Kearney — After Webb and Meghan Antholz lost their newborn son in 2010, they struggled. Then they had an idea: They could become foster parents.
“We always knew there were kids out there who needed a home, so we decided that fostering was going to be the path we would travel down,” Meghan said.
She hasn’t looked back.
In April 2017, three little girls came to live with them as foster children.
On Oct. 31, the couple adopted the three. They are Jane Everleigh, 5; Josalynn Davina, 4, and Jalissa Joyce, 2. “I consider us lucky to have found our perfect family the first time out the gate,” Antholz said.
Adopting three children brought the couple new challenges, but those were softened as they all got to know each other and developed a routine.
Jane and Josalynn started preschool shortly after adoption, “and it was awesome to see them succeed and learn new things,” Antholz said.
Special, too, was celebrating Jalissa’s first birthday. She came to live with them when she was 9 months old.
“Seeing her grow and develop her own personality has been one of the biggest joys,” her mother said.
On Nov. 3, the couple had a party to introduce the girls to their family and friends. Last Saturday, they celebrated at a National Adoption Day party at First United Methodist Church that celebrated the adoption of 27 children in Buffalo County in 2018. Hosted by Buffalo County judges Gerald Jorgensen and John Rademacher, the party included entertainment and games, a photo booth, a cake walk, prizes, and food. The official National Adoption Day was Nov. 16.
“Fostering can be the hardest job you take on, but it can also be the most rewarding job you take on,” Antholz said. “I would tell parents to be prepared for just about anything and everything. You never know what you will face with kids and what trauma they have faced.”
The Antholz family worked with Compass, a non-profit agency at 514 W. 11th St. that works with foster and adoptive families. The three Antholz adoptions, and two others by a Kearney family this fall, marked 100 adoptions handled by Compass in the last five years. Compass was founded in 2007 to support families in crisis.
“For every child who has been adopted, many more have been successfully reunified with their biological families,” said Savannah Lyon, a Compass project lead.
Lyon, who is responsible for communications, fundraising and marketing for Compass, said the agency initially focused on finding transitional homes for older teens. “Until about five years ago we only had a handful of foster homes and we had fewer than 35 placements,” she said.
Today the agency oversees more than 50 families in 23 Nebraska counties who are serving nearly 80 children in foster care.
“In these past five years, our partnerships with families willing to share their home with children in need has increased significantly. As we have shared the need, families have responded. That speaks a lot to the generosity and kindness of our community. We are grateful to have so much support from individuals, families, churches and businesses to make this work possible,” Lyon said.
On Nov. 13, as part of National Adoption Month this month, Mayor Stan Clouse issued a proclamation to three staff members from Boys Town Central Nebraska at 620 E. 25th St. who work with foster families. The three were Ana Schroeder and Melissa Kometscher, both foster family service consultants, and Shawna Hammond, a foster family services supervisor. The three recruit and train new foster parents and help them through the licensing process. They also help place foster children and conduct monthly consultations with the foster child(ren) and the foster parents.
Boys Town also has a site in Grand Island that provides services for foster care and in-home family services. It operates a shelter there. The work is headquartered at 101-year-old Boys Town in Omaha.