How They Found Families: Child-Welfare Stories Flow

By Machelor, Patty | AZ Daily Star, February 28, 2016 | Go to article overview

How They Found Families: Child-Welfare Stories Flow


Machelor, Patty, AZ Daily Star


James Hancock stood at the end of table, hands in his pockets, explaining he's not much of a public speaker.

He was quiet. He looked at the floor. He sighed. Then he had a realization.

"I am going to do this like I do with my kids," he said.

A deep breath.

"At the age of 13," he began, "I was put into foster care."

Hancock, and four other storytellers who gathered to rehearse Tuesday, shared the hardships and the inspiration they have experienced being connected to Arizona's child-welfare system.

Now a foster parent himself, Hancock will share those remembrances again Friday as part of "Celebrate Our Story," a fundraiser for Arizona's Children Association that's being carried out in collaboration with Odyssey Storytelling. The other speakers include Cindy Hansen, who oversees in-home services for Arizona's Children, and Dimon Sanders, a recently adopted foster teen who competes in state and regional Miss America pageants.

The rehearsal audience included Penelope Starr of Odyssey Storytelling and Tony Paniagua, producer of "AZ Illustrated Nature," who was there as an Odyssey curator and volunteer. Odyssey Storytelling is a local nonprofit, founded by Starr in 2004, that brings monthly storytelling events to Tucson.

Lori Riegel, an Odyssey board member and the Southern Arizona development director for Arizona's Children, was also there to help the storytellers round out their stories.

"I see myself

in some of my kids"

The day after Hancock joined his foster family, they set off on a 3,000-mile trip that took them into California and Oregon. Hancock had never been away from Arizona before, but he had moved 32 times and attended 17 elementary schools before foster care.

"Stability?" he said, referring to life with his mom. "None."

This was the start of a more normal life, he said.

Hancock's transition wasn't easy, though. There were rules and boundaries he'd never before experienced. He railed against homework, often disrupting the "homework table" his foster parents had set up in their home. But, he said, his foster mother would not relent and, eventually, he got it.

"They showed me that if I wanted something, I had to go for it, do it. I had to concentrate," he said. "And, if you fail, you get up and you do it again."

Hancock and his wife run a therapeutic foster home. They have one biological child, and are in the process of adopting for the first time.

"I see myself in some of my kids," he said. "They say, 'You've never been in my shoes' and I sit them down and tell them, 'Oh, yes I have.'"

"A great, great day"

Kyle Hetherington started his story with life as it is now: He's a senior at Rincon High School, angling to go into politics and learning from local politicians like Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, and state Sens. David Bradley and Steve Farley. …

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