FOREVER FAMILIES: Meet Tirahji — A Boy Who Loves Playing Games

By Clint Williams, Aid to Adoption of Special Kids

When it comes to games, 12-year-old Tirahji is a bit old-fashioned. No Fortnite or NBA 2K20 for this guy.

“Tirahji is big into Uno and board games,” says Kayla, a child specific adoption recruiter with Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK).

Playing board games and card games gives Tirahji a chance to engage in another favorite activity — making people laugh.

“He has a great sense of humor and loves to make other laugh by telling jokes and sharing riddles,” says Kayla.

“He is a very laid back kid,” she adds.

Tirahji loves playing football and basketball. He also has an artistic side and loves to draw.

Tirahji needs the stability of a forever family with two parents who are “calm and collected,” says Kayla, adding he would also do well with a single parent who has a strong support system.

“He would do best as the only child,” Kayla says.


For more information on children eligible for adoption, call Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK) at 602.930.4900 or visit aask-az.org.

FOREVER FAMILIES: Meet Dwaun — A Boy Who Wants a Dog to Be His Best friend

By Clint Williams, Aid to Adoption of Special Kids

They say dogs are man’s best friend and 12-year-old Dwaun would certainly agree.

Dwuan is a dog person. The active, athletic boy would love to join a forever family with pets — especially if that pet was a dachshund or a pug.

“Dwaun is a kid who likes to help and who really wants a family, and if that family had a dog he would take the dog for walks and take care of it,” says Brianna, a child specific adoption recruiter with Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK).

Dwaun is “super friendly” and engaging, the kind of person who becomes instant friends with other kids playing in the park, Brianna says.

Dwaun enjoys sports — football and basketball are his favorites. He also likes to play video games and one of his favorite games is “Madden 20,” a game that simulates professional football games.

He also likes to draw and paint and takes great pride in his art, Brianna says.

His favorite foods include pizza, quesadillas, tamales, ramen noodles and Oreo cookies.
Dwaun will be in the eighth grade this fall. His favorite class is social studies.

Dwaun longs for a positive male role model and would do best in a two-parent family in which the parents are experienced and able to meet Dwaun’s needs for academic enrichment and behavior coaching.


For more information on children eligible for adoption, call Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK) at 602.930.4900 or visit aask-az.org.

FOREVER FAMILIES: Meet Damone — A teen needing someone on the sideline for him

By Clint Williams, Aid to Adoption of Special Kids

Damone is a teen for all seasons — football season, basketball season, track season.

Damone, 14, is a multi-sport athlete who thrives in the world of competition, says John Hicks, a child specific adoption recruiter with Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK).

“He enjoys the routine and structure that sports gives him,” says Hicks, adding that sports give Damone the motivation to do well in school.

Damone runs track, specializing in sprints, and plays football, but his favorite sport is basketball.

“What I like about basketball is jumping and moving around,” the soft-spoken Damone says. “I’m really good at dribbling.”

But, he knows he can get better and is willing to work hard at it.

“I like people coaching me,” Damone says. “I like getting coached.”

When he isn’t playing sports, Damone says he likes to get lost in a book.

“I like reading books, especially the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books,” he says.

The perfect forever family for Damone would include a mother and a father to serve as a strong male role model.

“Like any athlete,” Hicks says. “Damone needs a good coach and a good cheerleader.”


For more information on children eligible for adoption, call Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK) at 602.930.4900 or visit aask-az.org.

The Need is Great, Getting Started is Easy

— By Clint Williams, Aid to Adoption of Special Kids — 

Much has changed since the COVID-19 virus swept across the globe. But one thing hasn’t changed — children in foster care need homes.

After years of decline, the number of children in foster care this fiscal year has topped last year’s count. The number of children in foster care who are placed in group homes because there are no families to take them in has risen to nearly 1,600. Meanwhile, the number of new foster care licenses issued has declined over the past two years.

“The need for committed, caring foster parents has never been greater,” said Ron Adelson, CEO of Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK). “Fortunately, it’s never been easier to get started on the path to change the life of a child in foster care. AASK has developed live, interactive online information sessions that make learning about foster care, adoption and mentoring easy as clicking a computer mouse. Without leaving your home.”

During the information session, Adelson said, participants learn more about AASK and how the agency helps caring adults who want to help children in foster care.

“There are several ways to provide a relationship to a child in foster care — adoption, foster care, mentoring and the AASK Sibling Connection program,” Adelson said. “AASK information sessions explain the demands and rewards of each program so that you can judge which path is best for you.”

Virtual learning continues should you decide to become a foster parent, Adelson noted. The state’s foster parent training program is now conducted online.

AASK holds six virtual information sessions a month, including one in Spanish. To learn more, or to register, go to https://www.aask-az.org/infosessionrequest.


