From Trauma to Triumph: A Single Mom’s Story of Empowerment

When you look at Nina, you see a woman who has her life together. She’s a single mom to three thriving kids: Gemarion, Geniah and Gemir. She lives in a decent apartment in a quiet Chicago neighborhood. Her family always has food on the table, and her kids go to school. Moreover, she runs her own events planning business, fully incorporated and with its own office. And she has plans for the future of her business.

You wouldn’t think that a mere couple of years ago, Nina was jobless, near-homeless and desperate. She was so desperate that she found herself on the verge of placing all three of her kids for adoption.

Escaping a violent neighborhood

Having lived most of her life in one of Chicago’s inner-city neighborhoods, Nina was no stranger to violence. She lost a brother in a shooting incident. She herself was shot in the leg while just sitting in a parked car. Gun violence has become such a deep part of her life that she taught her kids a gun drill just in case a shooting happened.

Her turning point happened one morning a couple of years ago. Her cousin, who she considered more like a brother, was shot right on her porch. Inside the house, Nina was preparing breakfast for her babies. In that moment, she decided she couldn’t raise her family in a dangerous neighborhood. A short time after that, they moved to a neighborhood in the Chicago suburbs.

Hitting rock bottom

In moving to a quiet suburb, Nina and her children were safer. But in uprooting her family, she also pulled herself away from her source of income and her support system. She had been running a party planning business, and most of her clients came from the neighborhood she left behind. She was away from her family and friends, and she was pregnant with her third child.

Life for Nina became a struggle. She barely had the money to feed her family, much less pay her rent. She felt helpless and alone. Things got so bad that she couldn’t take care of herself, let alone the children who depended on her.

“After my third child was born,” Nina said, “I was in the hospital and I was talking to this nurse. I was telling her that, you know, ‘I’m kinda depressed. I’m feeling like I don’t want to do this, that I can’t do this. I don’t have nobody to help me.’”

Turning her life around

The nurse that took care of Nina at the hospital told her about Holt-Sunny Ridge. Holt-Sunny Ridge is a branch of Holt International and provides adoption services in Illinois and Wisconsin. Nina got in touch with the organization with a view towards placing her three children for adoption. What she didn’t know at the time was that Holt-Sunny Ridge had a new program in the works called “Empowering Women, Strengthening Families” (EWSF).

At Holt-Sunny Ridge, Nina was introduced to Loann Tan, one of Holt-Sunny Ridge’s case workers. Upon meeting Nina, Loann immediately saw that the bond between Nina and her kids was strong. She didn’t really want to place her kids for adoption.

“We have to do something about this,” Loann recalled thinking on the day she first met Nina. “I just feel you can have options, that you don’t have to feel that regret.”

With Loann’s help, Nina joined the EWSF program. Through the program, she received counseling and medical care, which helped her address her struggle with anxiety and depression. EWSF also gave her the tools she needed to get her life together. These included access to training on nutrition, personal finance, career development and many other areas that would help her build stronger life skills. She even received funds from the program to help with her rent, groceries and clothing for her kids. Loann was with her every step of the way.

From desperation to inspiration

Nina said that she enjoyed attending EWSF’s workshops and looked forward to them every month. She considered these meetings a much-needed break from the grind of everyday life. And she didn’t just receive training and resources at the workshop. She also got in touch with other women in similar situations as hers.

Soon enough, Nina regained her energy and drive through the program. She learned to manage her business, to set goals for herself and her kids, and to manage her day-to-day affairs by preparing ahead. Nina has restarted her business, formalizing it with incorporation papers, a physical office space, and employees. She has plans for expanding her business and having her own events venue. She also intends to go back to school and earn her business management degree. Most importantly, she is independently providing for her children, and able to give them the loving, devoted attention that all three of them deserve. She is a very hands-on mom.

“Nina has grown so much. It’s just amazing to see that. And I think that’s a blessing for me to feel that I’m a part of that,” Loann said.

Nina actively grows her business on Facebook. When she shares her story there, she often gets surprise reactions. People who heard her story couldn’t believe she was homeless, and people who know her couldn’t believe she’s running her own business.

“I’m not ashamed of my story, so I didn’t mind doing this,” said Nina. “I wanted to do it because I wanted people to see my strength, and I wanted people to know I’m not perfect.”

Nina also wants to inspire other women who find themselves in situations like hers. As a graduate of the EWSF program, she is now returning as a resource for other women in the program. She wants these women to see for themselves that, with support and tools, it’s possible for them to turn their lives around.

