DCF: A Family to..Keep Together

A Family To Keep Sisters And Brothers Together

By Lisa Flower, Program Director, Office of Public Information

November 2008

{Crawford Family}

Back Row:  Amanda, Samatha, Sarah and Sue (Mom)

Front Row:  Shania, Kimberly, Jake, Bob (Dad), Alex and Felicia

They piled out of the large, grey van looking like every other family coming to their youngster's middle school cross country meet. Walking together, holding hands, laughing -- by every appearance, no one could tell just how unique this family is. But unique they are and, at the same time, they are just like every other family united in a bond of love.

Unique circumstances bring the Crawfords together. Robert and Sue Crawford, a married couple from Plantsville with three biological children, became foster parents licensed by the Department of Children and Families in 2000. A year later, two sisters, Shania, then 5 years old, and Felicia, then 8, entered the Department's care because of parental substance abuse, domestic violence and neglect. The girls spent their next three months in a Safe Home. On September 14, 2001, they had no way to know their lives would be changed forever.

The Crawfords already had provided foster care for seven children when the sisters came that day and would go on to provide care for a total of 42 (and counting). Shania and Felicia adapted extremely well to life with the Crawfords. Shania would tell the other children that entered the home, "Don't be scared. You'll be treated like a regular kid." Indeed, she and Felicia were; they remained in the Crawford home and were adopted.

Happily, this story is like that of many foster parents who fall in love with the children in their care and make them a permanent part of the family.

Further, the Crawfords proved to be a sanctuary for the sisters and their entire sibling group, of which Felicia and Shania were the oldest. In 2005, the sisters were joined by younger brother Jake, who was adopted the next year. Then in November 2007, the Crawfords learned that Felicia, Shania, and Jake had a new baby brother, Alex, who needed a foster home. Susan spoke with Bob, and they informed the Department they would care for the baby. When Susan spoke with Felicia and Shania about the newest addition set to arrive, they all broke into tears. "It meant everything to them," Sue said. "It was all about keeping their family together."

In a recent conversation with Sue and Shania in their Plantsville home, it is plain how the strong love remains close to the surface. More tears slipped down their faces as they spoke about baby brother, Alex, joining the family less than a year ago.

"Shania gets what we do," Sue said. "The switch went on when her brother came home."

Just like the entire Crawford family, Shania appears typical, and it would never occur to anyone Shania had a difficult first five years of life. A seventh grader, she is a high honors student whose favorite subject is math. She enjoys her dance classes, especially hip hop and jazz. She loves to swim and ride her bike. She loves her brothers and sisters -- who now include her three biological siblings, the Crawford's two biological children, and two additional children the Crawfords adopted.

And just how do Sue and Bob manage with eight children? They are very organized. And like so many other adoptive and foster parents, they say the rewards they receive far outweigh the challenges. "It's wonderful," Sue said. "Some days are hectic, some days stressful -- but the regular days are the norm. We are happy with that. Family is important, very important to Bob and me."

The Crawford's story is particularly timely in November as the Department celebrates National Adoption Month. For children who enter care and cannot be safely reunified with their parents, adoption and subsidized guardianship offer the permanency and family every child deserves. Last state fiscal year, the Department found permanent homes for 868 children -- 634 through adoption and 234 through a transfer of guardianship to a relative. The achievement of permanency has also become more timely in recent years; the percentage of adoptions finalized within 24 months of a child's entering care has tripled since the first quarter of 2004.

Still, there are many children in need of a permanent home -- especially children of color, adolescents, children with medically complex needs, and sibling groups. For information on how to become a foster or adoptive parent, please call 1-888-KID-HERO. A 10-week training program is provided and parents receive a subsidy to care for children in their home and insurance to provide for health care.

The Crawfords are living proof that the rewards -- and the kids -- are great.

Editor's Note: Every family has a story and every family member has his or her own way to tell it. Below is the Crawford family story as told by 12-year-old Shania and as told by her mom, Sue.

My name is Shania.  I came into foster care when I was 5.  My sister and I got to stay together.  I was real happy about that.  I think she was too.  I am now 12 years old and have been adopted by my foster family.  We have a large family.  I like having lots of brothers and sisters.  There are a total of eight kids that are either biological or adopted so there is always someone to play with.  It's a lot of fun when we go on vacation.  I like when we go out to eat and hang out by the pool.  We have a lot of fun.  We have a foster child.  It is my biological brother.  I was surprised to find out my biological mother had another baby.  I was scared to find out if he would go home or stay with us.  I want him to stay here.  It was important to me to have my brother be with us.  It was hard not being able to return home but on the other hand, I am glad I have a good family to be with who loves me.  My mother says family is the most important thing.


My name is Sue.  I am Shania's mom.  I am the proud mother of eight kids.  I am thankful that DCF has thought "outside the box" to keep all the siblings together and to allow us to adopt the kids that lived here who could not return home.  We were already their family.  They wanted to be with us. We wanted to be with them.  People say that the kids are lucky to have us.  My husband and I say we are lucky to have them.  Children are gifts, and we are blessed.  I am happy to make a difference in some one's life.  We have had many foster children come and go.  It's not always easy letting them go.   We hope they remember what we have taught them.  We hope they remember a family who cared for them.  We remember the smiles and giggles.  We remember the tears and hurt.  Through our actions, our children have seen compassion, love, and kindness.  Now when new foster children come in, our adopted children know how they feel.  They are the ones who comfort these scared children.  They are the ones with the kind words and compassion.  I am blessed to have eight wonderful gifts.