Foster Care to Adoption: Our family’s story is unique and precious

By Anna Futral

November is National Adoption Month. CASA volunteers stay by a child’s side throughout the case, advocating first for reunification with the child’s parent(s) when safe and possible. If reunification is not safe or possible, CASA volunteers will advocate for the child to be adopted by, or live with, other relatives or family friends. If that is also not possible, CASA volunteers will work towards adoption by a non-relative. ⁠

Adoption is a beautiful thing, and just like any other major life decision, it’s not always easy. Some of our CASA staff have been through this journey to adopt. Here is our Executive Director, Anna Futral, and her family’s story.

In the summer of 2012, my husband, Trent, and I had been married four years, had the house, the cars, the jobs, and by all normal accounts, having a baby would be a next logical step in our life at that point.  But we’ve never really followed convention, meanwhile, every time the baby conversation came up between us, we both ended up feeling somewhat ambivalent about it, like it wasn’t the answer for us, like there was a different plan in store for our hopes of building a family.  Turns out…we were right.

Adoption had always been in the back of our minds.  My husband and his sister were each adopted, so that has always been a piece of our puzzle.  As baby conversations continued to stall out, we decided to be proactive and research, listen and learn, not knowing that this new path would take hold of us so quickly and so firmly.  We heavily researched international adoption, domestic adoption, and that scary thing called foster care, initially setting it on the shelf as something for people more mature than us in our mid-20s, or at least who have some parenting experience.  Taking care of a child and then possibly letting them go, abuse, neglect, court dates, birth parent visits, potential behavior and medical problems, social workers, therapists, so many unknowns… 

Nevertheless, we sat down for a meeting with a foster care agency, thinking we were just gathering information.  Afterwards, we got in my car and I turned it on but we didn’t go anywhere for a few minutes, even though we both needed to get back to work.  He said “That felt really, really normal to sit there and talk about all that.”  I said, “I know.”  There was a strange mixture in our hearts and gut of both peace and fear, both “Yes, this is right” mixed with “You have got to be kidding me.” I stared wide eyed over the steering wheel with tears on my cheeks and Trent stared wide eyed at me.  Then we went back to work.

Looking at the world around us, we see so much hurt and pain.  We can look overseas at the extreme poverty, starvation and orphanage there.   In the summer of 2012, we looked right out our door and realized there are children needing a home right in our own community.  Without getting into a debate about which is more important (both are extremely important in our world), we decided that our hearts lie in our local community.   So we jumped all in.

The next several years were intense yet exciting, complex yet contained some of the easiest and clearest decisions we’ve ever made.  As we opened our home to two and then three children, we were surrounded by caring support and capable professionals.  Though the details of our family’s story are our own, a winding path with many curveballs across several years culminated in our open adoption of three biological siblings.

Our family’s story is unique. Our family’s story is challenging.  Our family’s story is precious.

We honor our children’s past, celebrate their present and eagerly anticipate their future.  We have good times and we laugh so, so often.  We work through life’s plain ole challenges as a plain ole family.  We face confusion and questions about their tricky start in life when they rise up and we block out the rest of the world, plop down on the rug, hash through it all, say as many words and cry as many tears as we need to until we are as much at peace as we can be in that moment. 

Being an adoptive family isn’t always easy. Turmoil pops up and trauma surfaces.  Strangers make ignorant comments about our family and people assume things about our story that are entirely false.  But we rally as their parents and circle around them.  At times we will take the blows on their behalf and shield them entirely, other times we will jump down into the trench with them.  Still other times we will sit back and cheer them on from afar as they live out their unique, challenging, precious story with strength, confidence and love.

To learn more about CASA’s work advocating for children in foster care please email recruiter@casaforeverychild.org or call (254) 304-7982 or visit casaforeverychild.org.


