We love to hear from our users how our technology tools help children find their forever homes. But we also wonder, what makes a family work after the adoption? What makes a connection successful from the youth’s perspective? We talked to two sisters who shared their insights with us.
Sisters Queen and Tonae Diefenbacher were born into an unstable home. They entered foster care at a very young age, along with Tonae’s twin. Their biological mother passed away before they could be reunited with her, and their biological father was incarcerated. After a dozen foster homes, the children were ultimately adopted by a loving couple, Joel and Nadine Diefenbacher. Now successful entrepreneurs, Queen and Tonae want to give back by helping youth in foster care and families navigate the adoption journey by sharing what made their adoption successful.
The Diefenbachers made the sisters feel at home by making room for them, literally and figuratively. “They made room in their home for our dreams, traumas, and big personalities,” Queen said.
The Diefenbachers also reassured the sisters. “I think our parents told us just about every week for the first couple of years, ‘You are NOT going anywhere.’ The power in those words held so much comfort and confidence [for us],” Tonae said as she reminisced about the decisive moment when she felt like she belonged. While at a parent-teacher conference with her adoptive mother, the teacher said, “Your daughter is an extremely bright girl.” Tonae held her breath, anticipating the correction, “Oh, she’s not my daughter”—a common occurrence in the past. But Nadine looked at Tonae, smiled, and said without hesitation, “Yes, she is.”
Authenticity Over Perfection
A family does not have to be perfect to adopt. “I think people think of adoption as it’s so heavy like it’s ‘Oh, we’re not prepared,’ but if you had your kid, can you say you’re absolutely 100% prepared? If you look at adoption as someone just looking for love, it becomes a little easier than, ‘It has to look like this or that,’” Tonae said.
After staying in 14 different foster homes, Queen was not ready to accept the Diefenbachers as parents immediately: “Adoption is not all sunshine, rainbows, and lollipops. It’s more like, show me I can trust you. Show me you’ll love me unconditionally, just like any ‘normal’ child, because that’s what we are…I’m going to test that!”
Circle of Support
Queen and Tonae noted parents should be armed with a solid support team. It is important to have multiple stable people ready to help when real challenges arise. “If you have the right people to keep you in the game, then that’s all that matters,” Queen said.
Today, Queen and Tonae run their social media marketing agency, By Sisterhood Media. They have also just launched their “It’s a Sista Thang” podcast that will touch on their life stories, relationships, personal growth, and everything in between. For youth finding their way in adoptive families, they suggest, “Don’t look at all the ways you don’t belong. Instead, try to find all the ways you do.” As for their final message for foster-adoptive parents, they would like to encourage them to look at the idea that…“you need that child just as much as they need you.”
Connect Our Kids is a non-profit dedicated to leveraging technology to find families, build connections, and create a community for children in the foster care system. Donations and grants fund our work. To keep this technology freely accessible to child welfare workers, please donate HERE.