Situation: Siblings Charles and Charlette had been in foster care for years and needed a permanent family all their own.
How United Way helped: To find blood relatives of children in foster care, the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition created a program called Extreme Recruitment, made possible by United Way funding.
Charles and Charlette were chosen for the program, and the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition placed some ads featuring the brother and sister in local newspapers. That’s how they found their forever home.
Robert picked up the East St. Louis Monitor one day, threw it on his dining room table, and got around to reading it a few days later.
“On about the third page, they had an ad for an adoption agency for two children by the name of Charles and Charlette, which coincidentally happened to be my youngest siblings’ names,” Robert says. “And they had an uncanny resemblance to my siblings.”
When he called the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition, he found out the children were his niece and nephew.
“We weren’t aware that the children existed until this time,” he says. “I was aware that my brother had had a lot of difficulty in maintaining stability within his life.”
Robert talked to his wife, Maxine, about adopting the children. It was a big step – they had grown children of their own. But Maxine was on board.
The adoption process took more than a year, because the children were living on the Missouri side of the river, while Robert and Maxine lived in Illinois. In June 2009, Charles and Charlette finally joined their forever home.
“I didn’t imagine myself needing anything from an organization such as United Way,” Robert says. “But without United Way, I’m not sure that I would have been able to connect with Charles and Charlette and get them into our home.”
Today: Maxine passed away from breast cancer on Christmas Eve, just six months after adopting Charles and Charlette.
“Living with my uncle and my sister after that situation, we’ve had our bad days and our good days and have a lot of fun together,” Charles says.
Charles’ hobbies include skateboarding, playing basketball and drawing. Charlette loves drawing, singing, dancing, reading and writing.
They split chores, too: Charles vacuums and sweeps, takes out the trash and sometimes mows the lawn in the summer; Charlette cleans the kitchen, helps with laundry and works alongside Robert in the garden, where they grow tomatoes, peppers, flowers and more.
“We like to go to movies; we go out to dinner,” Robert says. “They have begun to learn how to swim through the YMCA; we have memberships there, which United Way funds as well. They’ve developed quite a friendship in our neighborhood and my yard is full all the time with children from the neighborhood coming to see Charles and Charlette.”
Most exciting is knowing the family they never knew existed before.
“I have my aunty; she has my sister’s name – well, my sister has her name actually,” Charles says. “And we have a grandma Ophelia that I didn’t know about and I didn’t know any other of my uncles and aunties before I came here to Illinois. My favorite part is just being a family, that’s all you can ask for.”
They’re also looking forward to having family support in the future.
“I want to go to a specific college called Lincoln University,” Charlette, 12, says. “I learned about it on a field trip. I just thought, whoa, this is a good future for me. So now I’m trying to save up every penny that I get for my college tuition. I really want to study teaching or culinary arts. Then after college, I look forward to hopefully staying with Uncle Robert and having him help me look for my own home and get the right insurance and the right car, so then I’ll be all set.”
About Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition: United Way helped found the Coalition in 1989. A member agency since 2004, the Coalition strives to create permanency in every foster child’s life by recruiting and supporting foster/adoptive homes in the St. Louis metropolitan community.
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