Since April of 2022, Adalynn Grace Climer has been enjoying new experiences. She is thriving in school as she masters math and tackles reading. This past December, she could not wait wait for Christmas and her first meeting with Santa Claus.
Her adoptive parents, Jackie and Scherry Climer, guide Adalynn. Scherry Climer is a court clerk for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Tribal Court and a descendant of the Higbee family.
Adalynn was a foster child through FireLodge Children & Family Services. In September 2022, her adoption was finalized. The Climers and FireLodge staff filled the Tribal courtroom to capacity to witness the moment.
Like many children, Adalynn is curious about the world around her. Even a routine trip to a store becomes an adventure, Scherry Climer laughed.
“A lot of things she hasn’t seen or experienced. In the store it’s, ‘Mom, Mom, look at this. Mom, you see this?’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, honey. Yes, I do.’ So, what would normally take you 30 minutes is an hour and a half. But, that’s okay. If they don’t ask, they don’t know,” Climer said.
“She’ll talk your ear off because she just likes people. And what’s so nice is that she’s learning. She’s like a little sponge, absorbing all of it.”
Family is family
With a blended family, Scherry and Jackie were already parents to six children before the adoption. Nearly all of Adalynn’s new siblings were able to attend the adoption and welcome their new sibling.
“We sat down, and we started the process, and we talked to each individual one and got their input and what they thought. Of course, every single one of them was for it. Every one of them loved the idea,” Climer said.
Adalynn’s siblings quickly grew to love their new sister, and the feeling was mutual.
“Everybody just bonded, like right off the bat. She’s so loving and just wants to be loved that she just took them all in,” Climer said.
Adalynn has a special relationship with Climer’s granddaughter. Though technically they are aunt and niece, the two girls call each other cousins. Climer attributes that to Adalynn’s loving nature and that of Indigenous families.
“She calls all the grandkids her cousins. We’re family. That’s all we need to know. Even with my husband and I (each having three children), it’s like we’re all one here. And that’s just the way we’ve always looked at it. My kids are his. His kids are mine,” Climer said.
Marking childhood milestones
Adalynn experienced many challenges growing up. Climer said her daughter did not have a conventional childhood. Adalynn is just now experiencing for the first time many milestones parents take for granted.
“Halloween was amazing. She was so excited to do her first Halloween. She’d seen on my Pinterest this little old lady (costume). So, she dressed up like a little old lady. She had the best time trick or treating,” Climer said.
Adalynn was equally excited about the holiday season. Climer and her family planned many activities, from watching Christmas movies to visiting holiday light shows and enjoying hot chocolate with whipped cream.
“These are all new things to her. So, she’s super excited,” Climer said.
When Adalynn saw a cereal box featuring Elf on the Shelf, she immediately wanted to know all about the character. Climer purchased a girl elf with curls like Adalynn’s, marking the beginning of a new holiday tradition for her daughter. Adalynn named the elf Rainbow Sprinkles.
“It’s been really nice to be able to show her this. This is what a childhood should be like. She’s not been able to experience all that,” Climer said.
Beginning the adoption journey
When Climer first considered being a foster parent, she contacted FireLodge. The family began the application process, which includes background checks, home visits and inspections before a foster child can be placed in the home. If a child is placed in the home, routine wellness visits continue. A Tribal Court judge ultimately decides if a child returns to their biological parents or becomes eligible for adoption.
“When you start the foster care process, there’s different things that you can do. If you just want to be a foster parent or if you just want to be a respite home or if you want to foster to adopt,” Climer said.
FireLodge “was amazing to work with. They guided us through the whole process, and they helped out with every single thing that we needed,” she said.
The most important part of the Tribal child welfare process includes access to cultural resources to keep children connected to their Potawatomi heritage.
“That’s so important. She got to participate (in Family Reunion Festival) this year. We have pictures of her just having the best time at Festival. And that was her first time to get to be involved. And we’re really looking forward to next year where we can involve her more. She’s getting to learn the language, which is nice because when I pick her up from daycare, she’ll tell me a (Potawatomi) word she learned. I want to get her started in different things like the beading classes that they have available. To be able to keep our heritage, it just it means a lot,” she said.
Climer said foster care and adoption through CPN is often praised for how each part of the process works together. She said the staff answered all her questions when she enrolled Adalynn in school for the first time and even helped Climer connect with therapy providers.
A heart for adoption
Climer said she always wanted a big family and had hoped to expand her family through adoption.
“I have always wanted to foster and adopt. If somebody asked me how many kids I have, I have seven. Not, one’s adopted some are stepkids, but they’re all my kids,” she said.
She acknowledges that sometimes foster care involves saying goodbye as the child returns to their biological family.
“A lot of people say, ‘There’s no way I can take a child in knowing that they’re going to get taken back,’ but I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as if that child is only with me temporarily … they get the love that they need,” she said.
Climer knows foster parents play an important role, not only through daily care but also through love and support that remains with the child.
“I can make an impact on their life while I have them, to say, ‘Hey, it’s going to be okay.’ During that time, you are the best positive influence that you can be for those children. They need lots of love,” she said.
Climer said it is not unusual to experience emotional ups and downs, for the child and for the foster parent.
“When the child is placed with you, you don’t know exactly what’s going to go on. Sometimes they are stressed from things that happened to them or things they’ve seen or heard. You guide them the best you can and explain to them, ‘You’re safe and we’re going to get through this.’ We just do the best we can do to work through it,” she said.
Climer said she always let Adalynn know she was not alone.
“There can be some emotional rollercoasters there. You’re on that ride together. When it’s a rough day, you just you get on that seat with them, you buckle up, and here we go. And that’s the easiest way I look at it,” she said.
Foster care, adoption advocates
Climer expects she, Adalynn and the entire family will remain passionate advocates for foster care and adoption. She hopes other families will consider becoming involved.
“There’s a need, definitely. If I could tell anybody anything, it would be, if it’s for you in your heart, follow through. These kids need that love, they need that caring and that nurturing,” she said.
“We hear so often about the things that aren’t going right. I would like to sit down with somebody that could honestly write a book of (Adalynn’s experiences),” Climer said.
“I’m praying that as she gets older, she can use this experience as a positive mentor for others. I know she’s had a rough past, but I pray that she can come out in the end and be a mentor for other children. As she gets older into her teenage years or even young adult years, (she can look back) to see how far she’s come and how far we’ve all come together.”