November 1, 2014

Medina
Rain
39°F

Foster program celebrating success

MONTVILLE TWP. — Medina County has a long history of fostering and adopting children, Mead Wilkins said at an event Thursday to celebrate that legacy.

The director of Medina County Job and Family Services said that while other counties built orphanages for children who lost their parents in the Civil War, Medina County looked to its residents to open their homes to them.

“What we did when we had children was we would run an ad in the paper. We would appeal to farmers and we would say, ‘If you help with this child, we’ll help with your farm,’ ” Wilkins said.

The system is more sophisticated now, but the county still relies on residents to provide loving, accepting homes to children in need.

“Medina has always been kind of a grassroots child welfare organization,” Wilkins said.

The goal of the Rising Up and Moving On event Thursday at Rustic Hills Country Club was to celebrate the successes of that system.

Fifteen-year-old Courtney, for example, related how living with her foster family helped her learn and grow.

“She’s probably been through more in her 15 years than we have been through in our lifetimes,” Wilkins said.

Courtney explained she was born to a young mother in southern Ohio and was taken from her family as a toddler.

“From age 2 on, my life was like a roller-coaster ride at Cedar Point. … Fast, slow, scary, dark, lots of turns and moves,” she said. “Many times I felt like screaming. Just like a roller coaster, I never knew what I faced around the corner.”

She had been in and out of 10 foster homes. She had been adopted and un-adopted twice. Courtney said the arrangements never seemed to work out.

That was until her counselor at A.I. Root Middle School in Medina, Kim Bergen, and her husband, Dave, decided to make Courtney part of their family.

“We said we wanted to do more with her than just my eight hours a day,” Kim Bergen said. “We didn’t wake up one day and say we wanted to be foster parents. We woke up one day and said we wanted to be Courtney’s foster parents.”

Now, Courtney said she has her own room, a puppy, better grades and lots of support from her new family and the staff at school. Her life isn’t quite the roller coaster it was before, she said.

“It’s more like a Ferris wheel now,” Courtney said after Thursday’s event.

Other stories of accomplishment Thursday included the Wadsworth family with five children that sorted out its problems thanks to the foster system and was successfully reunited; 19-year-old Sarah, who graduated from the foster system, keeping a strong relationship with her biological family and her foster family; and 12-year-old Austin, who learned to manage his bipolar disorder through an equestrian program.

Perhaps the most inspiring story of the day was that of 17-year-old Randy, who bounced between foster families and psychiatric hospitals throughout his life. A year ago, he suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for two months, all the while under the guardianship of the Medina County JFS.

Doctors said he likely would never wake, but Wilkins said he held out hope. One night, Randy pulled out his breathing tube and began to breathe on his own.

After months of intensive speech and physical therapy, Randy now can talk and read. His doctors said one day he may be able to walk and run.

Once severely depressed, Randy had the loudest laugh at Thursday’s event whenever a speaker made a joke.

Randy ended the program by reading some words his helpers gave him.

“Thank you all for coming,” Randy said, sending Rising Up and Moving On guests home with hope.

Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@medina-gazette.com.