A Family United

When Igor and Stefano envisioned their future, it always included raising children together.

While attending an Allies for Every Child (Allies) information session, the couple learned about the tremendous need for foster parents right here in Los Angeles for thousands of children who enter the system each year.  It was then when they both knew that adoption through foster care with Allies was where their journey should begin.

The couple fostered several children together, supporting them and loving them until they could ultimately reunite with their birth parents. Last December, while already fostering a 3-month-old baby girl, the couple received a phone call about also-3-month-old Connor, the biological brother of another Allies foster child. The couple jumped at the chance to open their home and their hearts to Connor, which would allow the brothers to remain connected.

In Igor and Stefano’s words, Connor is now a, “shy tornado,” who loves to run, jump, roll, and play, as well as cuddle with his dads and sister. Despite having two toddlers, the family enjoys long walks together, eschewing the stroller in favor of hikes up Runyon Canyon (followed by a nap!). Connor is already an experienced traveler, making the trek back home to his parents’ native Italy to meet his extended family who were eager to envelop Connor in love, kisses, and, of course, lots of food. Connor already speaks bits of Italian, waving ‘ciao’ to everyone he greets. Igor and Stefano have made sure Connor remains close to his brother, scheduling family outings together to make new memories.

For Igor and Stefano, becoming new parents has been an adventure that has been natural, yet surprising. “It’s almost like two different relationships growing” Igor said. “[The kids] grow, but we grow, too.”

Hope and Healing

Nearly 18 years ago, Maria Ramirez gave birth to a baby boy at the age of 16. A child herself, she was unprepared and unequipped for the needs of a newborn. She had no money and few resources. She occasionally didn’t have enough food or clothing for her child, a fact she still harbors guilt over today. Compelled to make money to provide for her son, Maria dropped out of high school to work full time, but was forced out of the workplace by abuse at the hands of her boss.

Trauma is cyclical. It fundamentally reshapes the architecture of our brains, changing our actions, behaviors, beliefs, and expectations of others. Trauma’s cyclical nature often haunts families for generations, and recent research suggests that trauma may impact how the very makeup of who we are – our DNA – is expressed. Allies for Every Child (Allies) staff witness this pernicious cycle every single day. And while trauma can present enormous challenges to our children and families, recent research suggests that supportive therapy and other interventions can buffer its effects. Trauma-informed care has become the centerpiece of Allies’ approach to treatment in hopes of breaking this cycle of trauma for future generations of families like the Ramirez’.

When the Maria and her family of seven connected with Allies in 2016, they were in a dark place. Four of Maria’s children had suffered abuse at the hands of a relative. They were no longer safe in their home, requiring an emergency relocation to a new neighborhood and a new life. The family lived on the brink of homelessness, struggling to keep up with the rising rents in Los Angeles on one income, and now forced to relocate to new neighborhood without the community connections and social support that families need to thrive. Perhaps worst of all, Maria had given up hope of providing a better childhood, and better life, for her five children.

The Ramirez family began working with Alyssa, an In-Home Outreach Counselor in Allies’ Family Preservation program, and several interns in the Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Program in the fall of 2016. They began intensive therapy to heal the wounds of unchecked trauma, and comprehensive case management to work through the logistical challenges of starting over.

As Alyssa remembers: the early months were an emotional rollercoaster. Maria was morose, broken from a cycle of trauma that perpetuated itself from her childhood into her adult life, and now into her children’s childhoods as well. In her darkest moments, she confessed to Alyssa that she had contemplated suicide.  

Together, they worked to stabilize her thoughts and feelings and help her recognize the small but persistent steps she was taking to give her kids a better life. Alyssa helped Maria give structure to her day, charting out a schedule that didn’t allow her time to dwell on the past.

Alyssa encouraged Maria to make time for her own goals – a high school diploma, enrolling at Santa Monica College, and a cosmetology career. They worked through her prior workplace abuse so she felt comfortable interviewing for jobs, and built her resume to make her a competitive candidate. She now has a fulltime job, which they both credit as a great shot of confidence for her self-esteem.