Though born and raised in Fredericksburg, Anna Futral has called Waco home for sixteen years.  She is a graduate of Baylor University, where she received her Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and a Master of Taxation.  She built her career as a Certified Public Accountant at JRBT, where she worked for over ten years, specializing in service to nonprofit clients, prior to joining CASA of McLennan County in May of 2017.  In addition to her business acumen and administrative leadership skills, Anna brings to CASA a deep-seated passion for children in foster care.  She and her husband, Trent, are former foster parents and adopted their three children from foster care in 2016.  When she’s not busy leading CASA forward or chasing her kids, ages 5, 6, and 7, Anna enjoys reading, spending time with good people, and working with her husband on their 120-year-old house in the heart of Waco.

Fruit of the month: Cranberries

By Paula Solano

Thanksgiving and fall festivities might look a bit different for most of us this year. When I think about the holidays, I think about food, fellowship, reflecting on the past year, and forward-thinking on years to follow.

Food is in the center of many cultures, in the center celebrations, those of joy and those of mourning. The types of foods we consume during the holidays also look different in many cultures.

Tamales are a Thanksgiving staple in our gatherings, along with our turkey, ham, and desserts. Nevertheless, this year we have the opportunity to make changes for health, wellness, and safety.

I look forward to this year’s holidays as a time to recharge and reflect. Our Thanksgiving celebration will be different as we will continue to practice social distancing, particularly thinking about our older adult loved ones and medically fragile friends. It is also a time of solidarity for those who have unexpectedly lost someone due to COVID-19.

This year, we will opt out of the large gatherings or travel and stay home. Nutrition and physical activity have gained substantial importance in our household and we hope to continue these practices as we prepare our Thanksgiving meal on a much smaller scale.

I’ve invested some time reviewing options to introduce to my picky eaters (my three children). I have had some successes and learned many lessons along the way. Particularly thinking about the cookie recipe I’ve included in this blog, a lesson learned from preparing the recipe is that I might have succeeded in sneaking cranberries had I pureed the cranberries. Needless to say, I considered this recipe a success when two-thirds of my kiddos gave the cookies a thumbs up.

Changing habits and behaviors can bring forth challenges; however, consistency is key. Health and wellness are at the forefront for many, and I personally hope our healthier choices will continue beyond this pandemic. Scaling back will be less complex as we face the possibility of preparing a smaller “feast.” Feeding a family of five will call for a smaller spread yet equally as cherished.

Our spread will likely includes cranberries. They are a seasonal fruit and can be found in the produce section, frozen, in a can, or as 100% juice.  

Nutritional Facts and Health Claims

Did you know cranberries are a good source of antioxidants? One cup of whole cranberries contains 46 calories, calcium, iron, and potassium. Additionally, they’re sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat free. 

Cranberries offer unique health benefits, including potentially reducing the risk of high blood pressure when part of a low-sodium diet. Drinking cranberry juice can reduce the risk of UTIs.

 Shopping & Storage

When shopping for fresh cranberries, select those that are firm to the touch. A single fresh cranberry will bounce if dropped on the floor. Avoid selecting cranberries that are soft or contain spots. Fresh cranberries may be refrigerated for up to two months, then, it is recommended that you freeze them. 

Get the Facts!

Wash your hands as recommended by the CDC and clean contact surfaces often. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate provides recipes, tips, and resources to guide you in creating a healthy eating plan. Start simple, download the MyPlate App, an easy-to-use app that will help guide you and track your progress.

Use:

OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Serving: 2.5 dozen cookies

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Ingredients

2/3 cup of butter or margarine, softened

2/3 cups of brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups of old-fashioned oats

1 1/2 cups of flour

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 6-once Ocean Spray ®Craisins Original Dried Cranberries 

2/3 cup of white or semi-sweet chocolate chunk cookies

Directions

Preheat oven to 375F degrees.

Beat butter/margarine and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix well. 

In a separate bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture in several additions, mix well after each addition. Stir dried cranberries and chocolate chunks. 

Drop round teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Per serving: Cal. 130, Fat 6g (9%DV), Sat. Fat. 3.5g (18%DV), Sod. 90mg (4%DV), Carb. 18g (6% DV), Sugar 11g, Pro. 2g

CRANBERRY NUT BREAD

Prep Time: Approximately 1.5 hours

Servings: 15 portions

Cook Time: 50-60 minutes

Ingredients 

2 cups of flour

2/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

2 teaspoon grated orange peel

3/4 cup orange juice

4 tablespoon butter or margarine melted 

1 egg or 2 egg whites (medium)

1 cup of chopped cranberries (I used a can)

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 powdered sugar (1/3 cup, optional, for glaze)

1 teaspoon of water (optional for glaze)

Directions

Preheat oven at 350F degrees. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl.

