Military Family makes Adoption their Mission: November is National Adoption Month Published Nov. 26, 2020 By Minnie Jones 433rd Airlift Wing JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- November is National Adoption Month. For the last nineteen years, this month has been dedicated to celebrating families who have adopted children. This year’s focus is on the needs of older youth in care, who need forever families, and to raise awareness about foster children still waiting to find permanent homes. Air Force Reserve Citizen Airmen assigned to the 433rd Airlift Wing, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, are supported by their families and often face many challenges while serving in the military, such as deployments, training exercises, and other various missions. Despite the many other assignments they encounter, one family, Maj. Matthew Menendez, and his wife Evan, decided to take on another very distinctive mission, adopting three children from foster care. When you meet the Menendez’s, you will notice something special about them; for one, the harmony that they have between them. Secondly, when you meet their children, you will also know that they are an exceptional family, which is attributed to their good parenting. During the interview, the Menendez walked me through their journey of adopting their three children. Initially, Evan was the one who always thought about adopting a child. Later, while stationed in Florida, Matt, an Air Force pilot, recalls talking with one of his co-workers, a man whom he admired and respected, who had recently adopted three little girls through the state. Matt came home and discussed the possibility of adoption with Evan. “For some time, I had often thought that adopting would be cool,” said Evan. “We had experienced six miscarriages, some before and some after our son, Zack came along,” she said. “I was almost certain we could have had more children with the help of extra hormones, vitamins, and so forth, but when I really think about it, I am just as happy adopting as I am thinking about having more of my own. I thought; we aren’t trying to populate the earth anymore, so let’s look around and invest in the people who are already here.” After further discussing the option of adoption with his colleague, Matt took a leap of faith and indicated that he might be interested in adopting. When talking to Matt, the colleague encouraged them to foster through the state first and then eventually adopt. “I came home after one visit and told Matt I was in love and wanted them all,” said Evan. “I think he knew it was coming. Actually, we had already decided it was absolutely insane for us to adopt three kids at this point. After some praying, he jumped in wholeheartedly and agreed that we should offer our family as a possible permanent placement for the sibling group. We have been blessed more than we could ask or imagine. I have support and encouragement everywhere I go.” “We are people of faith, so; we approached this decision with prayer and soul searching,” said Matt. What turned out as a suggestion to Matt and perception for Evan came to fruition when they fostered one, then two children and finally adopting all three children. And ever since then, they have never looked back. Now, they have five children; three are adopted, two biological, with the last one being a welcomed surprise. They are: Nya, age 14; Zack, 13; Lenny, 12; Kimmie, 11; and Stevie, 3. I had an opportunity to talk to the two oldest siblings in the Menendez family, Nya and Zack. When Zack was asked about having siblings from different ethnic backgrounds, he said, “Growing up with black siblings is not any different than growing up with white siblings.” He went on to say, “Several times when we go to the park, I tell strangers that Lenny is my brother, they will say to us, that can’t be your brother, then I tell them he is. We take pride in being brothers of a different color. Sometimes I don’t get along with my brother, but that’s normal because brothers don’t always get along.” Nya was thinking about bigger questions when she was adopted. She remembers her mother and asking questions about her situation. “In the beginning, it was a little hard because I was still learning about what happened to my real mother,” Nya said. Nya also talked about the questions she had to address being of another ethnic background than some of her siblings and her parents. She stated they got along but also have issues like brothers and sisters usually do. Because Nya is older and gets into trouble, her younger siblings see this and learn what not to do. Evan said, “We saw the huge need for good families to help kids caught in some rough situations and couldn’t say no. Sometimes, a foster case will turn into an adoption case. And it sure is nice when the kids don’t have to move again. We prayed and prayed before making this decision. We did not initially want to be a foster family. No one we knew was doing anything like this.” “The world has no shortage of children; so many are already here that need a permanent home. After learning about that need, it became less of about a choice, and more about fulfilling a calling,” Matt said. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, they are no hard and real facts regarding the number of children waiting to be adopted. The site only states that the number of children and youth waiting for foster care adoption has increased throughout the last decade. This number only pertains to one type of adoption, which is in the United States, and do not include private and inter-country adoptions. It went on to state because time is needed to compile, analyze, and publish the data, the statistical publications often are released two or more years after the period that is being studied. Information Gateway makes every effort to ensure the resources provided are the most current statistics available. According to Statista’s website published by Erin Duffin on Oct. 16, 2020, in 2019, about 423,997 children in the U.S. were in foster care; of those, 122,216 were waiting to be adopted. And there is a greater need to adopt children of color. If you are interested in adopting, contact your local state agency. According to Adoption Choice’s website, there are many advantages for children who are adopted. They grow up in a family that you lovingly and selflessly chose for them. Other advantages include: They have committed parents and a stable home They have opportunities and resources that you may not have been able to provide for them at your stage in life Studies also show that adopted children: Have greater health More one-on-one attention from a parent Are more involved in extracurricular activities Are as well-adjusted as their peers Your child will know that you made a loving decision to choose the best life possible for them.