Alyssa and Allies staff sought stability from all angles. Allies helped secure three months of rental assistance to keep the family in their new home throughout their transition and treatment. Alyssa secured beds so that no one would have to sleep on the floor at night again. She found assistance to stay current on the LADWP bill to keep the lights on so the kids could do their homework. She connected them to attorneys to help navigate the intricacies of the legal system. She also found the family a dining room table, finally giving them a hub for nightly dinners, homework, games of Jenga, laughter, and family meetings that helped them heal.

Working with Alyssa, the family worked tirelessly to plug into their new neighborhood and build vital social connections that buffer toxic stress. Alyssa secured YMCA memberships for the entire family to give them a safe place to be active together. The kids joined a local Boys & Girls Club with access to creative classes, team sports, and new friends. Her youngest children joined youth soccer teams, excelling at the hobby that they practiced with their dad every night when he got home from work.

When the Ramirez family finished Allies’ Family Preservation program, Alyssa felt that they still needed additional support to get their feet on solid ground. She referred them to her colleague, Annette, in Allies’ Prevention & Aftercare program to continue case management and remain engaged in Allies’ social events – including Arts Festival, holiday parties, and more – that are the cornerstones of a healthy, supportive community.

Annette continued to build on the skills that each family member learned with Alyssa – helping her oldest son work on his resume and interview for jobs, and encouraging Maria as she nears the completion of her GED. When Maria’s oldest son recently became a father, Annette connected the young family to Allies’ prenatal resources to work on the parenting skills and baby bonding that will ultimately provide the baby with the nurturing, supportive childhood necessary to break the cycle for the next generation.

Though trauma is cyclical, history is not destiny. What struck Alyssa and Annette most during their time with the Ramirez family was not their trauma, but their willingness to work through it together as a family. Maria and her husband hungered for guidance and resources to break the cycles of trauma for their children. They followed through on every suggestion from Allies – be it therapy, medical appointments, meetings with attorneys, sports teams, or showing up to a community event. They allowed hope to exist for a better life, even when it was hard to believe. And with the support of Allies’ comprehensive services, they were able to lean into each other for the love and support they needed to find solid ground.

*Names have been changed

A Family’s Journey

When Nancy first began working with Allies for Every Child, life felt hopeless.

Pregnant with her third child and suffering from depression, she was completely overwhelmed at the thought of parenting an infant with two rambunctious toddlers. As a DREAM Act recipient on a path towards citizenship, she was navigating the complexities and constant stresses of the immigration system. And while she loved being a parent, the isolation of being a stay-at-home-mom left her feeling listless and alone.

“I was lost,” Nancy said.

After giving birth to her son, Nancy connected with Allies’ home educator, Virginia, to build a path toward healing. She and Virginia mapped out her goals for the coming year and created a plan to achieve them. Nancy wanted to overcome her postpartum depression and have a career for herself – something that gave her an identity outside of the home.

Virginia connected her with an Allies mental health intern to work through postpartum depression and help deepen her bond with her children. Virginia and Nancy worked together to boost Nancy’s confidence in herself and ability to advocate for her children. She also connected her to Allies’ robust calendar of social events to help her develop a sense of belonging in her community.

When Virginia noticed that her son was using gestures to communicate, a potential sign of developmental delay at this age, she immediately connected him with Allies’ disabilities manager for screening. When the screening indicated the need for more support, Allies connected him with a therapist that could provide speech training in her home.

Virginia worked with Nancy on feeling comfortable asking for help when she needed it, and knowing how to advocate for what was best for her children. Thanks to the skills she learned with Virginia, Nancy become very involved with her older children’s school, serving as a PTA volunteer and working with other moms at the school to advocate for their children.

