Thanksgiving dinners had to be more intimate this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but that was fine with one Beavercreek family.
Renee Goldenbogen and her husband, Michael, adopted her second cousin Jayden, and he moved into their home in March.
The process started when Lisa Carlin, a recruiter with the national foster care program Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, sent Goldenbogen a letter in the mail asking if she knew Jayden. The program is affiliated with the Dave Thomas Foundation, which is making a push to increase adoption of children who are older, or have special needs or are part of a sibling group.
After a child turns 9, their likelihood of getting adopted decreases, Rita Soronen, CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation.
“Children and families in foster care need our rapt attention,” Soronen said, “especially during this pandemic. These are children without families who need permanence in their lives.”
Renee Goldenbogen had met Jayden when he was a baby at a family function, she said.
“I know his mother and father went through some trouble, but thought he was with a family member,” Renee Goldenbogen said. “I found out what was going on, that he was in foster care, and I called immediately. I just said ‘Where is he and how can I get to him?’”
Jayden, 13, moved in with the Goldenbogens a week before the coronavirus pandemic shutdown the country. Jayden said they played lots of Legos and watched movies during the stay-at-home order.
This year was Jayden’s first Thanksgiving with the family, and it was just three of them.
“It was just like he had been here forever,” Renee Goldenbogen said. “It felt like a natural, meant-to-be thing.”
The Dave Thomas Foundation’s adoption program has saved the state more than $64 million.
In 2012, Ohio expanded the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program. To date, more than 1,100 children have been adopted through the program in Ohio. Soronen said the program has been in Ohio the longest, compared to other states. Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program has 51 recruiters in the state and recruiters in nearly every Ohio county, she said.
“He is making the best grades he’s ever made in his life. He’s just flourishing,” Goldenbogen said.
Goldenbogen said Jayden is making friends at Coy Middle School, and that he fits in with her entire family.
“I have two grown girls and two grandbabies. He’s just like another brother,” Goldenbogen said. “He likes for the younger ones to call him Uncle Jay.”
The eldest Goldenbogen daughter is a horse trainer and has gotten Jayden involved in therapy riding. He is also involved in the Lego club at school.
“We just love him and it was just a thing that came out of the blue,” Goldenbogen said.
“He’s been a blessing. We’ve had so much fun with him,” Michael Goldenbogen said.
Renee Goldenbogen said at first she was stressed about getting a new family member and being ordered to stay at home because all of the programs and help were cancelled or moved to Zoom.
“But our experience was nothing but great out of this,” Goldenbogen said. “I know Children’s Services are struggling right now because they’re overloaded, too many cases and not enough people to help. This is my own family member that I had no clue was struggling and was in foster care. I had no clue until the Wendy’s Foundation gave me a notice.”
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