“It Was Challenging, It Was Exciting, and It Was Worth It”

My Journey of Becoming an Adoptive Mom

As Told By Felicia Stratten

Adoption begins in your heart. When Felicia Stratten and her husband Sean decided they wanted to expand their family, they envisioned adopting a 5-year-old boy. Flash forward to today, and their family has expanded by adopting a 12-year-old girl, their daughter, Angelle.

Angelle is on her school’s cheerleader team and part of the yearbook committee.  She’s very creative and loves art, especially painting and drawing. Angelle wants to be a playwright or an actress. She writes short stories and has been working on a play about her adoption journey. She is very adventurous and wants to scuba dive, skydive, parasail, and travel more. She has already swam with dolphins, zip-lined, and snorkeled. Her dream trips are Dubai and Paris. Felicia and Sean are also adventurous and love to travel, so taking vacations to explore new destinations, cultures, and experiences has been a fun way for their family to bond.

Felicia is a Child-Centered Adoption Recruiter here at the Center for Law and Social Work. Felicia earned her Masters in Social Work and has been working in Child Welfare since 1995. She has worked at CLSW since 2017. Last year Felicia and her husband completed the adoption of their daughter whom they were foster parents to before adopting. CLSW sat down with Felicia to discuss her roles as both an adoptive mother and as a Child-Centered Adoption Recruiter.

Felicia Stratten, MSW

CLSW: Tell me about your role here at CLSW.

I’ve been a part of the CLSW team since October of 2017. My role as a Child-Center Adoption Recruiter is to match Youth in Care who are waiting for their forever home with licensed foster parents. “Matching” means that I meet with the Youth In Care, I set up quarterly visits with the child going forward, and I meet with potential families who might be a great fit and could potentially be their forever home. My goal is to find the family who will be that long-term or permanent support system for the child.

CLSW: What is your favorite part about your job?

My favorite part about my job is when I make a successful match. A successful match is one that ultimately ends in adoption. That’s my favorite part.

CLSW: If you could sum up your family’s adoption story in a few words what would they be?

“And there you have it”. It was challenging, it was exciting, and it was worth it.

CLSW: Where did your adoption journey begin for your own family and where is it now?

Well, I got married later in life, at a point where I knew I didn’t want to do diapers and sleepless nights. So after discussing with my husband, we decided to adopt. Our journey began when I first started working for the Adoption Listing Service at CLSW and my supervisor, Katie Friend, assigned me my caseload. I noticed my daughters picture as part of it and I recognized her from when I was a case manager at a different agency. I thought she had been adopted by a relative so I called back to the agency to find out why she was still listed. It turned out that the previous arrangement fell through and that’s where our adoption journey began. We finalized our adoption on December 5th of 2018 and now we’re onto the next step. You know, you think the journey has started back then but it’s really just starting after everything is final. Now it’s just a different leg of the journey.

CLSW: What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?

Oh my gosh, my favorite thing about being a mom is actually being able to impart different things into her life or teach her things that I’ve learned throughout my own life. It’s also watching her learn things on her own whether it be the hard way or not. I love just watching her grow and come into her own.

CLSW: What has surprised you the most in the process of finalizing your daughter’s adoption?

What surprised me most was how quickly it went once the subsidy paperwork and everything was in.  A subsidy is financial assistance from the State to help cover various costs for adopted children’s needs. So after that was taken care of, it went smoothly. It was nothing like I thought it would be going into court. It was really quick and very simple so that piece was the biggest surprise.

CLSW: What is one thing you wish people knew about adoption or foster care?

The one thing I wish people knew about adopting from foster care is that it’s not as scary as they think it is. It does come with a lot of red tape. It does take, in most cases, a lot of time but it’s not as scary as people make it out to be. I think people get dependent on the support of DCFS or a private agency and they get caught up when that’s gone but its never really gone because you have post-adopt services so you still have resources. I just like not having the departments involved and we can really do things on our own and grow as a family. If they would just look beyond that safety net being gone, I think that they would be able to be more open to adoption and all that it has to offer.

CLSW: What advice do you have for other adoptive parents?

Be honest with yourself, know your limits, and be committed if you’re going to do it.

