Give the Gift of Home this Holiday Season: Become a Foster or Adoptive Parent

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Heather and Kevin Kyser and their six children.

Article Contributed by
Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services

Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services encourages residents to consider giving a precious gift, the gift of family and home to a child, teen, or group of siblings here in Chautauqua County this holiday season.

“Like gifts, gatherings, and good tidings, family is central to the holiday season,” said Leanna Luka-Conley, Deputy Commissioner of Children and Family Services. “Many of us have treasured holiday family memories from childhood, or from watching the faces of our own children light up with holiday joy. For many children in our community, the holidays can serve as a painful reminder of the difficulties that they have endured. Too many children have suffered abuse, neglect, and abandonment, and they urgently need caring foster or adoptive parents to welcome them into their lives.”

The Department’s home finding and adoption teams and community agencies work diligently at recruiting new foster parents and equipping them with the tools needed to succeed and finding forever homes for children in Chautauqua County.

Local family Heather and Kevin Kyser share their adoption story, which is written by Heather Kyser:

We began our adoption journey as foster parents through the Department of Health and Human Services. When our foster children finally stood before the judge and received our last name, it was worth every tear, obstacle, and frustration. My husband and I love all of our children (two biological and four adopted) unconditionally. Love is compassion in action, and takes a lot of work. If we can provide stability and security for a child in need, then we know we have done our part for that one child.

Adopting a child is an amazing journey with successes and setbacks. An open mind and being adaptable help navigate the trials along the way. The adoption process is filled with emotions – all of them. There are days of exhaustion, depression, fear, anger, but also love, happiness, laughter, and hope. There is gratitude towards the biological parents for giving your child the chance at life, and at the same time, the deep hurt you know those parents are often experiencing. And the moment of exhilaration and overwhelming joy when that precious child becomes a member of our forever family.

The legal process of adopting a child from the foster care system can be lengthy. In 2013, we received three biological siblings (two toddler boys with special needs in May, and their newborn sister in December). These three beautiful children were adopted in the spring of 2019, almost six years after being placed in our care. In the spring of 2022, we adopted another child. After spending her entire four years in the foster care system, she officially became part of our family. My husband and I are passionate advocates for adoption; every child is worth the wait.

Having a strong support system through the Department of Health and Human Services made every step of our adoption process a bit easier. We learned that our caseworkers and support groups were (and are) our strongest advocates. Since the beginning of our journey, we have been provided with parenting advice, education, behavioral training resources, and emotional support. These children have taught us to be vulnerable and take risks for them, and to love big.

Some say our adopted kids are so lucky to have us. The truth is that we are the luckiest parents on Earth who get the privilege of having an adopted child call us Mom and Dad, to celebrate victories with, and to give and receive affection. If adoption is something you would consider, the love you will have for your child will outweigh every struggle you will experience throughout the adoption journey. Adopting a child won’t change the world. But for that child, the world will change. Never underestimate the difference you can make in the life of a child.

Last month, in celebration of National Adoption Month, the Department recognized eight families who adopted 14 children in Chautauqua County over the past year.

To learn more about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, please contact the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services at (716) 661-8212 and visit its website https://chqgov.com/humansocial-services/children-family-services.