Family shares story during National Adoption Month

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and advocates are working to make sure adopted children’s stories are being told, especially those of older children.

While we often hear from parents who have adopted, advocates say this month is really about sharing the children’s stories. 15-year-old Isabella Goodman was adopted by Christina and James Goodman when she was 10-years-old.

Isabella initially met the Goodmans when she was 9, but it wasn’t always an easy road. Isabella said even though she wanted Christina and James to adopt her, she wasn’t certain they would.

“First, I didn’t believe it, of course, because I’ve been told that I was going to get adopted,” said Isabella. “Then, they changed their mind. Then Mom basically said, ‘I love you and you’re not going anywhere. You’re staying here.’ Then that’s whenever everything switched and I knew that I was saying gonna stay there forever.”

She and her parents say because of her age she vividly remembered her journey through foster care and she had a lot of walls up when she got to their home.

“To be put into foster care and to be moved from home to home, that wouldn’t be easy for an adult, let alone a child,” said Christina.

However, the Goodmans knew Isabella was meant to be with them.

“She’s always seemed the perfect mix between me, Christina,” said James. “It’s almost like she sees us as always being there. There is no before us to her.”

James and Isabella work together, and he said people often assume Isabella is his biological daughter because their personalities are so similar.

Christina Goodman has two older biological children and the couple has adopted three other children and continues to welcome foster children into their home.

The Goodmans are very open about their story and have inspired others to foster and even adopt, including Christina’s sister.

“There are so many kids in the foster care system that need homes,” said Christina. “There are so many children in the foster care system that need that unconditional love.”

The Goodmans said they treat every child that comes into their home the same, no matter if they are biological, adopted or fostered.

Aisha Ward with Youth Villages has been with the Goodmans throughout their journey. She said the change was obvious once Isabella was able to say she was home.

“She physically looked different and I had never seen that before,” said Ward. “I had been here a couple of years and I just had to step out because she looked brighter.”

There are many older children like Isabella. Right now there are about 400 children ready to find their families in Tennessee.

Advocates say often older children have a stigma surrounding them, that’s something Christina said really hurts here to hear.

“There’s going to be some baggage that comes along with kids that are in foster care, but once you break down those walls… it’s so well worth it,” said Christina.

Tennessee is a foster to adopt state, so parents must foster their child for at least six months before adopting to make sure it’s the best environment for parent and child.

“You will have to complete the foster parenting classes. You do have to pass you know background checks. There’s a home check just to make sure there’s no safety concerns or anything like that,” said Shannon Wood, Department of Child Services Permanency and Adoption Specialist. “You’re going to need to be very patient because these things take time.”

Organizations like Youth Villages, which the Goodmans worked with, provide support through that process for both the parents and children.

Adoption advocates said adoption has an impact well beyond childhood.

“Everyone should have a family, every child should have that unconditional love and support and there’s a family out there for every child, we have to find them,” said Wood. “You don’t ever stop needing your parents or your family… Just because you turn 18 and you don’t ever stop needing your family.”

Ward echoed that sentiment, calling parents’ homes a safe place.

“Even as we get older, in our early 20s, as we continue to get older, we are always looking for a sense of belonging our parent’s home will always be a safe place,” said Ward.

Isabella said although it can seem tough at times, she encourages other children in her same situation to stay positive.

“You’ll find the right family and then you’ll find that out that there are people out there that actually care and love you.”

Youth Villages is hosting informational sessions for people interested in fostering and adopting. The next will be held Thursday, Nov. 11 at 6 p.m.

For more information on the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and the foster to adopt program, click here.

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