☷Flexibility Foster Care and Forever Homes A Military Family s Story of Compassion and Selflessness
U.S. Army ( By Press Release office)
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Maj . Jake Elders , Army Field Support Battalion - Alaska ' s executive officer , and his wife Amber , welcomed an additional three children into their family seemingly overnight when they became a foster care resource for Alaska ' s Office of Child Services . The Elders , pictured here with their biological children , became a family of eight and couldn ' t be happier . Elders says he knows the newest additions to his family will grow up to be strong , resilient and selfless , just like all the other military kids across the world . JOINT BASE ELMENDORF - RICHRDSON , Alaska - In honor of the month of the military child and National Military Children ' s Day , I want to share a story of my family’s recent experience with the strength and resilience that comes with being a military child . Last year , my wife Amber and I embarked on a journey to become a licensed foster care resource for children in need in Alaska . I didn’t grow up in the best circumstances , so becoming a foster parent has always been something I wanted to pursue . I wanted to give children in a similar situation everything I never had , because a child’s shoulders aren’t meant to bear the weight of adults’ poor decisions . I just didn’t think military life aligned with becoming a foster parent . After watching a movie about an inspirational story of foster care and adoption with my family , Amber and I decided to start researching how we could become a foster care resource . We quickly learned it was possible , and started completing the training and administrative requirements to apply . At the time , we had two children of our own and a third on the way , but still felt we could help . We submitted the application noting we were willing and able to take on one child , or two if they were siblings , between ages 6 and 12 . We received our foster care license in June 2021 , and anxiously awaited our first call from Alaska’s Office of Child Services ( OCS ) requesting placement of a child in our home . Summer passed without a need for us , but in September 2021 we received a call that would forever change our lives . Alaska’s OCS was looking for a respite care placement for three brothers under the age of five . Respite care refers to a temporary placement for children in foster care to allow the current foster family to have a short break in care . We were initially concerned about our ability to care for three additional children , but Alaska’s Office of Child Services told us there wasn’t another family in the area available to care for the boys during the 18 day respite care period . Amber and I looked at each other , and without hesitation told the caseworker , “Bring them to us , we’ll make it work . ” We welcomed the boys with open arms , ready to provide them with love and stability for the next two and a half weeks , but we quickly noticed signs and behaviors that lead us to question the children’s welfare with their foster family . Each boy brought only a tiny suitcase with a few days of worn out clothing , and it was clear to Amber and myself they hadn’t received the care , guidance and love of a parent . The boys consistently made passing comments about their treatment and living conditions with their current family . Our time with them was ending , but Amber and I knew we couldn’t ignore our concerns , so we reached out to their case manager . Not long after , we were asked to continue caring for the children in a more permanent capacity . It was a no brainer for us . Even after such a short amount of time , we’d already developed a bond . The transition to long term care of the boys had its challenges; after all , we had doubled the number of kids in the house overnight . We weren’t sure how we would do it , but I couldn’t turn a blind eye to the situation and leave the boys at the mercy of the foster care system . It took some time and a healthy amount of patience , but we finally realized we needed to meet them where they were and guide them step - by - step , ensuring they understood they were safe with us . Our children had to adjust to the boys and the new family dynamic just as much as the boys had to adjust to a change in their environment , but I knew we’d all pull through it together . In December , almost three months after we brought them into our home , Amber and I knew our family would never be the same . While recording a video for her grandpa , our 7 - year - old daughter , our eldest , referred to the boys as her “brothers” for the first time , a moment I’ll cherish forever . It was around that time , with the family settling in to our new normal , that I learned I would be PCSing , moving to a new duty station , the following summer , about one year sooner than I anticipated . While excited for a career enhancing opportunity , I wondered what this move would mean to the boys , worried they would lose all the progress they made when placed with a new foster family . Amber and I wanted to do whatever it took to keep the boys in our custody . They were part of the Elders Clan now . We wanted to adopt them , but there wasn’t enough time to complete the requirements prior to our move . We asked OCS if we could become the legal guardians for the boys . Not only did their case manager agree that was the best option , but also worked to expedite the process of assigning Amber and myself as legal guardians for the three boys indefinitely . Our family , almost doubling in size overnight , fills me with joy every single day . Watching the boys learn , develop and grow , while seeing the compassion and acceptance of our biological children , fills me with pride . Six kids under seven can make for a chaotic household sometimes , but the smiles and laughter from building blanket forts and riding bikes makes it all worth it . And , at the end of the day , if I can take a child out of a situation like the one I grew up in , and give them the love , care and resources to overcome their past , that’s how I’ll serve my community . The Army community has given me so much , I know without a doubt the boys will grow up to be strong , resilient and selfless , just like all the other military kids across the world . Today , as our family begins planning for the upcoming move and the start of a new chapter in our lives , Amber and I want to officially welcome our “bonus boys” into the fold as the newest members of the Military Child Community . ** It should be noted that , for legal purposes , some names and details are not mentioned in this article to respect the privacy of children and other parties . **
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