Nancy credits Allies with giving her the support she needed to be the mom she wanted to be. She was so inspired working with Virginia and the Allies team that she decided to return to school full-time to purse a degree in social work.

 “I want to be able to help other people when they feel like giving up,” Nancy said.

She also serves as a de facto recruiter for Allies services, recommending the programs to all of the moms with young children who she runs into in the community.

“I recommend the programs to everyone,” Nancy said. “I don’t know where I would be without [Allies].”

An Advocate for All

It’s time for birthday “cake” to celebrate 3-year-old Ryan’s recent birthday. The children in San Juana’s family childcare get to work in their “bakery,” mixing flour, food coloring, and water, rolling it, patting it, and adding a popsicle stick “candle” to top off this sensory exploration/perfect birthday treat.

San Juana is part of Allies for Every Child’s (Allies) network of dozens of contracted family childcare providers throughout Los Angeles who are supported by Allies’ child development staff to ensure that children in daycare are receiving the highest quality early education.

By working with Allies’ Family Support Specialist Cynthia, San Juana is a conduit to all of Allies’ supportive services, including mental health supports, case management, disabilities services, prenatal programs, and community social events, further expanding Allies’ reach into the community.

San Juana is fascinated by child development, working to completely overhaul her home to be a creative space for developing minds – replete with dramatic play areas, cozy corners for reading books, and a sandbox that doubles as a dinosaur excavation site. She attends monthly Allies trainings on everything from trauma-informed care and infant mental health to dealing with challenging behaviors and potty training issues – taking advantage of Allies’ deep network of resources to expand the supports she can offer to her families.

She’s a tireless advocate for children and families, supporting them with any challenge they face. When she noticed one of the girls in her class was struggling to speak, San Juana connected her with Allies’ Disabilities Manager to enroll in speech therapy. When one of her families was in a rental dispute with their landlord and had to move into an unfurnished garage, she worked with Cynthia to secure furniture and a refrigerator so the family could sleep in a warm bed and store fresh, healthy foods. She routinely refers her families to Allies’ Prevention & Aftercare program for case management, and is a regular at Allies’ social events to help plug her families into the supportive community that they need.

San Juana is also a trusted, loyal confidante for families in the program, who often consider her an extension of their family. When an expectant mother in her class had nowhere to turn when she needed someone to watch her son while she delivered her baby, San Juana didn’t think twice before offering up her home. If a parent needs to work an extra shift on a weekend to make ends meet, she doesn’t hesitate to offer to babysit to help ease the burden on her families. She’s always available to lend an ear to a family in need, celebrating their triumphs and empathizing with their challenges.

There’s no challenge too great or any task too small for San Juana, making her a perfect fit for Allies’ comprehensive approach to providing nurturing childhoods for the children in our Los Angeles community.

A Family Built By Love

All her life, Erika knew she wanted to be a mom. But fears of “emotional risk” had always dissuaded her from adoption through foster care. After happening upon an online ad for a foster care orientation, she took it as a sign to go, despite feeling it would be “a waste of time,” as she didn’t think she was emotionally ready.

“Quite honestly, I was scared of the process,” Erika said. “But it completely changed my mind about risk. I realized that risk is just part of what motherhood was going to entail. But that as a mother, I was supposed to take on that risk, not the child.”

Erika began Model Approaching to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP) classes at Allies for Every Child (Allies), learning about the foster care system and the thousands of children in Los Angeles who are placed in foster care each year.

“MAPP class completely changed me as a person,” Erika said. “Not just the motherhood part, which was definitely underdeveloped, but just the way that I look at other people in the challenges they’re facing. I realized, ‘Who am I to judge someone who was dealt a completely different deck of cards than me?’”

When Allies’ social worker (“the stork” as Erika calls him) introduced her to 18-day old Logan, the connection was instant.

Logan is now “very two,” charging headfirst into life with a gusto that only two-year-olds can muster. He and his mom are now part of a model modern family. He delights in blowing bubbles, singing along to Moana, and pulling his sister’s hair.

