There are many things I’ve accomplished in my life that I sure am proud of.
Not only was I the first family member in three generations to join the military, but I was also the only woman who has served — and still am.
Of course I was nervous when I embarked on this journey and wasn’t sure if I’d make the cut.
But after nine grueling weeks of training I remember the moment when I transitioned from “recruit” to “sailor” during a ceremony held after our final test called battle stations.
My knee was throbbing and I could barely stand, but I still stood at attention, holding back tears of pride.
I felt victorious; it’s a feeling I truly cannot describe. I still get it today whenever I attend military appreciation events where children sing patriotic songs and hand out drawings they’ve made of service members saluting the American flag.
Because I served honorably, I was afforded the privilege to embark on my next greatest accomplishment: college.
Once again, I was the first person in my family — of any generation — to attend college.
During that time I pushed myself through many trying times, including the death of my brother.
But I smiled from ear to ear while walking across the stage during graduation. I was resilient.
Despite these great accomplishments, the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life was adopt my nephew who has been in foster care since he was 5 years old.
He is now 11, but had we known sooner the situation he was in we would have started the process a long time ago.
Did you know that in Johnson County there were 188 children in foster care as of September?
What is more concerning about this number is that out of these 188 children, none of them are in kinship care where they are placed with family members.
The reason for this varies.
Some family members do not wish to get involved because they are afraid of retaliation.
Some simply may not have the means to take another person in their home.
And then there are some who cannot pass a background check.
For whatever reason, there were zero children in Johnson County placed with family members that would prevent them from being in state foster care.
Relatives are actually the preferred resource for children who must be removed from their birth parents because it maintains the children’s connections with their families.
Could you imagine being taken away from your parents for reasons you don’t understand only to be placed with a stranger?
A stranger who probably has different rules and different routines.
Being shuffled to a new school and losing friends?
Being with family at least allows the child to remain somewhat comfortable during a most stressful and uncertain time.
Last Friday was National Adoption Day and my husband and I went to a family law court to finalize the beginning of our new family.
We were surrounded by a lot of people who helped guide us through the process along the way and it was just a wonderful day.
The last question our attorney asked us before the judge was if we felt adoption was in the best interest of the child before us and all of the horrible things he has ever been through flashed before me and I began to cry when I said yes.
We don’t know why bad things happen to children, but we are so thankful that God placed us in his life at the right time.
If there was not divine intervention, my nephew would’ve perhaps been adopted by strangers who might not ever let us see him. Or he might have stayed in state care until he was 18.
Instead he is in a loving home where he is a being nurtured to grow into a resilient young man.
Getting to adopt just before the holidays has made everything even better.
We have so much to be thankful for this year and we hope God will continue to bless our family.
But, there are still children out there who need love and to be taken in as their own.
If you’ve ever considered adoption, please consider taking a child out of foster care. You can help break the chains of abuse and save their life.
And the reward is so great for all involved.
Like I said, I’ve done many things in my life to be proud of, but nothing could ever compare to adopting out of foster care.
Features Reporter Jessica Pounds can be reached at 817-645-2441, ext. 2333, or firstname.lastname@example.org.