After long search, teen finds family

At age 16, Heather had spent 11 years of her life in foster care. She experienced trauma and abuse at a young age. Diagnosed as autistic, Heather had a lengthy history of behaviorial and emotional challenges.

Referred to CHSW’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) program in July 2009, Heather resided at a group home for children with special needs. She successfully graduated after completing her treatment goals and made improvements in her physical development, academics and social skills. Heather became more engaged in her recruitment and was determined to find her forever family.

Funded by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the national WWK program implements proactive, child-focused recruitment model targeted on moving the longest-waiting children from foster care to adoption. The model focuses on recruiters building a relationship with the children, learning their needs and finding the best home.

CHSW began offering the program in 2004 and WWK’s recruiters have matched 293 children in adoptive homes and finalized 231 adoptions, generating WWK’s’s best placement rate in the country.

In 2013, Courtney Angeles, formerly a recruiter and now program manager for WWK at CHSW, reached out to Karla and Jim Buchanan whose parenting experiences and interests made them a good fit for Heather.  Karla and Jim Buchanan fostered 35 children over 10 years and had never turned a child down.

“Courtney worked hard to help us troubleshoot delays in adoption,” Karla said. “Courtney was our cheerleader, never gave up on helping us, and was key to our communication with Heather.”

Heather wanted the Buchanans to be her legal parents and feel the permanency of their family, even though she was approaching adulthood. The family remained committed to Heather, and in 2015, the Buchanans adopted Heather after she spent the majority of her life in foster care.

“CHSW and WWK believes that every child no matter age, deserves a loving permanent home, which is a reflection of our family’s values as well,” Karla said. “Not all families think of having an older child, but the older kids need a home more, and we want to provide that to them. We believe no one should get left behind or forgotten.”

Heather’s parents and adopted siblings remain committed to her success.  

Jennifer Parsons is the marketing communications manager for CHSW.