+
True
Ad Council - Adopt US Kids

The first time John and Jane Thomas met three of their kids, they saw so many camera flashes, it felt like the paparazzi were there.

But this wasn’t a newborn photo shoot. It was a meeting in a chain restaurant, and the kids — Jonathan, Alaina, and Isaiah — were 10-, 13-, and 14-year-old siblings who had lived in foster care for most of their lives. Until they met John and Jane, they’d moved around from home to home, and Jonathan, the youngest of the three, was often separated from his older siblings.

John and Jane didn’t plan on taking any pictures at this first meeting because, more than anything else, they wanted the siblings to feel comfortable with them.


But as soon as they opened the door to the restaurant, that plan changed.

“For five minutes, we could not see because [the kids] took like a hundred pictures,” John remembers fondly.

All images provided by the Thomas family.

These kids were so thrilled to meet their prospective parents that they wanted to document every moment of it.

And they weren’t the only ones who were excited.

John had always wanted to adopt, and when he suggested it to Jane after they married in 2006, she got on board right away.

At first, the Pennsylvania couple looked for a child who was between 3 and 5 years old. But in 2007, a family member of Jane's contacted them about a soon-to-be-born baby in need of a family. So they adopted Jordan, the first child they would adopt together. They were in the delivery room when Jordan was born, and John cut his new baby’s umbilical cord.

Soon afterwards, they contacted an adoption agency to resume their search for a 3- to 5-year-old. But that all changed when their case worker asked, “Have you ever thought about teens?”

They hadn’t considered teens before, and because of the huge need for homes for teens in foster care, their case worker suggested they think about it.

After doing some research, John and Jane learned that every year in the United States, more than 20,000 children age out of the foster care system — and immediately face high risks of homelessness, incarceration, and mental health struggles.

This fact really hit home with them. Jane worked as a prison chaplain and John was a warden, so they both had witnessed some of these effects firsthand. Many of the incarcerated people they worked with had once been youth in foster care.

“We didn't want to see kids end up that way,” John says.

They also learned that siblings have a hard time getting adopted together, so not only did John and Jane decide to adopt teenagers — they set their sights on siblings.

They started attending adoption events and flipping through sibling adoption lists. There were so many in need of homes that it was difficult to narrow down their choices.

But three kids in particular stood out because, for some reason, their photo kept showing up.

“It was like they were following us,” says John.

Those kids were Jonathan, Alaina, and Isaiah.

“By the fourth time of seeing the same wonderful picture of the three of them ... we contacted the agency and said we're interested in these three.”

The kids were interested too. When the adoption agency told them about the couple, the kids zeroed in on John’s job, saying, “If your dad’s a warden, he’ll keep you safe.”

In 2009, John and Jane officially adopted the siblings.

Like many kids from foster care, Jonathan, Alaina, and Isaiah carried their belongings in big black garbage bags when they arrived at the Thomas home. But for the first time, they knew they could finally settle into a home knowing they’d never have to haul around those bags again.

John was determined to teach his kids that love is unconditional.

“We loved them through their initial pain of, are you going to disappear like the last family?” John says. “And we never disappeared. We weren't going anywhere.”

He knew it would take time for the kids to adjust. At first, he wasn’t sure what they would call him — maybe “Mr. John”? But, much to their delight, the kids began calling them Mommy and Daddy almost immediately.

But any parent with teenagers knows they can go through some difficult moments, such as sibling rivalries, missed homework assignments, and raging hormones. John and Jane tackled it all, and John says that what his kids went through was no different from the kids he knew who were living with their birth parents.

Jonathan's high school graduation day.

And, just like any other parents, they continued to love their children through all of the ups and downs.

As a result of that unconditional love, the siblings blossomed. They recognize the value of family and speak often about what it means that they were able to stay together.

“It's just a big deal, especially when you don't have a whole lot of constants in your life,” John explains. “To have your siblings with you is a constant, something you can count on.”

John and Jane have no regrets about adopting teenagers. In fact, three years after adopting Isaiah, Alaina, and Jonathan, they adopted 15-year-old Dontae.

“We would do it all over again,” John says. “If our house was bigger, we probably never would’ve stopped.”

Dontae, now 21 years old and living in Ohio with his fiancée, recently called John at 1 a.m. Like most parents would, John immediately asked him what was wrong.

“Nothing,” Dontae said. He just wanted to tell his dad that he’d just played a great football game. And, for a teen who’d been in foster care, it was really special to have someone to call.

Dontae and John on the football field.

“It’s just a wonderful thing when you see the kids grow up and you see what happens in their own lives,” John says. “We didn’t realize how much it would change our lives, and how much it would bless us.”

Now, the siblings are 19, 22, and 23 years old. All three have graduated high school, and Isaiah and Alaina have moved a few hours away from home. But they all keep in touch and come home for the holidays.

Those precious visits continue to remind John why the entire journey was worth it.

“Every child needs at least one person who is crazy about them,” John says. That’s why he’s passionate about spreading the word about the joy of loving teens who have been in foster care.

“What do you want to leave behind? That you had the nicest car or home or whatever? Or that you invested in the life of some kids who by no fault of their own had to find a family?”

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

True

Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Pixabay

The show must go on… and more power to her.

There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.

According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

Keep ReadingShow less