Erika is forthright about Logan’s adoption, and mindful of speaking positively about his birth mother, something she feels is important for all foster families to embrace.

On eventful days during their journey, Erika remembers a favorite gospel song, “Worth Fighting For,” always finding its way onto the radio, and credits it as an apropos reminder of the process. She now speaks at the same Allies’ MAPP classes that she attended, hoping to encourage others to be open to a risk so worth fighting for.

Fear and Uncertainty in Los Angeles

What will happen if you’re not here when I get home from school?”

Uncertainty about the future of federal immigration policy and acrimonious rhetoric coming from the nation’s top office have left immigrant communities in a haze of chaos and fear.

Grace and Tony Ramirez* are undocumented immigrants. Their five children, ages 3 to 14, are American citizens. They are part of the nearly 9 million people in “mixed status” families in the United States, haunted by recent changes in federal immigration policy and a persistent fear that a deportation order will tear them apart.

Their two youngest children are part of Allies for Every Child’s (Allies’) network of contracted family childcare providers, which provides full day, year-round early education, and more recently, a supportive ear to buffer the toxic stress that chronic fear engenders.  The uncertainty of immigration enforcement and the racially charged rhetoric openly used in the press have left the Ramirez’s wondering if the United States is still a country where their family is safe, and what toll the constant fear of deportation will exact on their kids.

The Ramirez’s came to the United States from Mexico more than 14 years ago with a dream to work, own a home, raise a family, and become legal residents, giving their future children opportunities they felt they wouldn’t have living in Mexico.

For now, that is a dream deferred.

Since the new administration took office in January, immigration-related arrests have increased nearly 40% compared to the same period last year. While arrests have increased, the capacity of immigration courts has not, creating a backlog of nearly 57,000 cases in Los Angeles alone, and leaving more people languishing in detention centers or jails for longer periods of time.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have abandoned the previous administration’s policy of targeting only those with violent criminal records, creating a new dawn of enforcement that led one veteran ICE agent to decry, “we’re targeting the most vulnerable people, not the worst,” to The New Yorker. Increasingly, arrests are happening in homes, workplaces, and in the streets, engulfing immigrant communities in a haze of chaos and fear.

The children and families living in these neighbors are also part of our Allies community. Recently, Allies staff have witnessed a dramatic uptick in alarm among our clients, working to both connect families with legal resources, and to allay the repercussions that social disorder and chaos have on young children during critical periods of development when they’re making judgements about whether or not the world is safe. In April, Allies hosted legal experts from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for a frank discussion about what to expect when nothing is certain in American immigration policy.

Fear has completely changed the Ramirez’s routine. Every time they venture out the door is calculated risk, only leaving the house when, “absolutely necessary,” a definition so stringent that until recently, didn’t even include trips to a doctor’s office.

Glimpses of police driving by or social media rumors of immigration checkpoints keep the Ramirez family in a purgatory of perpetual dread, fearing that one day they will get a knock on the door from ICE.

Grace says they have also noticed a dramatic change in social tenor toward undocumented immigrants, and towards all people with a skin tone similar to theirs, since the presidential election.

“There’s been a shift in how people think they can talk,” Grace said. “It’s like a wound that has been closed up for a long time, that’s been opened. He gave them the opportunity to act on that racism.”

Even in oft-considered ‘tolerant’ Los Angeles, the Ramirez’s have still been target of the same xenophobic rhetoric that laced the presidential campaign. Their older children – American citizens – have repeatedly gotten comments of the nature, “go back to Mexico” or, “this country is for white people” at their middle school in Marina del Rey. After her son was the target of a recent incident of verbal abuse after school, Grace considered speaking to the boy’s parents, but feels it’s now best to keep her head down.

Grace says the most difficult part is treading the fine line between being honest with their kids about the risk of deportation, and instilling a crippling fear in them that ends up defining their childhoods.

