Though I live in Kentucky, it took Project Meet Me Halfway to connect me to Elaine Barnes Bateman, Mrs. Kentucky International 2010. The Mrs International pageants promote today's married women, their accomplishments, and commitment to family and marriage. Elaine is not a veteran of pageant completion – the Mrs. Kentucky International Pageant was her first major pageant. For Elaine receiving such an important crown later in life, at 50 she is one of the oldest contestants, is an unforeseen blessing. The crown has provided her with a platform to raise awareness for mentoring and adopting young adults.
Being a contestant in the pageant has opened numerous doors for my publicly being able to speak on behalf of a whole generation of young adults that cannot readily speak for themselves - older young adults with no family heritage. Every day, hundreds of young people leave our state's foster care system and begin their life's journey with no family support to draw from. I am now able to share their plea to be a part of someone's family with people from every segment of Kentucky's population.Currently, in Kentucky there are 375 young people legally available for adoption but for whom there is not an identified adoptive family. 158 of these children are 13 years of age or older. Many of these young people will age out of the system without being adopted. When the youth age out without a family, it is unlikely they will ever find a family. As Elaine says “Only because they turn 18 it does not change their mind about wanting a family to call their own!”
Elaine does more than just raise awareness of the need for adoptive families for older youth. At home in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Elaine and her husband William are the parents of 20 children and adoptive grandparents to two grandchildren, both younger than 18 months
Each and every time a young adult enters our home, my husband and I -- with the help of the rest of the family -- begin the long process of lovingly embracing them. Never an easy task with so many issues involved: spiritually, emotionally, physically and even financially (but) we emphasize repeatedly with each young person the core foundation for what we believe – ‘Parents are not raising children. They are raising parents!’Admitting that adopting young adults hasn't been an easy road, Elaine says adoption is a two-way street. "Our desire is that we become a 'permanent solution' for them as lifelong parents, something most have never seen. They too, must make the decision whether or not they will accept us into their lives," said Elaine.
In January 2010, Elaine and her family created Ruth's Hope Project, a grassroots initiative centered on Biblical principles. Ruth's Hope Project is a public awareness and educational resource for mid-life married couples to make an informed decision concerning the adoption of young adults. "With the Lord's help my goal is to connect the young people out of the foster care system to a family that is willing to meet them half way," Elaine said.
Elaine’s story illustrates how one woman can raise awareness of the issues faced by foster care youth and how one family can impact the lives of many foster care youth. I wanted to share Elaine’s story with you. Join me in cheering Elaine on as she represents Kentucky in the Mrs. International 2010 competition which will be held July 16th, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois.
Elaine and her family are following Jimmy Wayne’s progress walking to Phoenix via twitter. You can follow Elaine at twitter/elainebateman.