“I want them to remember to be strong,” Nina said. “And I want them to reach whatever it is in life that they’re trying to do. Don’t let anything hold you back from doing it and just step out on faith. And have a good support system if you can. Reach out to Holt-Sunny Ridge because they can definitely help.”

Learn more about Nina’s story in this video.

 

originally published by Linda Wilson, December 17, 2019

Welcome Home! Fall 2020

We’re celebrating with our Wisconsin and Illinois families as they grow!

Best wishes to Ben and Annie, and their son Matthew, who was born in November through our domestic program.

 

Sweet Claire was born in February through our domestic program and is already enjoying adventures with her parents Justin and Samantha.

 

Elliott was welcomed home by brother Gavin and parents Nathan and Kimberly in February through our interstate program.

 

Proud parents David and Christina welcomed home their daughter Raelynn in March through our interstate program.

 

Congratulations to Tom and Tina on the arrival of their daughter Michaela, who was born in March and placed through our interstate program. She joins proud big sister Adeline.

 

Elated big sister Ella and parents Maggie and Bill celebrated the arrival of Will, who was born in March through our domestic program.

 

Enoch and Katie welcomed their son Jonathan in May who was placed through our domestic program. May the force be with you!

 

In June, Rebekah and Oscar joyfully welcomed their daughter Elena, placed through our domestic program.

 

Matt and Kate delight in their daughter Ella, placed into their family in July through our domestic program.

 

Overjoyed parents Steve and Meghan finalized the adoption of their son Grady through our domestic program in July.

Congratulations to all our families!

For more information about Holt’s International Adoption Programs, click here.

For more information about Domestic Adoption, visit our website.

If you are pregnant and want to speak to one of our options counselors, please call 800-Baby-Mom 24/7.

Empowering Women: The Key to Strengthening Families

For many women, impending motherhood is a momentous event, often filled with laughter, joy, baby showers, nursery decorating, and bright hopes for the future.

But for women going through tough times who don’t have family or friends to support them, being a mother can be incredibly overwhelming — just to get through each day. They don’t think they can take care of themselves, much less their children. And sometimes, to give both their child and themselves the best chance to survive and thrive, they make the decision to place one or more of their children for adoption — even if they don’t really want to.

Over her 30 years’ of experience in social services, eight of them with Holt International, Nancy Crouch has seen more than her share of heartbroken mothers, sitting in her office in tears, facing this same dilemma. And as the director for domestic adoption and birth parents services at Holt-Sunny Ridge, Holt International’s Illinois and Wisconsin branch, Nancy is in the position to help empower these women and change their lives.

Holt-Sunny Ridge aims to change women’s lives through empowerment

“Providing hope to others has really become my life’s work,” Nancy says, “starting with empowering women — helping them learn the tools to become self-sufficient and to keep their family together. Giving them hope that things will improve in their lives, that they will have more self-esteem and feel capable of taking care of themselves and their children.”

Through her work, Nancy helps mothers who want to place their children for adoption to find peace in their decision. She also helps them cope with the grief and loss associated with adoption. But mostly, she tries to help women see that adoption isn’t the only option they have — that they can learn to take care of themselves and their children on their own.

This idea is the seed behind Holt-Sunny Ridge’s “Empowering Women, Strengthening Families” (EWSF) Program. According to Nancy, mothers who came to us who were considering adoption for their children are in crisis mode. They’re often out of work, homeless and alone. They don’t have family or friends or any form of support in place to help them.

Through a generous foundation grant, Nancy and her team were able to start EWSF. The fund is used to help struggling mothers and their children by providing everything from housing, food and transportation to childcare and clothing until they can get on their feet.

More importantly, the EWSF fund helps women become self-sufficient and able to independently parent their children through a range of programs. These programs include therapy and counseling, as well as workshops covering a wide array of topics, from career development to personal finance, from nutrition and healthy lifestyles to developing healthy relationships. The program takes a holistic approach to empowering women and paving a way for them to find success in their lives.

The EWSF program has provided services to mothers in crisis for over two years, with plans to grow as new partnerships form — providing additional funding and support through volunteerism. Nancy said there are many ways that corporations and organizations can get involved. One way involves teaching EWSF participants the nitty-gritty details of personal finance.

