This mom-daughter relationship proves older kids in foster care are worth a second look.
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Ad Council - Adopt US Kids

Ever since Liz was a young girl, she knew she wanted to adopt.

This feeling only solidified as she grew into a determined and passionate woman.

As a teacher of 20-plus years and an avid community service provider, she always felt pulled toward the idea of helping kids in need.


"I knew there were a lot of children in the world that needed good homes," Liz said.

Photo by Liz.

However, when Liz was diagnosed with uterine cancer at 27, she had to put her adoption plans on hold.

On top of that, Liz was in her 30s and caring for her sick mother, so she didn't formally start looking to become an adoptive parent until she was in her early 40s.

By that time, Liz had also been in remission for 13 years, which she counted as a sign to move forward.

But her friends weren't entirely on board with her adoption plan.

Liz wanted to foster to adopt, meaning she'd foster a child in the foster care system with the intention of adopting. Several of her friends thought she was asking for trouble. They couldn't understand why she didn't want to adopt a baby.

But a baby wasn’t Liz’s plan. She’d always had a soft spot for older kids, which is why she didn't hesitate to start the course to become a foster parent.

Once you get through the training, they assign you a social worker and put your information in the system so that kids' social workers can find and match you.

Liz was first scheduled to meet a 13-year-old girl. But when the girl's social worker met with Liz during a preliminary house inspection, she made an unusual recommendation.

She told Liz she thought she had an even better match for her, but the girl in question, Ashley, was 15.

Ashley. Photo via AdoptUsKids. Used with permission.

To the social worker's surprise, Liz was totally on board to meet Ashley instead.

Their first meeting was in January 2012 at an ice cream shop. It was a bit awkward, especially considering the social worker was sitting at the table with them, but the two got along well despite that.

So they set up weekly get-togethers and phone conversations to see if they were the right fit for each other.

"Once we started to talk, we bonded quickly," writes Ashley in an email.

"Ashley and I say it’s like we dated," Liz jokes.

Ashley (left) and Liz (right) eating ice cream.

So, after about six weeks of "dating," Ashley moved into Liz's house and started at the local high school — Westford Academy.

There was an adjustment period, to be sure, especially in terms of her academic life. Ashley's education was full of gaps, partially because her birth mother had taken her out of school for long stretches of time and Westford was a rather prestigious school. But Liz worked with Ashley to help her catch up, and eventually her grades improved.

Ashley also went to therapy regularly to help her cope with all the trauma she experienced as a child.

And slowly but surely, she began to feel more secure in her life with Liz. The two became close.

"I realized that I was comfortable when I started to share things with her about my past," Ashley recalls.

Eventually, Ashley started calling Liz "Mom."

Liz (left) and Ashley (right). Photo via Liz Benstead.

About a year after Ashley moved in with Liz, Liz officially adopted her. Ashley was 16 at the time, making her the oldest child to be adopted in Massachusetts in 2012.

"I was excited," said Ashley in an Ad Council interview. "[I'd] finally have a forever home."

Needless to say, it was a big moment for both mom and daughter. But it was just the beginning of experiences that would bring them closer together.

Liz took Ashley on her first major trip somewhere — they went to Las Vegas. They often get mani-pedis together, and they made a ritual of cooking together, although Liz jokes that Ashley's a way better cook than she is.

Liz also helped her get into volunteering — a passion they both independently shared.

They started a nonprofit called Suitcases of Hope, which provides kids in foster care with their own duffle bags filled with comfort items like sheets, a toothbrush, even a stuffed animal.

"Most kids have to throw all their clothes into garbage bags when they move to a new foster home," Liz says. This personal duffle bag is something that can really feel like theirs.

Aside from Suitcases, between high school and college, Ashley also joined the AmeriCorps City Year program, which connects volunteers with underserved kids who are struggling in school.

The experience helped her get into Central Piedmont Community College, where she achieved a 4.0 GPA. She plans to transfer soon to a four-year college.

According to Liz, Ashley often says the 15-year-old she was wouldn't recognize the young woman she's become — in the best way.

Liz and Ashley traveling in New York City together. Photo via Liz Benstead.

On the flip side, Liz says Ashley's made her more patient, resilient, and understanding. Now that Ashley's in her life, she's smiling and laughing much more often.

