Gift of Love: Kinship Program - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

5/2/07 - Tyler

Gift of Love: Kinship Program

While sitting at the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Jeannie Wiedenbeck explains how her life drastically changed a year ago. "I got a call asking us if we could take Deanna and I didn't have any idea what was going on and we were kind of like a last resort."

Without hesitation, Jeannie and Glenn Wiedenbeck agreed to take in their 9 year old relative instead of her being placed in foster care.

"I was all for it. I thought it was a great thing," says Glenn.

Deanna has now been a part of their family for about a year. When this East Texas couple heard about the new "Kinship Adoption Program" through the state, they decided to make Deanna a permanent part of their family.

"I want to be with them forever because I like 'em," says Deanna with a soft voice.

Jeannie says, "I actually look at her as a daughter and I tell people that she is my daughter."

"We want it to be the best relationship for her. She's the one that needs the family figure and we just want to be good family figures," Glenn said.

"They can continue that family bonding and that's the purpose of our agency to keep the families together as a unit," explains Alyce Randal with Child Protective Services.

Alyce goes on to say the "Kinship Program" offers two stipends. One that helps the family initially and another that continues until the child turns 18.  The financial assistance includes health care and a tuition waver for a state college. "In the past we've not been able to offer any type financial support to families who take their relatives into care. At least this will be an incentive to help keep those kids together with someone they know."

A family must complete a ten session support group to qualify for the stipend and those eligible to adopt do not have to be immediate family. "It can be someone considered kin, maybe a best friend a teacher, a preacher or someone they've known in their church and our agency has conservator ship over that child," says Alyce.

For Glenn and Jeannie, giving the Gift of Love means a lot of joy in return. "It's been awesome. I've got me a little buddy to hang out with. We have become good friends," says Jeannie.

Glenn adds, "I think it's going to get better with time because she's growing closer to us day by day."

Deanna is just hoping the family will continue to grow. "All I know is they need to have a baby cause I want to have a baby brother or sister," she says with a big smile.

What ever happens in the future, one thing is certain; Glenn, Jeannie and Deanna will be a family. "I think this was definitely meant to be. Definitely."

If you'd like to know more about the "Kinship Program," call our Gift of Love hotline, toll-free,   1-888-kids-275.

Gillian Sheridan, Reporting

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