat’s life was changed from the love and attention she received after being adopted at 16.

See Kat during the episode: https://www.nbc.com/american-ninja-warrior/video/dallas-city-finals/376613719:15 - 22:45

https://austinpoliceassociation.com/will-of-a-ninja/ https://www.kxan.com/news/local/austin/austin-police-officer-will-compete-on-american-ninja-warrior/994836140

Book Recommendation: Another Place at the Table

By Jordan Upton

Kathy Harrison used to struggle for an answer to the common question, “What do you do?” After decades of experience, Kathy now has a ready reply: “I do some writing and some teaching, but my important job is being a foster mother.”

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Kathy explores her family and life choices in her highly rated book, Another Place at the Table. Published in 2003, the book details many of Kathy’s experiences fostering children in need. At the time of publication, she had fostered 100 children. Now in 2018, she has fostered 153.

In her book, Kathy describes how she found her calling to “offer a small island of safety in an unsafe and terrifying world.” After raising three biological sons, Kathy went to work in a Head Start program. She dealt daily with children in need, seeing them placed in foster care and fast-tracked for adoption. She and her husband decided to foster-to-adopt a pair of siblings from the Head Start program, after which Kathy began her full-time commitment to foster care. “I chose to devote myself to caring for the state’s neediest children,” she wrote.

Kathy and her husband were awarded Massachusetts Foster Parents of the Year in 1996. In 2002 they were awarded the Goldie Rogers Memorial Award for embodying Goldie’s ‘spirit of dedication and commitment to foster parenting and advocacy efforts’. In 2003, Kathy was featured as one of People magazine’s ‘Heroes Among Us’.

Another Place at the Table is an excellent read for current foster parents, those considering becoming a foster parent, and those who are curious to know more about the system in general. Kathy writes about heartbreaking situations and difficult children but manages to keep a positive attitude and a sense of hopefulness. She believes in the goodness of people and the ability to make a positive impact on children’s lives through patience and compassion. Through her writing, Kathy empowers readers to “live a life that matters, a life that makes a difference”.

Read reviews and see why Another Place at the Table has been rated 4.2 out of 5 stars on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/391081.Another_Place_at_the_Table

Read more about Kathy Harrison here: http://www.helpourkidsinc.org/foster-hero-kathy-harrison/