Grate orange peel, then squeeze juice from the orange. Add additional juice if needed to make 3/4 cup. 

Blend orange juice, butter, egg, and grated orange peel in a separate bowl. Then add the flour mixture, stirring until blended, and add the cranberries and walnuts.

Pour batter into a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, greased at the bottom.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes.

Remove and cool completely in a wire rack. 

Optional: To make the glaze, mix powdered sugar and water. Add water slowly to create a thin glaze, then drizzle over the cooled loaf. 

Enjoy!

Paula Solano is a Master in Public Health student at Baylor University, certified Community Health Worker, volunteering at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. A Waco native, she is passionate about serving her community particularly underserved and underrepresented citizens.

Due to the continued spread of COVID-19 and the challenges it poses to communities across Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and many others continue to practice public health recommendations. Whether we are communicating online or face-to-face know that program content will always be research-backed to help individuals navigate decisions for themselves and their families. For information on resources, ideas, and programs for yourself and family visit Texas A&M AgriLife’s HUB. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP. To learn more about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or to apply for benefits, visit YourTexasBenefits.com.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

America Recycles Day and Scrap Tire Collection

by Anna Dunbar

America Recycles Day (ARD) has its 23rd  anniversary this year. What many don’t know is that ARD has its roots in Texas, central Texas in fact. Texas Recycles Day began in 1994 as the idea of two Texas Commission on Environmental Quality employees, Kevin Tuerff and Valerie Davis. I had met them while I was at the agency and was always so impressed with their creativity. They came up with Texas Recycles Day to promote recycling on a day far enough away from Earth Day (April 22nd), but not before the Election Day in order  to capture everyone’s attention. Thus November 15th was chosen as America Recycles Day!

Eventually, Texas Recycles Day was transformed into America Recycles Day. The first national America Recycles Day was held November 15th, 1997 and it has been celebrated annually ever since.

What about America Recycles Day in Waco? There is a lot of energy behind recycling in Waco. This year, the Waco Solid Waste Services is conducting a Scrap Tire Collection on Saturday, November 14. Here are the details:

  • Location: 501 Schroeder Drive, near the Baylor Water Tower
  • Hours: 7 AM until 12 Noon
  • This event is for Waco residents only. Please pre-register or bring your Waco water utility bill as proof of residency.
  • Restrictions:
    • No more than 10 tires
    • No tires from businesses 
    • No OTR, Skid Steer, Earth Movers
    • Maximum size: 24 inches
    • Maximum ten (10) tires per household
    • Please preregister by calling (254) 299-2612

You might wonder why Waco Solid Waste Services is having a scrap tire collection at no extra charge. There are several reasons. First, recycling of scrap tires usually carries a fee per tire. The fee is waived during this event, making it easier for Wacoans to recycle their tires. Second, scrap tires are a breeding place for mosquitoes, which can carry diseases. Finally, scrap tires are prone to being dumped on vacant lots and other locations. This free collection is a good time to rid your property of scrap tires and recycle at the same time!

Waco Solid Waste Services encourages everyone to pre-register for this event and to wear a mask while talking with staff during the event. Pre-registration can be done by calling (254) 299-2612 Monday through Friday from 8 AM until 5 PM.  Para informacion en Espanol: (254) 299-2612.   There will also be a registration form at Waco-texas.com beginning November 5.

Thank you for keeping Waco Clean and Green!


Anna Dunbar is the solid waste administrator for the City of Waco Solid Waste Services. She is responsible for informing Waco residents and businesses about recycling and waste reduction opportunities as well as solid waste services in Waco. Her husband is a Baylor professor and her daughter is a Baylor University alum who works at Horizon Environmental Services, Inc. Anna is an active member of Keep Waco Beautiful and The Central Texas Audubon Society.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.