“Focus on Our Families” is a series of articles that will feature foster and adoptive parents and their experiences so those inside and outside of the organization will have a better understanding of the importance and the rewards of foster parenting and/or being an adoptive parent.
Sandra and Alan Donchez were meant to work with special needs children and become foster parents. Without hesitation Sandra proclaims, “If we do not do it, I don’t know who will?”
In June 2012, with nearly 20 years of fostering experience and having already given the best gift two special needs boys could receive – a “forever family” – Sandra and Alan were approved to become foster parents with CONCERN’s Lehigh Valley office.
Since joining CONCERN, Sandra and Alan have kept their commitment to special needs children by fostering nine such children through CONCERN’s Medical Foster Care Program, in addition to fostering 10 others through other foster care programs.
Sandra has long emphasized the importance of seeing past the “broken” child, and looking to the child’s future. She feels it is her job to prepare a child to be a productive adult.
Sandra is also passionate when she tells stories about the trauma and daily trials of the children in their care, yet continues to show a calm and positive attitude. Sandra continues, “that you have to have a sense of humor and keep laughter and joy in their lives.”
During their more than six years with CONCERN, Sandra and Alan have provided permanency to four teen and pre-teen boys through guardianship, including two boys with Autism Spectrum Disorder and a sibling group of two boys. When asked why they chose to provide permanency to these children, Sandra responded, “I could not imagine our lives without them.”
Sandra and Alan certainly did not adopt or foster children with special needs for any accolades or awards. They were selfless in their motives, but their actions were noticed in 2016 when they were honored by the Statewide Adoption and Network (SWAN) and presented with the Permanent Family Recognition Award – an award given to families who have legalized permanency for children in the child welfare system through adoption, formal kinship care or permanent legal custodianship and who have advocated and promoted permanency.
Sandra and Alan certainly demonstrated these traits and more.
Aside from their having provided direct permanency and fostering to the aforementioned children, Sandra and Alan also worked hard at establishing and maintaining birth family connections for all of the children by keeping them connected to their roots as well.
In one instance, Sandra worked closely with a child’s birth mother as an informal mentor, helping her to understand and provide for the special needs of her son. After reunification, Sandra continued to be a support for the birth mother.
In another instance, Sandra’s niece came forward as an adoptive resource for a child in the Donchez’s care. Sandra nurtured this connection and advocated with the county and CONCERN to be sure that all parties were aware of this permanent resource.
Sandra and Alan include all of their children in everything they do. They do not differentiate their children as “adoptive”, “guardianship” or “foster” children. To them, these are all “their boys.”
Sandra has also emphasized the importance of having a good support network. While providing foster care and working with special needs children, Sandra and Alan have developed a wide network of support including Sandra’s mother, sister and friends who are/were foster parents, as well as medical and educational professionals.
As Sandra continues to say, “If we do not do it, I don’t know who will?”
Maybe you will, so please contact the office closest to you for more information about becoming foster and/or adoptive parents like Sandra and Alan Donchez.