In her own words, “it hurts my soul” when her kids come to her, crying, with questions, like: “what will happen if you’re not here one day when we get home from school?”

And they have a plan.

“I understand that we’re not the only family with problems,” Grace said, fighting tears. “But we came to this country with a dream to work hard and be together. My fear is that I’m going to leave with nothing, including my kids.”

Grace says she’s so grateful to Allies for everything they’ve done for her two youngest children, but above all, for being a trusted ally.

Allies is always an open door. They’re very supportive and they’ve become part of our family,” Grace said, using an idiom in Spanish (“Ustedes son como un grano de arena en medio del mar”.) comparing the agency to a special grain of sand among all of the sand in the ocean.

Rhetoric around immigration in the United States often can make undocumented immigrants feel like theoretical people who can be removed one-by-one with no collateral damage. But in reality, they are often families like the Ramirez’s, who have been here for decades and developed deep roots in American society, woven into the local businesses, schools, churches, sports leagues, and social gatherings that make up the identity (and economy) of Southern California.

When asked what how she copes with the fact that the knock on the door could come at any time, Grace underscored the strength and resilience of the community around her.

“It’s important to be united and not afraid,” Grace said, admitting that’s easier to say than do.  

*names have been changed to protect their identities.

Navigating New Beginnings

When Jailah became pregnant with her daughter Rheigan – unemployed, alone, and 3,000 miles away from her family – she knew she needed help. Originally from Pennsylvania, Jailah moved to California seeking an environment with a more progressive attitude towards the LGBT community, of which she identified. But with a baby on the way, she was at a loss to handle a new life and her new role as a mother without the village necessary to raise a child.

Jailah reached out to Allies for Every Child (Allies) after seeing a flyer for the home-based Early Head Start (EHS) program. The program offered just the kind of support that she was seeking — intensive weekly visits from a home educator to help nurture child develop and quarterback life’s persistent challenges, and twice-monthly socializations to ward off the deleterious effects of social isolation and cultivate community among Allies’ families.

Jailah and Rheigan began working with Allies’ Lead Home Educator Virginia when Rheigan was just four-months-old. As a new mom without a sturdy network of support, Jailah admits that she, “didn’t even know where to start.”

Virginia and Jailah worked together to fortify Jailah’s strengths and build the skills and confidence required to face her challenges. Together, they navigated the complexities of health insurance and affordable housing. They built Jailah’s resume and sharpened her interviewing skills to land a job with regular hours and steady pay at the Department of Motor Vehicles. They problem-solved together when a utility bill was late or when Rheigan needed a new car seat. For Jailah, Virginia’s supports were a warm embrace, with no challenge insurmountable and no frustration too trivial for a venting session. As Jailah described Virginia: “she was relentlessly positive.”

What struck Virginia most about Jailah and Rheigan during their nearly three years together was their appetite for learning, diving headfirst into every activity that Virginia suggested.  To develop Rheigan’s fine motor skills, they painted, mixed up “clean mud” to make mud pies, built block homes, and shook maracas. To hone STEM capabilities, they measured ingredients for homemade playdough and created ramps to experiment with gravity. They read stories, sang songs, and learned to use words to communicate emotion. There was nothing too messy, too noisy, or too onerous for Jailah when it came to Rheigan’s development.

“We were her guinea pigs,” Jailah said. “I didn’t care if it was going to be extra work or more clean up, I wanted Rheigan to have every experience available to her.”

Virginia recalled an instance of finger-painting gone rogue, when Rheigan decided that everything, including the refrigerator, could be a canvas. Virginia caught the petite Picasso in the act and cringed at the thought of telling Jailah that her previously white refrigerator was covered in black paint, but was relieved when Jailah laughed and chalked it up to the process of parenting a toddler.

“It does get overwhelming sometimes and I don’t want to do just the bare minimum,” Jailah said. “I want Rheigan to value education and want to always do more. If I can instill that in her, it will all be worth it.”

