Adopted Siblings Now Have A Home for the Holidays

December 23, 2010

The new Alford family on National Adoption Day 2010

Last year, six siblings spent the holiday wishing for a forever family; this year, they can cross that item off their wish lists.

 Bryan and Carla Alford met five of their future children at an adoption matching event hosted by Family Services of Metro Orlando and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids in 2008. To the children – three girls and two boys – the event passed in a blur of balloons, face painting and games; but to the Alfords, the faces of the five children remained vivid in their memory. When they saw the same siblings at another adoption matching event a year later, they couple began to realize what might happen to the children over the next few years if nothing changed.

 “We asked ourselves, ‘If we don’t [adopt these kids], who will?’” said Bryan. “The time was quickly approaching where they would have had to try and be adopted individually. But the kids wanted to be together and… we didn’t want any of them to grow up wondering ‘Why didn’t anyone want me?’”

 This year, Bryan and Carla finalized the adoption of the youngest sibling, a two-year-old baby girl, and then adopted the five remaining siblings two months later during a National Adoption Day celebration in Osceola County on November 19, 2010. 

 Over the past five years, Bryan and Carla Alford have cared for nearly 35 local children as foster parents in Osceola County, Florida. Some have stayed in their home as briefly as one night, while others have remained there for up to three years. The Alfords maintain contact with many of the foster children they previously cared for, now as extended family and members of the children’s support networks.

 Now, as the holidays quickly approach, the Alford household is expected to be both hectic and heartwarming. The children have never seen so many presents under one tree and the reality that the gifts are all for them has yet to fully sink in.

 “I’m looking forward to Christmas ‘cause there’s lots of present boxes under the tree,” said nine-year-old Ivy, the eldest of the group. “And I’m happy because now we get to spend all the holidays together… It feels good to be adopted.”


National Award Presented to Local Foster-to-Adoptive Family

October 11, 2010

1,000th Adoption

When asked to recommend a pair of local foster-to-adoptive parents for the prestigious national Angels In Adoption award, Family Services recommended Deborah and Joseph Defour.

Every year, Members of Congress recognize adoption heroes for the Angels in Adoption award to honor individuals, couples or organizations across America for their extraordinary contribution on behalf of children in need of homes.

Family Services of Metro Orlando would like to congratulate Debbie and Joseph Defour of St. Cloud, Florida, who were selected by Congressman Bill Posey as recipients of this national honor. They have shown extraordinary compassion for Osceola County’s foster children and have provided five children with a permanent place to call home – forever.

The Defours have made fostering-to-adopting a lifestyle and are active members of the Osceola County Foster Parent Association. On June 25th of this year, they adopted their daughter Melissa as Family Services of Metro Orlando’s 1,000th adoption.

“After our two children went to college, we thought we were done raising children,” said Debbie Defour. “We never thought we would raise another family. But we’ve adopted four since then, and when we first took Melissa in, we just knew she was going to be part of our family.”

Joseph and Debbie Defour were one of 139 honorees this week at the National Angels in Adoption conference in Washington DC.

Eckerd Family Foundation Partnership

February 27, 2010

Family Services works with the Eckerd Family Foundation and the San Francisco Youth Law Center to meet and exceed standards of excellence for services provided to foster families in Central Florida.

Family Services is one of the four lead agencies selected for the Quality Foster Care Recruitment-Retention Initiative for 2009 – 2010. Each day we commit to meeting and exceeding standards of excellence for the licensed care of foster youth in Central Florida. The Initiative is an Eckerd Family Foundation and San Francisco Youth Law Center project supported by the Department of Children and Families. It aims to position Florida as a national leader in achieving standards of excellence in the quality of home life for children who have been placed in licensed foster care. As such, we are implementing several new improvements.

On January 20, the Florida State Quality Foster Parent Initiative brought seven pilot sites together for a presentation by Deb Bronson McGrath of Discover True North regarding how to brand foster care within our communities. Family Services, Kids Central, Hillsborough Kids and United for Families were present. Our team members who attended included our Community Advocate Kathy Williams, Director of Communications Bart Mawoussi, Senior Director of Permanency and Operations Sharon Graham, two foster parents and Children Legal Services Managing Attorney Mary Kogut-Lowell.

Other aspects of the partnership’s pursuit include an update of the Foster Parent Advisory Council, a new Foster Parent Liaison program, foster parent mentoring and a new foster parent training curriculum with other foster parents are co-trainers.

For more information, contact Sharon Graham at 407-398-7975 or