Just some of the Crenshaws. (Courtesy of Crenshaw family)

After speaking to Raenell Crenshaw about why she and her husband, Floyd, fostered and adopted many of their children, I had to follow up and ask for another rundown of the children in her care. That’s just how many kids the Crenshaws have opened their hearts and home to.

First, they have two grown biological sons, and a stepdaughter and stepson. In 2000, they became the legal guardians for three siblings when a friend in their church passed away. Raenell said they felt like they had room for more, so in January of 2010, they became the foster parents of two siblings who they  adopted in 2013. In February of 2010, they became the foster parents of another boy, whom they adopted in 2013. And if that weren’t enough, they are currently fostering two more siblings.

Raenell’s feeling about it all? “I love the slogan ‘You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent'” she said, echoing the advertising campaign of AdoptUSKids. “Children really do want and deserve a loving home and loving family. They are willing to accept a perfect stranger.”

The new ads aim to dispel people’s fears that they aren’t good enough to adopt. “The single largest factor that keeps families from acting on adoption was the fear of failing a child who has been failed by many adults already,” said Kathy Ledesma, national project director for AdoptUSKids, a project of the U.S. Children’s Bureau of the Department of Health and Human Services.

And though no one needs to adopt as many as the Crenshaws, AdoptUSKids is working to encourage people to help siblngs stay together.

There are about 402,000 children in foster care in the U.S., Ledesma said. Of those, 102,000 are waiting to be adopted, and about 23 percent need to be placed one or more siblings.

April Curtis spent years in foster care, after being placed with her brother when she was 3 years old. He went on to live with his father, while she moved between homes. Their mother, who was diagnosed with mental illness, had trouble caring for them when she wasn’t on her medication. Her mother went on to have another baby girl, who was later placed for adoption. As a result, Curtis spent her teenage years trying to make sure she and her sister saw each other. The separation, she said, was “traumatic.”

The courts were “providing a permanent home for my sister, but they were permanently separating her from her siblings, and we did nothing wrong,” Curtis said.

She counted herself relatively lucky, however, because her sister’s adoptive parent was open to letting them see each other. “But there was no [legal] agreement… I had to walk a thin line because adoption was final. I had to honor that there was nothing that legally protected my relationship,” she said.

Today, Curtis is a mother of two, has a degree in psychology, and is a sibling rights advocate. She serves on a Governor’s Joint Task Force on Sibling Post-Adoption Continuing Contract. She hopes people will combine adoption “and keeping siblings together,” she said. Or if, for some reason, an older child isn’t adoptable, she hopes that “you, as an adoptive family, welcome them into your home for the holiday and give them an opportunity to grow up with a brother or sister. We’re not there to take away, we’re there to add to it.”

When the Crenshaws got the call that there was a sibling group who needed them, “it never crossed our mind that we only wanted one,” Raenell said. “We  know that there is so much benefit from keeping siblings together. There’s support, it helps them develop and mature. It’s that bond that is unbreakable.”

November is national adoption month. You can find out how to adopt through Adopt Us Kids here, and how to foster here.

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