ALAMOSA — As San Luis Valley families gather today for a National Adoption Day celebration, Annie and Steve Reed have a special reason to celebrate.
Three of their seven children are adopted.
As foster parents the Reeds have welcomed several children into their home, and three of those children have remained as permanent members of the Reeds’ blended family.
The Reeds took a nontraditional route to foster parenthood, but others have followed their lead in the last couple of years. The Reeds are associated with Hope & Home, a nondenominational Christian child placement agency based in El Paso County (Colorado Springs) that has expanded to the SLV. Annie Reed serves as family care coordinator for Hope & Home in the Valley, and Danielle Price is the local supervisor.
“I help facilitate placements,” Price added. “I work very closely with all our families.”
“For 12 years I thought about foster care,” Annie Reed said. “I didn’t know how to get started. I had my own stigmas about what foster care was. I thought about it for 12 years but never acted on it.”
Then Annie and Steve saw Elena on an adoption web site, and they knew she belonged in their family.
“We definitely feel we were led to Elena,” Annie said.
Barely school age, Elena had been deemed by the state as unadoptable. She had gone through 13 homes in three years, had been kicked out of day care and preschool facilities and had been through one failed adoption already.
That was not the biggest obstacle to adoption, however. The Reeds live in Alamosa County, and Elena was a Douglas County child. The Reeds had to be licensed before they could adopt Elena, and the whole situation was a bit complicated and daunting.
That’s when Hope & Home stepped in “and made it possible for us to be licensed and for that adoption to happen,” Annie said.
That was in 2015.
The Reeds were one of the first Hope & Home families to be licensed outside El Paso County. Since then Hope & Home has opened its organization statewide. Now there are eight families in the Valley licensed with Hope & Home.
In the past two years those families have fostered 50 children, adopted nine children and are well on their way to more adoptions.
“We believe God’s hand was in all of this,” Annie said. “We were licensed, and we reached out to friends and families to show them this was possible.”
Annie explained that the organization recognizes there is a great need to help children right here in Colorado — feeding, sheltering, loving and teaching them.
“Our foster families are the missionaries, and we are mission support,” Price said.
Hope & Home licenses every foster-adoptive family for ages 0-18 to cover all bases.
“We don’t want to limit them,” Price said. She added that every family can say yes or no to a placement.
Annie said the support system with Hope & Home is strong and varied. It includes therapists, legal support, emotional support and support groups consisting of the families themselves. The families meet for monthly support groups, a meal together and training the second Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at Living Water Bible Fellowship, 2910 Clark Street in Alamosa (near the Alamosa High School.) People who are interested in fostering/adopting may attend one of these meetings or contact Annie at [email protected] or 719-575-9887. They may also visit the Hope & Home web site at www.hopeandhome.org
Annie said when she and Steve first became involved with Hope & Home, they wondered why they needed parenting classes since they already had three children, but they learned a lot through the classes about meeting the children they would foster/adopt where they were and recognizing the trauma they had been through.
The support from Hope & Home has been valuable. For example, when one of the Reeds’ newest members of the family turned 3, he reverted to wanting a bottle and other infantile behavior for four months. Annie called the Hope & Home therapist who told her the little boy needed that for some reason at that time, and it wouldn’t hurt for her to let him.
“They helped me realize that he needed to be loved and nurtured at that level,” Annie said.
“It took about four months. He came out of it,” she added. Of the three adopted Reed children, he is by far the most attached to his new family.
Hope & Home also hosts an annual catered dinner for all Valley foster families.
Price added that Hope & Home also offers tangible resources. For example, the organization’s headquarters in Colorado Springs offers rooms where families can find jackets and clothes, bedding, cribs and other items they might need.
Valley natives Steve and Annie Reed were both raised in Sanford and have been married 16 years. At the time they adopted Elena they had three biological children.
After the Reeds became licensed as foster parents and adopted Elena in 2015, Alamosa County’s Department of Human Services contacted them a week before Christmas and asked if they could take two children, ages 3 and 2, just over the Christmas holiday.
“We said ‘yes’,” Annie said.
On Valentine’s Day of this year, the Reeds adopted those two children.
A week before the adoption, the Reeds found out they were pregnant. Their youngest son is now 2 months old.
“We are a blended family,” Annie said.
“We are a very functioning dysfunctional family right now.”
The oldest in the family, the Reeds’ oldest son, is 15. He was opposed to the first adoption, Annie said, and is still working through that. The Reeds’ blended family includes children ages 15, 14, 12, 8, 5, 4 and 2 months.
“There’s such a shortage of foster families,” Annie said. In the last year alone, Colorado was 1,200 families short of what it needed to accommodate the foster children needing placement. The Valley continues to desperately need foster families and without local foster families, youth from the Valley are sent outside of the Valley. Siblings become separated, and the distance for families to be reunited becomes a huge obstacle.
Annie said people have said they could not be a foster parent because they would get too attached to the children, and it would hurt too much to let them go again.
“It should hurt when the child moves on,” she responded. “That means you gave it your all. It should be about doing God’s work, helping these children out, not about you.”
She added, “whether it’s one day or six months or six years or a lifetime, it’s an opportunity to teach, to love, to grow. You don’t own the child. You take care of them, love them. We had some children who came into our home and did not stay. I still think about them. I still love them … I will always love those children.”
She said she also loves the children’s parents and wants them to succeed as well and be a positive force in their children’s lives.
She encouraged other families to understand “this is do-able,” adding “this is hard, but it’s the greatest blessing.”
Asked if she would do it again, she said she absolutely would.
Currently the Reeds are not fostering children, taking a break instead to focus on the children they currently have, but they plan to become active again. In the meantime they are supporting and encouraging other foster families.
Elena, who started it all, accompanies her adoptive mother to other adoption ceremonies in the Valley.
“We have taken Elena to every adoption in the Valley. We tell her ‘this is because of you’ … She said ‘I didn’t know one little girl could do so much’.”
Caption: Steve and Annie Reed are shown with their three older biological children and Elena, the first of three children they have adopted. Courtesy photo