For more information on children eligible for adoption, call Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK) at 602.930.4900 or visit www.aask-az.org.

FOREVER FAMILIES — Meet Ariah: A special little fellow who needs special parents

By Clint Williams, Aid to Adoption of Special Kids ~

You need just one word to describe young Ariah – mellow.

“Ariah is most laid-back little guy we’ve ever had,” says foster mom Margaret, who over the years has had more than a dozen children in foster care be part of her family.

Ariah, who turns 2 this summer, responds with a melt-your-heart giggle when he hears one of his favorite songs or nursery rhymes.

“He loves music,” Margaret says. “He loves to dance and clap and sing along.”

Ariah likes to observe the bustle of a busy home with other children.

“Ariah does great with other kids,” Margaret says. “He wants that interaction.”

And he is a delight for the older children in the house, she says. Ariah’s foster siblings “love him to death,” Margaret says.

Ariah is a happy little boy in the face of ongoing medical challenges.

“A typical day for Ariah involves occupational therapy exercises, physical therapy exercises,” Margaret says. “We work on feeding therapy items by eating two meals a day of mushy baby food.”

Ariah’s special medical needs means he needs a special forever family.

“Ariah needs a family that is going to have at least one parent that is able to be at home with him the majority of the time,” Margaret says. “He does have a lot of ongoing therapies and doctor appointments. He needs someone who can accompany him and advocate him at all those visits.”

Watch the stories of children in foster care waiting on forever families each week on the Wednesday’s Child segment each week between 5-6am on Channel 12 (KPNX). You can also view previously aired stories at www.aask-az.org. For more information on children eligible for adoption, call AASK at 602.930.4900.

Aid to Adoption of Special Kids Recruiting Volunteer Camp Counselors — Deadline to Apply is March 15

By Clint Williams, Aid to Adoption of Special Kids – AASK

Camp volunteer John Hicks offers guidance on the archer range during the 2019 AASK Sibling Summer Camp.

Hiking and kayaking in the cool high country near Payson is a great way to spend a week in June. And doing it while bringing smiles to the faces of children in foster care is even better.

The Seventh Annual AASK Sibling Summer Camp is recruiting volunteer counselors for a week of adventure at Camp Tontozona near Payson starting June 14.

Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK) each summer brings siblings in foster care together for a week of fun and an opportunity to reconnect.

“Sibling relationships are usually our longest lasting relationships and one of the most important relationships we have,” says JoAnne Chiariello, director of family support services at AASK.

“But children in foster care are often placed in foster homes or group homes apart from their brothers and sisters,” says Chiariello.

Research shows that strong, positive sibling relationships are associated with less loneliness, fewer behavioral problems and higher self-worth.

Camp activities include swimming, hiking, kayaking, horseback ridings and rappelling. A magician will entertain kids and counselors one night. There is a birthday celebration in which everyone gets a cake and siblings exchange presents.

Volunteer camp counselors are a vital component to the success of the camp. Counselors need to be up to the challenges of hiking, kayaking and horseback riding. Volunteers must complete a fingerprint background screening and attend a training session.

For more information, contact Amanda Gonzales at 602.930.4482 or go online at www.aask-az.org/volunteer. The deadline to apply is March 15.

FOREVER FAMILIES: Dylan is a Laid-Back Teen Who Wants a Dad

— By Clint Williams, Aid to Adoption of Special Kids

Teens typically come with drama. Not 15-year-old Dylan.

“He is literally, the most chill, laid-back kid,” says Kayla, a child specific adoption recruiter with Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK).

The teen is laid back, but still loves to play.

Dylan is engaging, joking and confident as he swats baseballs at the Extra Innings Indoor Batting Cages in Mesa, carefully following the coaching of instructor Brady Hansen, who threw batting practice.

Dylan loves playing baseball — just not during the sweltering summer, jokes Kayla.

“In the summer, Dylan really likes to go swimming or hanging out inside watching movies,” she says, adding that his favorite movies feature superheroes like Spider-Man and The Hulk.

During the summer, Dylan also talks about how eager he is to get back in the classroom.

“I love school,” Dylan says.

Dylan is a high school sophomore and his schedule includes classes to prepare him for independent living.

“Dylan enjoys going to his classes, he gets good grades and he has been on the honor roll,” Kayla says.

Dylan will do well in a home with two parents or one headed by a single father. He would get along well with older siblings.

“He does really well with a strong-male figure,” Kayla says, “so having that in the home is going to be important.”


For more information on Dylan and other children in foster care who are eligible for adoption, call Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK) at 602.930.4900 or visit www.aask-az.org.