That said, Ashley doesn't shy away from telling her story. In fact, she and her mom often speak publicly about adoption, which is how they eventually got connected with AdoptUSKids — a national organization that helps support child welfare systems.

"She is ... determined to say to the world, 'Look, I was in foster care, I've been neglected and abused, and guess what, I made it,'" Liz says.

"I'm no longer doubting myself a lot, I don't have low self-esteem," said Ashley in an Ad Council interview. "And that's all thanks to my mom."

If Ashley could tell prospective adoptive parents anything, it would be to not overlook the foster care system.

"Ignore any misconceptions about foster kids. Every child wants to be loved," Ashley says.

To learn more about adoption and awesome teens like Ashley, check out AdoptUsKids, or contact them via phone, email or chat. And to hear more about Ashley and Liz, check out the video below:

Courtesy of Creative Commons
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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

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Cats are notoriously weird. Everyone who's had cats knows that they each have their own unique quirks, idiosyncrasies, preferences, habits, and flat-out WTFness.

But even those of us who have experience with bizarre cat behavior are blown away by the antics this "cat dad" is able to get away with.

Kareem and Fifi are the cat parents of Chase, Skye, and Millie—literally the most chill kitties ever. They share their family life on TikTok as @dontstopmeowing, and their videos have been viewed millions of times. When you see them, you'll understand why.

Take Chase's spa days, for example. It may seem unreal at first, but watch what happens when Fifi tries to take away his cucumber slices.

When she puts them back on his eyes? WHAT?! What cat would let you put them on once, much less get mad when you take them off?

This cat. Chase is living his best life.

But apparently, it's not just Chase. Skye and Millie have also joined in "spaw day." How on earth does one couple end up with three hilariously malleable cats?

Oh, and if you think they must have been sedated or something, look at how wide awake they are during bath time. That's right, bath time. Most cats hate water, but apparently, these three couldn't care less. How?

They'll literally do anything. The Don't Stop Meowing channel is filled with videos like this. Cats wearing glasses. Cats wearing hats. Cats driving cars. It's unbelievable yet highly watchable entertainment.

If you're worried that Kareem gets all the love and Fifi constantly gets the shaft, that seems to be a bit for show. Look at Chase and Fifi's conversation about her leaving town for a business trip:

The whole channel is worth checking out. Ever seen a cat being carried in a baby carrier at the grocery store? A cat buckled into a car seat? Three cats sitting through storytime? It's all there. (Just a heads up: A few of the videos have explicit language, so parents might want to do a preview before watching with little ones.) You can follow the couple and their cats on all their social media channels, including Instagram and YouTube if TikTok isn't your thing, here.

If you weren't a cat person before, these videos might change your mind. Fair warning, however: Getting a cat because you want them to do things like this would be a mistake. Cats do what they want to do, and no one can predict what weird traits they will have. Even if you raise them from kittenhood, they're still unpredictable and weird.

And honestly, we wouldn't have them any other way.

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

OK, sure, there are no assigned seats, but you've been sitting at the same desk since the first day and everyone knows it.

So why does the guy who sits next to you put his phone, his book, his charger, his lunch, and his laptop in the space that's rightfully yours? It's annoying!

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There have been many iconic dance routines throughout film history, but how many have the honor being called "the greatest" by Fred Astaire himself?

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, known collectively as the Nicholas Brothers, were arguably the best at what they did during their heyday. Their coordinated tap routines are legendary, not only because they were great dancers, but because of their incredible ability to jump into the air and land in the splits. Repeatedly. From impressive heights.

Their most famous routine comes from the movie "Stormy Weather." As Cab Calloway sings "Jumpin' Jive," the Nicholas Brothers make the entire set their dance floor, hopping and tapping from podium to podium amongst the musicians, dancing up and down stairs and across the top of a piano.

But what makes this scene extra impressive is that they performed it without rehearsing it first and it was filmed in one take—no fancy editing room tricks to bring it all together. This fact was confirmed in a conversation with the brothers in a Chicago Tribune article in 1997, when they were both in their 70s:

"Would you believe that was one of the easiest things we ever did?" Harold told the paper.

"Did you know that we never even rehearsed that number?" added Fayard.

"When it came time to do that part, (choreographer) Nick Castle said: 'Just do it. Don`t rehearse it, just do it.' And so we did it—in one little take. And then he said: 'That's it—we can't do it any better than that.'"

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