“Mainly, we teach our moms basic budgeting and opening a checking and savings account,” shares Nancy. “But some of our moms are ready for a higher level. They really want to analyze and build their credit, so they need more one-on-one support. They may want to learn about different types of savings programs and other ways to gain financial progress. We’re hoping to have volunteers with expertise in this area to be able to help them one on one with learning about different ways to manage finances.”

Empowering women does change lives

Nancy emphasizes that the EWSF program is structured to teach participants the life skills they need to have long-term success, not just offer short-term solutions. And through the program, Nancy has seen many women’s lives change for the better.

Nina, a single mom to three children, joined the EWSF program in March, 2018. Nina had a traumatic past, losing her mom at birth and growing up in a dangerous downtown Chicago neighborhood. Despite her difficulties growing up and having to raise two kids on her own, Nina managed to graduate high school and start her own party-planning business.

Things came to a breaking point shortly after she gave birth to her third child. Her cousin was shot and killed right on her front porch, forcing Nina to move her family to a quieter suburban neighborhood. However, the move put a stop to her business and took her away from her family. The pressures of having to provide for her children and herself without any income or family support made Nina desperate. It came to the point where she considered placing all three of her kids for adoption.

That’s when she learned about Holt-Sunny Ridge and the EWSF program. Through EWSF and the consistent help of a Holt-Sunny Ridge social worker, Nina saw that her situation wasn’t hopeless. With counseling and guidance, she slowly got back on her feet. The program helped cover childcare and provided tools she needed. By the time she graduated from the program in September, 2018, Nina had more self-esteem as a woman and as a parent, and she returned to her business with more skills to help her succeed.

As of this writing, Nina has a growing events-planning business, with her own office space and employees. She’s renting an apartment, has her own car, and is taking college courses. More importantly, she’s emotionally stable and feels more capable of successfully parenting and providing for her kids. Additionally, Nina gives back to Holt-Sunny Ridge by volunteering as a mentor for other moms in the EWSF program.

“What we’re trying to do is to remove all the barriers so that women can succeed,” says Nancy. “We’re looking to give women long-term solutions and tools to continue with their success.”

To learn about EWSF eligibility or to make a referral to the program, please contact Loann at loannt@holtsunnyridge.org.

 

 

Originally published by Linda Wilson on Nov 12, 2019

 

 

“My favorite part is holding and snuggling the babies!”

These Wisconsin families provide loving temporary care homes for babies awaiting permanent adoption placement

Occasionally newborns stay with one of our licensed temporary care families briefly before joining their families. Two Wisconsin families share their stories about why they became temporary care homes and what they love most about caring for the babies.

Meet Lucy

Who are the family members living at home?

I share my home with my dog Lewey.

What inspired you to become a temporary care home?

I have always loved babies and caring for them. I worked for 27 years in the school system helping children with fine motor skills. Being retired now allows me to stay home to help babies by taking care of them until they are placed in a new loving home.

How long have you been a temporary care home?

I have been a temporary caregiver for six years and have cared for nine sweet babies during that time.

What is your favorite part of helping the babies?

My favorite part of being a temporary caregiver is holding and snuggling with the babies. It also warms my heart to see the look on the parents’ faces when they see and hold their baby for the first time. It’s always a pleasure to continue to see my little ones and how they have grown and changed after they move on to their new home. Some I see in person, some by Facebook, emailed pictures, or a photo in a Christmas card. I always enjoy seeing them.

Meet Pete and Deb

Pete & Deb experienced years of infertility and know first hand how much every baby is wanted.  Deb also serves on the board of the local pregnancy resource center and has a heart for birth moms.  They long to provide a safe haven for the baby while the birth parents make decisions and adoptive parents wait, and for all to visit.

What inspired you to become a temporary care home?

We strongly believe God uses our past to prepare us for what He has for us in the future. Deb has 2 sets of cousins that were adopted.  Both joined her family when the babies were several months old. She always thought what an amazing job that would be to care for babies awaiting adoption.

How long have you been a temporary care home?

We were a temporary care home for 3 years.  We stepped down for a while to care for our grandchildren and are now back.

What is your favorite part of helping the babies?

Deb loves babies!  Her favorite part is holding & rocking them.  Ultimately, the best part is to see each baby grow up in a loving, nurturing home.

Do you have a special memory or story about one of the babies who was in your care?

We have cared for 7 babies. Each one is special and will always be in our hearts!  We have a wall with their pictures in our home.

Thank you, Lucy, Pete & Deb for providing loving care for the babies awaiting placement.

IL Family | Natasha and Catherine

Natasha and Catherine are waiting to welcome a child into their heart and home through open adoption. Learn more about them!