Knowing that a supported, socially-connected mother is a stronger mother, Virginia made sure that not only was Rheigan hitting her developmental milestones, but that Jailah was growing as a person as well. In addition to “just getting my life together” as Jailah puts it, she also quickly developed into a leader in her ALLIES peer group. By her second year in the program, Jailah was elected Parent Counsel Representative, a move she felt empowered by as a minority single-mother who couldn’t speak Spanish.

Jailah is now a fierce advocate for her daughter, ensuring that Rheigan takes advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow.

Rheigan is a flourishing five-year-old who continually impresses her kindergarten teachers. She sings songs in Spanish and is quick to show you her favorite filters for a Snapchat selfie.

Though Rheigan aged out of Allies’  home-based EHS program, Jailah and Rheigan still consider Virginia an irreplaceable member of the family with permanent invitations to birthday parties, holiday gatherings, or just a pop-in whenever she’s in the neighborhood.

Allies was such a huge part of our lives.” Jailah said. “Virginia was there for the good, the bad, and the everything. She will always be a part of our family.”

A Reason to Celebrate

Michael and Nick have always had a lively home. The couple often hosted holiday fêtes, birthday soirées, and summer movie nights in their backyard, filling their home with laughter and merriment. But after marrying in Ireland in 2012, both knew that there was someone missing from the festivities.

Enter Miguel.

Miguel was placed in foster care at birth like the tens of thousands of children who enter foster care each year due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Michael and Nick first met Miguel at a foster support group at Allies for Every Child (Allies), when he was 4-months old and they were eager to become new parents. The connection was instant.

Miguel is now a 2-year-old dynamo. He’s quick with a smile or an offer to share his half-eaten lollipop, and has an unmistakable twinkle in his eye that suggests he knows that life is a stage. Just like his parents, Miguel lives to entertain. At a recent summer movie night showing in the backyard, Miguel not only stayed awake for the entirety of Singing in the Rain, but he also enhanced the showing with choreographed dance moves of his own throughout the film for dozens of guests. He loves music videos, with Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift on heavy repeat.

Michael and Nick plan to give Miguel lots of co-stars, already fostering two other children through Allies. They’re both incredibly grateful to the agency for the support and guidance throughout the entire foster and adoption process, and have remained engaged on almost a daily basis.

“We tell all our friends thinking of fostering, ‘you need an FFA. We’ve got a great one.’” Michael said.  “It makes all the difference to have someone who’s impartial, but on your side emotionally and to get you through the foster system.”

When people remark that Miguel and his foster siblings are lucky to live in such a warm, inviting home, bustling with love, activity, and a treasure trove of toys, Michael and Nick are quick to point out that they are the ones who are lucky.

For this new family, the party is just getting started.

Finding His Voice

Yanira met Abraham when he was a silly, smiley 8-month-old. His parents, Delmi and Rudy, had enrolled the family in Allies’ home-based Early Head Start (EHS) program, where once a week, a home educator would turn their living room, backyard, or wherever they were learning that day into a classroom. As the family’s teacher and main source of support, Yanira would bring learning games for Abraham plus tools and lessons for Delmi and Rudy to help support Abraham’s growth. Her first task, though, was to assess Abraham’s development to make sure he was on track.

Without regular screenings, roughly 70% percent of children who are struggling developmentally will not be identified before age 5. Early intervention for these children is critical; by age 17, one in six children across the country will have one or more developmental disability. In Yanira’s assessment of Abraham, she found he was struggling with gross motor development – he couldn’t pull himself up to stand like other kids his age. Left unaddressed, the delay could prevent him from being able to navigate his environment and develop other lifelong skills. She suggested Allies’ Disabilities Coordinator evaluate him to determine whether he’d need extra services to support his growth.