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May is National Foster Care Month. There are over 440,000 children in foster care in the U.S. today. Youth in care are there at no fault of their own. In Illinois alone, there are 17,920 children currently in foster care. Reunification is typically the goal for these children and their families, but in Illinois, over 3,300 children in foster care are waiting for adoptive families.  Most of the youth in care who are waiting to be adopted are part of sibling groups and are school-aged. We have a team of Child-Centered Adoption Recruiters through Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, a program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. This program is up to three times more effective at serving older youth, sibling groups, children with special needs, and other children who have been in foster care the longest.  Call the Center for Law and Social Work today at 1-800-572-2390 if you are interested in taking the next steps in becoming a licensed foster parent. It is only through the selflessness and compassion of foster parents like Felicia and her husband in which children awaiting adoption are able to find their forever families. As Felicia said, it’s challenging, it’s exciting, and it’s worth it.

Visit the “Services” tab of our website to learn more about our programs spanning all the way from adoption and foster care to backup planning and adult guardianship and beyond.

 

http://www.clsw.org/felicia/

Public Adoption and Why It’s So Important

By Katie Friend, MA

Adoptions Listing Service and Inquiry Unit and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Adoption Supervisor Katie Friend says after 25 years in social work, building trusting and genuine relationships with our most vulnerable youth is not only important but priceless. Read more about how she sees herself as a matchmaker for children in foster care looking for their forever home.

It may sound cliché, especially with “Friend” as your last name, but I like helping people. Providing knowledge and assistance is very rewarding. Child welfare allowed me to tap into a wide variety of experiences such as finding valuable resources for youth and families and increasing my ability to be objective while being an advocate for our most vulnerable. Although I work very closely with the youth, families and other professionals at the Center for Law and Social Work, I still feel as if my role is more behind the scenes. Often times I am steering the process with a gentle nudge or in a more demanding way if necessary. It feels good to be viewed as a valuable and respected member of the team. It’s often said that the rewards received from social service aren’t financial but come in the form of the lives you touch and help change for the better.


The youth I work with have complicated stories. There’s seldom a happy reason behind a child coming into foster care. Therefore, establishing trust can be difficult, especially with our youth who have been in care for many years. By the time they’re assigned onto my caseload, they’ve told their story 1,000 times to countless people- case workers, therapists, teachers, foster parents and classmates. They’ve been placed in a foster home they liked and then were pulled out. They’ve formed bonds that were broken again and again by the system and here I am, asking them to trust an adult…again. The heartbreaking challenge is when the trusting relationship is formed and you don’t have any available families for them. You see the hurt in their eyes and the hopelessness. Most families see a stigma attached to kids 13 and over and are hesitant to take a chance on a youth older than age 8.


Not every story is heartbreaking though. When a match is made and the child is brought to meet his or her prospective parents, everyone is on their best behavior. Over time you see the walls break down, you see the authenticity come out and you get a feel for how they’ll come together as a unit. It’s one of my favorite parts about my job at CLSW- seeing a child be brave enough to trust adults once more and seeing the adults fall in love with the child.


The importance of our youth having lifelong connections can’t be stressed enough. They say it takes a village and I love being part of and helping to create that village. Hopefully the Village is an adoptive family but if the Village is something different, that can be great too. Our youth need mentors, teachers, coaches, fictive kin and biological family to wrap their arms and resources around our youth forever- not just until age 18.
Working for the Adoption Listing Service of Illinois at CLSW has opened my eyes to the urgent need for adoptive families for our youth 8-17 years old. They are the faces you come across time after time on various adoption websites. Yes, their past contains trauma. Breaking down barriers, building trust and self esteem is hard work but it is very possible. It’s a myth that youth 8-17 don’t want to be adopted; they do and they tell me often and I can see it in the eyes of the ones not willing to say it out loud. The youth are not perfect and the changes are slow to manifest but they want and deserve a stable, nurturing, supportive and loving family. You may have heard an ad about becoming a foster parent that says “You don’t have to be perfect to be a foster parent”; and that is the truth. These children are not looking for “perfect families”. We have in depth conversations with our youth about what they want in a family. They are open minded and we talk honestly about our families who are of various ethnicities, races, gender, marital status, sexual orientation. What these children want most above anything else is a family that will care for, love, and support them.


Katie Friend is the Adoption Listing Service and Inquiry Unit and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Supervisor with The Center for Law and Social Work. Last year at the annual summit she received Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Supervisor of the year Award. She is a former Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter and has been working in social services for 25 years.

http://www.clsw.org/public-adoption-and-why-its-so-important/