15 years ago, a Sioux Center couple dealing with the loss of one of their adopted twin daughters decided to start a ministry to help others reach children in need of a home. Now, Katelyn’s Fund has helped provide grants to hundreds of families in all 50 states, helping to relieve some of the financial stress.
But another big part of the ministry is having a lasting impact on foster and adoptive families.
“He didn’t know English either so that was a challenge and then trying to attach at the same time,” Angela Dekkers said during an adoption support meeting in Sioux Center, Iowa earlier this month.
At least once a month, families who have adoption to thank for at least one of their children, get together to share the ups and downs of a journey they can all relate to.
“So even getting her to say goodbye to us when I drop her off at school she just doesn’t, you know I’m transport for her right now, and that’s hard, that’s super hard,” mom Cara Dehan shared during the meeting.
“Sometimes we feel like we’re so alone in this journey and it’s just us, so we just pray that when these families come to our groups, really that they’re feeling that encouragement, they’re understanding I’m not walking this alone,” Tammy Zevenbergen said.
Tammy Zevenbergen joined the Katelyn’s Fund adoption support group in Sioux Center when she adopted her daughter from China.
“Through the process God brought home our daughter who is 16 now and our son who is 14 now; they were almost three years old when they came home,” Zevenbergen said.
Zevenbergen now leads the Sioux Center support group, helping other families navigate their own adoption journey.
“It’s such a big piece that I’m not alone in this and there’s not something wrong with me and my family, but everybody is walking through this journey too,” Zevenbergen said.
“We see so many families who come in and say a similar thing, they walk in and say ‘oh I didn’t know something like this existed. I didn’t have someone I could share this with that understood it before’,” DeHaan said.
Cara DeHaan leads the Katelyn’s Fund Adoption support group in Sioux Falls.
“Your whole life changes, our whole life changed, and we didn’t really realize before our first adoption how much it would affect everything,” DeHaan said. “Not all for the bad, so much for the good, but you need resources and you need people around you, you need to know that you’re understood.”
She has seen that need multiply in the number of families around Sioux Falls looking to connect.
“We’ve really had a big shift,” DeHaan said. “Last year we started offering free therapeutic childcare and a free meal…now we have grown from this tiny group of moms, to when we have our full staff of childcare there, plus the people who help with the food, the team, we’re looking at 130 people, so it grew faster than we expected.”
“I think the beautiful thing about Sioux Falls, particularly, is that it’s such a collaboration of different groups, churches, ministries and people in the community working together,” Katelyn’s Fund Founder Sheila De Jong said.
De Jong founded Katelyn’s Fund with the goal of helping families adopt. While the organization’s financial grants help with the initial adoption process, the support the organization provides families continues far past placement.
“When children come into families, that’s not the end of the process, that’s really the begin,” De Jong said.
It’s a process with many hills and valleys.
“It is so common to have both laughter and tears just colliding with one another,” De Jong said. “I think the beauty of that is that sometimes it’s really difficult to even articulate emotions and feelings and when you’re with someone that you almost don’t need to have spoken word, there is just a sense of community.”
A community of people who all agree their adoption journey is the biggest and best adventure of their lives.
“If you think about the steps in your life that have been the most life giving, they’re not the easy things, bigger heartaches, also mean greater joys,” DeHaan said.
Kateyln’s Fund has helped start adoption support groups all over the country. Their volunteers currently run monthly groups in Sioux Center and Sioux Falls. The Sioux Falls support group is meeting at Central Church starting at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday night.