Fountain family honored by state for adoption efforts
Last updated 11/23/2020 at 11:41am
To celebrate National Adoption Month and encourage more Coloradans to adopt or foster, the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) recognized five adoptive families, including one from Fountain, in a virtual celebration on Nov. 7. A wide variety of CDHS personnel and professionals working in foster care and adoption services attended the event. Michelle Barnes, executive director for CDHS, gave a few words.
"Whether virtually or in person, I have been so inspired by the stories of adoptive and foster families and I believe these stories can be very inspiring to other Coloradans as well," Barnes said.
CDHS has been honoring five families for National Adoption Month since 2012. Minna Castillo Cohen, director of the Office of Children, Youth and Families for CDHS, explained the organization collected nominations during the summer from county human service departments and child placement agencies.
"We received 21 nominations for this recognition," Cohen said, "and we heard amazing stories about parents who adopted and continue to foster, parents who adopted siblings, first-time parents and experienced parents, and parents who are using trauma-informed training to learn new parenting skills. It was a tough decision, but the selection committee was able to choose five families from different Colorado communities who show a strong dedication to kids, represent the many different forms a family can take, and can help us inspire others to adopt."
Ultimately, the following families were honored:
Byas and Lana Cast (Denver)
Bill and Leilanie Kisamore (Lamar)
Martin Lee (Colorado Springs)
Bonita and Matthias Miller (Cañon City)
Jeannette and Thomas Montelongo (Fountain)
Jeannette and Thomas Montelongo already had a "blended family" before they looked into adoption. They married two and a half years ago and had seven teenage or adult children between them. When their children moved out, they weren't necessarily planning to expand their family again. Then one of Jeannette's daughters visited them with an infant boy she was taking care of. The daughter explained that the boy's mother was an acquaintance who had a drug addiction problem and had essentially abandoned him. Fortunately, CDHS was able to connect the boy with one of his grandmothers. In Jeannette's words, seeing the boy "started the ball rolling" for them.
"The next day Thomas brought up adoption and we started talking about our empty house and the two bedrooms we had," Jeannette explained. "We talked about changing the life of a child."
While looking into how to adopt a child, they discovered the Colorado Heart Gallery, a website that displays photographs and videos of children who are currently available for foster care or adoption. This year marks 15 years since the Colorado Heart Galley was launched, and the Nov. 7 ceremony included a special video to commemorate that anniversary.
"Thomas and I looked at profiles all evening on the Colorado Heart Gallery," Jeannette said. "I would show him a photo, read the bio of the child and then we would watch the video. When we got to Isaiah, Thomas yelled 'Stop! What about him?' I read his bio, and then we watched his video. We sat there for a few moments and then Thomas nudged me and said "I think we just met our son." We just knew that he was our son. There was no question about it. I inquired immediately about him and it was then that we discovered that we needed to become foster parents and we started that process. We really did it all backwards, but that's OK. It worked out exactly how it needed to."
Since the Montelongos had reached an "empty nest" phase, their existing children were a bit surprised that they were looking into becoming parents again.
"Initially everyone (including our parents and extended family) thought we were nuts," Jeannette said. "But once we started getting closer to the reality of Isaiah joining our family and they began to realize that not only were we serious, but we had followed through with our plans, they began to get excited as well. All of our children now accept him as their little brother. His adoption has actually brought our blended family closer together in many ways."
Isaiah's adoption became final this summer. Jeannette has found that while previous parenting experience helped in many ways, she and Thomas still had to adjust.
"It's hilarious the things he tries to get away with (like pretending to take a shower by merely getting his hair wet), and we simply have to remind him that he is child number eight for us and that we are professional parents," Jeannette observed. "On the other hand, there are many aspects that foster parents have to deal with that we didn't have to do with our own children, like report illnesses, do paperwork for everything and asking for permission to do many of the things we would typically just do as parents. Then you have to address your child's past history, their trauma (because ALL foster children have had trauma to some extent) and the behaviors that possibly come along with that. We parent differently, not because Isaiah is different, but because we are older and more experienced and we prepared for this as much as we could."
According to Cohen, the care Jeannette and Thomas have put into Isaiah has been very noticeable.
"Their son's case worker described the patience, understanding, therapeutic resources and constant reassurance they provided," Cohen explained. "The Montelongos are very warm and open, and both Thomas and Jeanette have a fun sense of humor that serves them well as parents."
Jeannette and Thomas have more parenting plans down the road. They decided Isaiah needed a sibling close to his age, and began fostering a girl child in July, with the intention of adopting her as well.
"While being a foster parent isn't an easy job, neither is being a parent," Jeannette said. "However, just like parenting your own biological children, the rewards far outweigh the benefits. There will be absolutely amazing days, then there will be days when you are serving cereal for dinner, your house looks like a class five hurricane just came through and there is something sticky in the dog's hair. Some days you will feel like a champion parent, and other days you will feel like the gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe. This journey has been a grand adventure, one that we would do over and over again if only our home and our car was big enough."
"You aren't going to be perfect," Jeannette said. "These children don't need perfect parents. They don't need expensive homes, or even a room of their own. What they do need is a family that is willing to open their hearts and their home to them. They need people that will love them unconditionally and are willing to put the work in and walk with them through those difficult days and love them forever and ever no matter what. Our children are loved beyond measure and considered true gifts from God. Adopting a child out of foster care is certainly not a decision that you should take lightly, but sometimes, you just have to follow your heart and not your head and let love lead the way."
According to the Colorado Heart Galley, there are currently more than 400 kids in Colorado who need an adoptive family. To find out more, check out the Colorado Heart Gallery at coheartgallery.org.