Dear Birth Mom/Family,

Hello! 

There are so many things you must be feeling right now — it’s hard to find the right words for such an emotional process but we’ll do our best. 

We’re not like most families you encounter and that makes us well equipped to handle whatever life throws our way. 

We want you to know that we will move mountains to provide a loving, safe, and stable home for your child. Most of all, we promise to honor your journey as well as your child’s. 

Thank you for reading, we are so happy you’d consider us and we can’t wait to meet you.

Natasha and Catherine

Our Story & How We Met

We’ve moved across continents, learned new languages, and overcome many obstacles as we’ve built our life together. After almost 10 years, we are excited to grow our family.

We met when we were both living in San Francisco. We were good friends first, we fell in love, and then became a great team. We have a lot in common — both immigrants, we have similar values around family, hard work, and honesty. So when Natasha wanted to return to Chicago to be closer to her family, Catherine followed.

Fun Facts:

  • At home, we speak “Franglish” It’s our own mixture of French and English. We also speak Russian and Tagalog with our respective families.
  • While our home is in Chicago, we now have dual citizenship, which means that your child will have both French and American passports.
  • We love everything cozy! So much so that we own over a dozen knit throw blankets.
  • Our current hobby is finding street art in different cities and collecting works from artists we discover.
  • We both grew up fans of the Bulls, so we think it was destiny that we settled in Chicago.

About Natasha

Natasha was born in Belarus, a little country near Russia and is an adoptee herself. Today she works as a Sales Engineer at a big technology company. She recently took a role that requires less travel and more predictable hours to prepare for building a family.

Natasha loves cooking as much as she loves eating. She enjoys making tacos with homemade tortillas, dumplings, and all kinds of cakes. She’s so excited about all the amazing food she’ll introduce to your child. On that front, Catherine is a great eater and doesn’t mind cleaning up!

Natasha’s Family

Natasha was adopted by her grandparents when she was 7 years old.  Her grandmother (“babushka”), Margarita, lives nearby in Chicago and is a big part of our lives. Natasha is also close with her aunt [also] Natasha, uncle Alex, and cousin Jenny. Jenny is like a sister and they talk almost every day (to be honest, though, half the time they speak in memes).

About Catherine

Catherine was born in Paris shortly after her parents immigrated there from the Philippines. She grew up speaking French, English, and Tagalog. Today, Catherine is an engineering leader at a startup. Even though she has a big job, family and health always come first.

A kid (and geek) at heart, Catherine loves reading graphic novels and playing with Legos in her spare time.

Catherine’s Family

Catherine’s family lives abroad. Her mom and dad – Gloria and Felix – are both retired and are excited to add another grandchild to the family. Catherine also has a younger brother (Michael) and sister (Jane) who both live in Paris. Jane’s daughter, Emelyne, is excited for a baby cousin!

Life as an international family

We make it a priority to see Catherine’s family a few times a year. Sometimes we travel to Paris to see them, sometimes they come to visit in Chicago, and sometimes we meet up somewhere else (like China or Spain)! Last year, we got our families together in Chicago and had a great time on a boat tour and eating Korean BBQ.

As you can imagine, travel is a huge part of who we are. We love exploring new cultures, connecting with friends who live all over the world, and enabling our families to explore with us.

It’s safe to say that your child will be a true global citizen. We can’t wait to explore the world together [when it’s safe to do so]!

Our Chosen Family

We’re lucky to have friends who are family both here in Chicago and all over the world. Their kids already call us “Aunt Natasha” and “Aunt Cath” (or “Tata Nat” and “Tata Cath” in French). They will all be incredible role models and are so excited for us to welcome a little one into our family. We’re a little biased, but we think our friends are some of the best people ever and we are so grateful to have them as we continue to this next chapter in our lives.

Our Home & Community

We live in a beautiful, secure apartment building near downtown Chicago. All of our windows face west, so we often come home to beautiful sunsets that fill our apartment with warm light. We look forward to introducing your child to theatre, art, and amazing museums — all walking distance from our apartment! One of the biggest reasons we settled here, though, was that we live right down the street from one of the best public schools in the city.

We also have a lake house about an hour away in Michigan, where we spend many weekends. We have 2 acres of land so when we’re not making s’mores with neighbors or going to the beach, we are getting dirty! This summer we hauled several tons of rocks to create our new firepit. Natasha’s already making plans to build a sandbox and a swing set. Maybe even a tree house!

