Changing The Framework Of Families
Gallery: Adoptive And Foster Parents Of The Year [4 Images] Click any image to expand.
By Kari Walker / Submitted Photos
During childhood, the decision to grow a family seemed as simple as a nursery rhyme: First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes mama with a baby carriage. But, what’s a couple to do when nature’s way doesn’t go quite as planned? With increasing medical advances in the field of infertility, couples often go to great lengths and spend thousands of dollars to have a child of their own. For other couples, this becomes the time to begin considering adoption.
Broussard residents Eugene and Terreé Kwarteng met in 2002 while attending UL Lafayette. Eugene, a Ragin’ Cajun football player, and Terreé, a feisty blonde, ended up as sparing partners in a Judo class and eventually married in 2008. Both shared zany and offbeat interests like going to Renaissance festivals and haunted houses—the duo even worked as performers with the Lafayette Science Museum’s annual Halloween production.
Like most couples, the Kwartengs wanted children with whom they could share their love and adventurous lives. But, their journey to becoming parents was much longer than a nine-month span.
“After we got married, we tried to have children for about four years and had one miscarriage. We had discussed adoption before we got married and decided now was the time to move forward and look into the process,” says Eugene.
A starting point for the Kwartengs was tapping into the Department of Children and Family Services, DCFS. Here, the couple learned all about becoming certified foster parents looking to adopt. The process is thorough—DCFS is strict about placing vulnerable children in protective and nurturing home environments. Many children waiting to be placed in foster care experienced a history of abuse, abandonment or do not have relatives able to provide necessary care.
The Kwartengs began attending classes for foster and adoptive parents and soon channeled their excitement as volunteers for DCFS events. Terreé, a freelance artist, loaned her talent as a face painter for kids at an adoption picnic and Eugene helped entertain others with games and activities.
It was at one of these events that the Kwartengs met their now-son, Joseph.
The couple immediately struck a chord with Joseph but waited for the relationship to blossom. At the time, Joseph was placed with a different foster family who was not on the path to adoption.
“We needed to see if he would fit in with out lifestyle—we are very active, we like to travel and to do fun things. We started with visitation and soon moved forward as foster parents,” recalls Eugene.
While all agreed Joseph’s “forever home” would be with the Kwartengs, the process was not quick and easy. On average, once the decision has been made to move from a foster relationship to adoption, it takes about a year for completion.
The Kwartengs are currently in the process of adopting another son, D’Quincy. As with Joseph, the couple approached the possibility of adoption in a responsible manner and is proud to report D’Quincy is thriving as part of the family with common interests and also serving as a role model and big brother for Joseph. The two boys are becoming avid Boy Scouts and enjoy the comforts of family life.
Mandi and Michael Perdue are another Lafayette family with a heart for foster care and adoption. Like the Kwartengs, the Perdues’ eyes were wide open to the lengthy process of becoming certified to foster and adopt.
“Most people are overwhelmed with all you have to do to get certified—lots of paperwork, home study, physicals and referrals,” Mandi states frankly. Fortunately, the system helps families on the path to fostering with a Home Development Worker as an expert source through the process.
“We adopted our first child through a private adoption in 2011. During that process, we were introduced to the idea of foster care-adoption. We were certified in 2014 and shortly after received our first foster placement. In one year we had the opportunity to foster 11 different children,” says Mandi.
The Perdues are in the process of adopting three children and are foster parenting an additional child. That makes seven children total for the Perdue clan—this blended bunch is composed of the Perdues’ biological children, some adopted and some fostered, but all are equally loved by a mom and dad with a dedication to their children.
“The process is not glamorous—it tests who you are as person, a couple and as a parent. You’re extremely tested because with a foster child you don’t know what they have been though. Because of trauma we have to help rehabilitate the child and get them on a better path,” Eugene expresses.
For both the Kwartengs and the Perdues, the rewards of choosing to foster and adopt outweigh the negatives, but having a support system is a major key to success for both parent and child.
“You have to keep people in your lives who can help you and your child—it really does take a village. I’ve met people out there who are single who are doing this by themselves and that’s got to be a big challenge,” says Eugene.
Recently the Kwartengs were honored as DCFS adoptive and foster parents of the year—chosen from 400 families, spanning nine Acadiana Parishes. While humbled by the award, Eugene states his conviction that at the end of the day what matters most to him and Terreé is their commitment to consistency, which is what they believe children are looking for most in a parent figure.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau and the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System served 641,000 children nationally in 2014—only 51,000 served resulted in adoption. As of May, DCFS of Louisiana reports the state is serving 4,755 children in foster care.
Terreé Kwarteng recognizes not everyone will become foster or adoptive parents, but strongly believes all children matter and deserve a hand up.
“There are other ways people can help children in need. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Acadiana or working with CASA are ways to help the community at large. If we all work together, we will all benefit,” professes Terreé. “Put your heart out there and wait and see. If you can change or touch the life of one child, that could last a lifetime.”
For more information on beginning the process of foster parenting or adoption, visit www.dcfs.louisiana.gov. Currently 59 online profiles exist of children all looking for families able and willing to give two things: the love and attention that all children deserve.