Alice and David Are a Dynamic Duo Wishing for a Forever Family

— By Clint Williams
Aid to Adoption of Special Kids

Eight-year-old Alice is fearless as she moves smoothly up the rock climbing wall at Sky Zone in Scottsdale and confidently slaps the buzzer.

She then carefully works her way down the wall — and then starts back up. Practice makes perfect and Alice is nothing if not willing to practice.

Cheering her on is younger brother David, 7. And when it’s his turn to tackle the wall, Alice keeps a watchful eye as the protective — and a little bit bossy — big sister.

The siblings form a dynamic duo, says Brianna, a child specific adoption recruiter with Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK).

“Alice is a girly girl,” Brianna says. “She likes all things glittery and sparkly.

“David enjoys playing outside. He is very tidy, and he likes to make his bed every single morning.”

Both are active and giggly. Both do well in school and love routine. Both love macaroni and cheese. The two have never lived without each other.

“They have a very strong relationship together and it’s important that they maintain that relationship throughout their lives,” Brianna says, adding that it is also import the two stay in Arizona.

The siblings would thrive in a forever home that has two parents with an abundance of energy.

“The perfect forever family for Alice and David is one that has the time, patience and understanding to work with them,” Brianna says.

Alice and David would do well in a family with other children, but, because of allergies, they can’t live in a home with cats or dogs.


For more information on children in foster care eligible for adoption, call Aid to Adoption of Special Kids at 602.930.4900, or visit www.aask-az.org.

From Foster Care to Life with a Forever Family

— By Clint Williams
Aid to Adoption of Special Kids

This is a story with a happy ending.

Years of bouncing around in the Arizona foster care system have ended for Steven, a 10-year-old boy who gets good grades in school and loves to play basketball. He is now part of a forever family.

While it was long journey for Steven, it may have been love at first sight for his adoptive parents, Valerie Bunce-Kline and Joey Kline. The couple spotted Steven’s flyer when attending classes for foster parent licensure through Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK). Their hearts were certain when they saw Steven’s video, one of more than 1,000 Wednesday’s Child videos produced by AASK since its founding in 1988. The video showed Steven playing soccer in a Phoenix park.

“Watching the video was nice because you saw he was an active child, that he had a sense of humor,” says Joey. “When you saw him out there having fun, you saw how happy he could be.”

After watching the video, says Valerie, “We knew right away Steven was the one we wanted to meet.”

Steven moved into their home in June 2018. It wasn’t always smooth sailing.

“We were just getting to know him, so we needed help adjusting to some of his behaviors,” recalls Valarie.

But the support of Steven’s team — Arizona Department of Child Safety caseworkers, trauma therapist, AASK adoption recruiter and others — was “phenomenal,” Valarie says.

Professional support, stability, security and old-fashioned love from mom and dad have contributed to a transformation.

“He is a completely different child than the child who walked into our home in June of last year,” Valarie says.

A child who was detached and aloof is loving and affectionate. A pattern of unsportsmanlike behavior on the playing field has been replaced by patience, compassion and kindness.

Developing a sense of security, knowing this was his forever family, was key for Steven, his dad says.

“Days before the adoption, that’s all he would talk about,” Joey says. “He’d say to random strangers, ‘I’m getting adopted next week.’”

Steven now lives in a house with three cats, three dogs and his own room with a giant basketball sticker on the doors.

But, the best part?

“My favorite thing about my house,” Steven says, “is my parents — they live there.”


For more information on children in foster care eligible for adoption, call Aid to Adoption of Special Kids at 602.930.4900, or visit www.aask-az.org.

AASK Recruiting Volunteer Summer Camp Counselors

Hiking and kayaking in the cool high country near Payson are a great way to spend a week in June. And doing it while bringing smiles to the faces of children in foster care is even better.

The Sixth Annual AASK Sibling Summer Camp is recruiting volunteer counselors for a week of adventure at  near Payson starting June 16.

Each summer, Aid to Adoption of Special Kids (AASK) brings siblings in foster care together for a week of fun and an opportunity to reconnect.

“Sibling relationships are usually our longest lasting relationships and one of the most important relationships we have,” says JoAnne Chiariello, director of family support services at AASK.

“But children in foster care are often placed in foster homes or group homes apart from their brothers and sisters.”

Research shows that strong, positive sibling relationships are associated with less loneliness, fewer behavioral problems and higher self-worth.

Camp activities include swimming, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding and rappelling. A magician will entertain kids and counselors one night. There is a birthday celebration in which everyone gets a cake and siblings exchange presents.

Volunteer camp counselors are a vital component to the success of the camp.

Counselors need to be up to the challenges of hiking, kayaking and horseback riding. Volunteers must complete a fingerprint background screening and attend a training session.

For more information, contact Amanda Gonzales at 602.930.4482 or go to www.aask-az.org/volunteer. The deadline is March 15.

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