Joshua was twelve years old and beginning to despair. He had been in the child welfare system for four years. For much of that time, he was hoping that he would be adopted. But it hadn’t happened. “I started to lose hope that there would be a family out there for me.”
Then his caseworker registered Joshua with the AICI’s Adoption Listing Service and the Heart Gallery of Illinois. Shortly thereafter, things began to change. His worker received leads on three possible families. Joshua began to have visits with them, and tried to imagine what life would be like with each one.
When his caseworker asked him which family he was most comfortable with, the answer came easily. He chose Bernard Rupe. “It just felt right,” said Joshua.
Mr. Rupe had spent 15 years as a volunteer mentoring teenagers. So, when he made the decision to adopt, a teen seemed a natural choice. He registered with the AICI’s Adoption Listing Service and soon after saw information about Joshua on the AICI’s web site.
“I could see he was a kid with potential,” said Mr. Rupe. “He had some good strengths, like his school work.” Joshua was getting As and Bs and enjoyed his classes.
Mr. Rupe contacted AICI resource worker Olga Landingham, and she relayed his interest in Joshua to the young man’s caseworker. Within a short time, a meeting was arranged.
On the appointed day, Joshua and his worker waited for Mr. Rupe to arrive. Joshua was wearing his backpack, which he had filled with board games, like checkers and chess, so he and Mr. Rupe would have some activities they could do together. When Mr. Rupe arrived a few minutes later, he too was carrying a backpack filled with board games and activities.
“The caseworker said that, at that point, she had a feeling I was the right family for him,” chuckled Mr. Rupe.
Joshua said of this initial meeting, “I thought he was a pretty cool guy. He gave me a booklet about himself with a lot of pictures and descriptions that he’d written. It talked about the things he liked to do, like hiking, biking, rock climbing, and camping.”
On their next visit, Joshua gave Mr. Rupe a tour of his home town, taking a hike that covered four miles. Mr. Rupe said, “I thought, this is great, if he likes doing this and we have other common interests, I think this is going to work out.”
Mr. Rupe had also been considering a child who lived in Missouri. But when it came time to make a decision about adoption, he chose Joshua, just as Joshua chose him.
Since Joshua came to live with Mr. Rupe in 2006, the two have gone on several outdoor adventures, including one that would be a dream come true for most hikers. “Last summer, we went on a four-week road trip that covered 6,600 miles, 12 states, and seven national parks,” said Mr. Rupe.
“It was cool,” said Josh. “My favorite stop was Big Bend in Texas, where I got to swim in the Rio Grande.”
The Rupes have also gotten their first dog, a field spaniel named Mocha, who loves to accompany them on their river trips.
Joshua’s adoption was finalized in May of 2007. Mr. Rupe said their time together as a family has been very rewarding. He encouraged other parents to consider adoption: “There are kids who need families, especially older kids. Keep an open mind to them. A 19-year old still needs a family. Hey, I’m 42 and I still need a family – a mom, dad, sisters, brothers. You never outgrow that need.”
Joshua agreed, “Everyone needs a father or mother figure in their lives.”
This story was originally published in the 2007 edition of our annual report.