Thank You

We humbly thank you for allowing us to be part of your journey. Life is full of difficult choices and we’ll do everything in our power to make sure this choice brings you and your child peace.

Interested in seeing Natasha and Catherine’s full profile? Fill out the contact form below!

IL Family | Ruben & Veronica

Ruben and Veronica are waiting to welcome a child into their heart and home through open adoption. Learn more about them!

Dear Birth Mom/Family,

Hello! You don’t know us yet but we have been hoping to meet you. We want to be part of your story and would be honored if you would consider us as parents to your baby. It would be a true blessing to have your child in our lives & for that, we are so thankful & humbled.

When we got married we already knew that having a biological baby was not in the cards for us & that adoption was our path to creating a family. Should you choose us, we promise you that your child’s life will be filled with endless love, laughter, silliness… and of course tons of fun!!

Our Story & How We Met

Who says on-line dating doesn’t work! That’s how we met in 2017. We had a strong connection, fell in love & wanted to start on our future right away. Our wedding day was exactly what we wanted; a whirl wind day that included…. An intimate courthouse ceremony, drinks at our first date spot, dinner at our favorite restaurant & a nightcap at our favorite dive bar.

About Us & Fun Facts

Hi I’m Veronica!

I was born in Bolivia & came to the states at 2yrs old. I love Chicago and can’t ever imagine living anywhere else. I love planning dinners out with friends to try new restaurants throughout the entire city but I also love hosting dinners at my house. I’m an event manager so I get to run awesome events which is always fun. I once climbed down the Navy Pier towers for a corporate event.

Fun Facts:

  • Favorite food: S’mores (chocolate, chocolate, chocolate)
  •  Favorite color: Purple
  •  Favorite Movie: Bourne Identity

One of my biggest accomplishments was doing a 3 day hike up Machu Picchu-hard but worth it

Hi I’m Ruben!

I’m a 1st generation Mexican-American born & raised on the south side of Chicago, & am very passionate about my city. I love cooking, training for fitness competitions and golfing with my friends but unfortunately I’m terrible.

Fun Facts:

  • Favorite food: Tacos!
  • Favorite color: Blue
  • Favorite Movie: Caddy Shack & any RomCom

Biggest accomplishments: race car driving instructor, mountain bike racer, and fought in the golden gloves. Oh and in 2014 I was one of Chicago’s most eligible bachelors and was featured in the Chicago Magazine.

Our Home & Community

We have a beautiful home around Logan Square that is just blocks from a plaza & near great parks! Our block has many families with kids, including our direct neighbor who is a close friend of ours & has 3 kids of their own! We live in a great school district & love our neighborhood!

Our Families

Ruben:

I have a younger brother who is married & lives in the western suburbs. My parents live in downtown Chicago & they visit every couple of weeks for BBQ’s or just hangout time. We are a tight knit true Chicagoan family. Growing up my parents made sure we took advantage of all that the city has to offer. I remember taking the orange line in as a kid and exploring the lakefront and the loop.

Veronica:

I have a fraternal twin sister who also has twin boys and one little girl. My sister luckily lives close by and my parents live only a couple hours away but they usually come & stay for long periods of time to hang out with the grandkids. I consider myself a full time aunt because I spend so much time with my nephews & niece. I give them tennis lessons as often as possible & sometimes go on family vacations with them. With all the siblings so close, we will be sure to make lots of great memories to share with you! Our knucklehead nephews & niece are excited to have another reason to have sleepovers at our house! We consider ourselves blessed that we have such strong bonds with our family.

Pets

Senna is our 2yr old cockapoo pup who is named after a race car driver. He is by far the best cuddler & is so sweet. He loves playing fetch at the park & in the back yard, although he’s not always good at bringing it back. His favorite holiday is Halloween because he gets to dress up & gets so much attention from everyone!

Our typical weekend

Weekends are the best! We get to hang out with our next door neighbors, which is a dear friend of ours and has 3 kids ages 9, 6 & 3. The kids love to come over & play in our yard with Senna. When we are not at our house then we might be at a festival or farmers market getting fresh food.

Thank You

Thanks for getting to know us! We hope that you feel loved & supported through your journey. We are praying for you & your sweet baby throughout your pregnancy. If we are lucky to be part of your journey, then you have our promise to love & cherish your child with our hearts & souls & to provide a safe & happy home with stories of your courageous & selfless act.

 

Interested in seeing Ruben and Veronica’s full profile? Fill out the contact form below!

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