Abraham’s parents turned down the offer. The stigma around developmental disabilities, plus a common lack of knowledge about child development, often keeps parents from agreeing to evaluations or services for their kids. Yanira, on the other hand, knew how important it was to intervene early. She pushed on with teaching Rudy and Delmi about child development, and began incorporating more activities to promote Abraham’s ability to move. He loved spinning the wheels on his stroller, so Yanira turned it upside down to prompt him to pull himself up. She taught Delmi to massage Abraham’s legs and encouraged the family to take walks in the park. Soon, Abraham was pulling himself up, then taking wobbly steps, and eventually walking on his own.

While Abraham had caught up to his peers in physical movement, he still didn’t speak as much as other 13-month-olds. He was also aggressive toward them; physical communication was the only way he could express himself. This time, when Yanira recommended an evaluation, Delmi and Rudy had no second thoughts. Months of learning about child development and watching Abraham’s progress told them it was critical to act now.

“Once his parents had the knowledge,” Yanira said, “it made a big difference.”

Allies’ Disabilities Coordinator evaluated Abraham and helped him get services to address a speech delay. On top of his weekly visits with Yanira, he began working with a speech therapist at a school for children with individualized family service plans (IFSPs), or plans that detail services and goals, while Allies staff continued to help Rudy and Delmi learn to support Abraham’s development at home. His parents started talking to him more, and reading to him every day. With all the extra support, Abraham began stringing words together, and using sentences, rather than hitting, to communicate his feelings.

It wasn’t only Abraham who was growing, though. When Delmi first enrolled in the program, she told Yanira she felt lonely. Other than her husband, she had no support network.

“You’re my only friend,” she told Yanira.

Social isolation is common among parents of young children. It’s a risk factor for child abuse, and like chronic stress, it can also lead to long-term health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Yanira encouraged Delmi to bring Abraham to socialization, a monthly gathering for Allies’ home-based EHS children and their families to play and learn together. Delmi got to know the parents of Abraham’s peers, and like her son, she started talking about her experiences. She had been lonely before she came to Allies, she told them. She didn’t know much about child development. She hadn’t realized the potential consequences of letting a developmental delay go unaddressed.

Now, as Delmi watches Abraham run around the playground, chatting about Iron Man and his favorite foods in Spanish and English, the family’s growth is unmistakable. The energetic 3-year-old is even teaching English words to his monolingual mom, who’s heading back to school for ESL classes so she can better advocate for her son and for her herself.

Now, both Abraham and Delmi speak with confidence.

Learning to Say “Yesh”

Lynne always wanted to be foster parent. On a near-daily basis during the past 15 years, she witnessed the desperate need for foster parents from working and volunteering as an advocate for children in foster care in Los Angeles.

But as a single woman with a one-bedroom apartment, Lynne didn’t think she had the space or bandwidth to foster a child. After connecting with Allies for Every Child (Allies) for some words of encouragement and support, she decided that she could foster a baby, whose need for love outweighed need for space.

Less than 24 hours after completing the foster certification program through Allies, Lynne received a call about Benjamin, a 2-week-old boy with a furrowed brow and inquisitive eyes. Benjamin entered the foster care system at birth, joining the many children in Los Angeles who are placed in the system each year due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

Though life with a newborn was easier than she expected, Lynne never planned to adopt. She knew there was a profound need for foster care, providing the unconditional love that Benjamin needed until his biological family could reunite.

“My commitment was to love this baby with all my heart, which for me meant giving him back to his family once they were ready,” Lynne said.

But when it became clear that reuniting with his biological family was not an option, Lynne’s decision was easy: adoption.

Benjamin is now a sweet, rambunctious 2-year-old who says “yesh” to everything (except the dreaded nap), gallops everywhere he goes, and lights up when he spots his mom. He loves to watch baseball and created his own victory dance for when he rounds the bases. He cheers for his mom while she does the dishes, and delights in playing with the family cats.

Despite being well-versed in the foster process prior to becoming a foster parent herself, Allies’ invaluable support and resources provided a welcomed respite for Lynne as she navigated life as a new mom.

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