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Posted on: October 2, 2018 at 3:20 pm
Last updated: October 4, 2018 at 4:21 pm

A few years ago in 2015, when Paige and Daniel Zezulka from Athens, Georgia decided they wanted to become foster parents, they were placed with then-5-month-old Kai (3). While they expected the journey to be a difficult one, they did not expect what would come next.

“We got a call about a little boy who needed a home,” Paige Zezulka told Good Morning America. [1] “The goal of foster care,” Zezulka said, “is always reunification with the birth family. We were in support of that for a long time… Eventually it just wasn’t [what] was best, [it] was not legally going to happen.”

It was only until later that they realized he had an older sibling named Ivey (10) as well as a baby sister, Lita (2), who was yet to be born. In 2016, Paige and Daniel were asked if adopting Ivey, Kai and, shortly after, Lita was something they would ever consider. Eager but not entirely sure, the Zezulka family would arrange play dates and social outings with another family that was fostering Ivey at the time.

Over time, Lita and Ivey came to join Kai and the Zezulka family, which the parents anticipated being an extremely challenging transition.

“We were prepared for a hard transition. Her other family was prepping her. We made a new room for her with pink everything, fit for a princess. We wanted her to feel safe and loved. We thought it would be so hard for her – thought she would struggle,” Paige recalls. [1] “[But] God was amazing. The first night she moved in, she asked if she could call us mom and dad. The second day, she asked if she could stay forever.”

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And on August 23, 2018, the Zezulka family legally adopted 10-year-old Ivey along with her biological brother and sister, Kai and Lita.

Watch Ivey react to the best birthday gift she could ever ask for…

The Pitfalls of Foster Care

However, the foster care process is not without its faults. Reunification is always the goal, as Paige said earlier. And if not reunification, then adoption. But the reality is, it doesn’t always pan out that way. Going from family to family without ever being able to establish any roots and truly feel like you’re a part of a family can be incredibly challenging. Paige shares this sentiment:

“It’s hard because the foster care system has a lot of emphasis on reunification, but so many kids live for years with foster families.” [1]

Sadly, the older kids get, the longer they tend to stay within the foster system until, legally, they become adults. Now having gone through the foster care and adoption process, Paige acknowledges the fact that “sometimes people are afraid to consider older kids, they think they may be ‘damaged.’” [1]

In the United States, there are around 428,000 children in foster care on any given day. Unfortunately, according to Adoption Network, children usually have no choice but to spend years in foster homes or institutions instead of being reunified with their birth families or adopted. [2]

In the Zezulka family’s rare case, they had the privilege to adopt all three biological siblings. This is fantastic because sibling bonds can greatly benefit one’s sense of identity, confidence, development, and belonging.

“While there is little national data on siblings in foster care, estimates indicate that well over half of children in foster care nationwide have one or more siblings also in care,” according to Youth Law. [3-5] “Some sources state that as many as 75 percent of these foster children are placed apart from one or more of their siblings.”

Hopefully, stories like this one start changing the reality of foster care and result in more children finding safe homes and loving parents.

[1] Brown, G. S. (2018, August 28). This girl’s reaction to finding out she’s going to be adopted is the most beautiful thing on the internet today. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Family/girls-reaction-finding-shes-adopted-beautiful-thing-internet/story?id=57430288

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[2] Adoption Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://adoptionnetwork.com/adoption-statistics

[3] Keeping Siblings Together: Past, Present, and Future. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://youthlaw.org/publication/keeping-siblings-together-past-present-and-future/

[4] Hegar, R. L. (2005). Sibling placement in foster care and adoption: An overview of international research. Children and Youth Services Review, 27(7), 717-739. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2004.12.018

[5] Phillips, C. (1998). Foster-care system struggles to keep siblings living together. PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi:10.1037/e529932010-024

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