Meet the Najafi family – Five Acres donors who have also been trained and certified as foster-adoptive parents through the agency. Kaveh is a trauma surgeon at Huntington Hospital, UC Irvine, and Providence Holy Cross. Shea owns her own business, Hannah Grey, which sells lightweight, stylish breastfeeding covers for the modern woman. They have two children – a five-year old son and a two-year old daughter. This holiday season, the Najafis graciously purchased tickets for the children in our Residential Treatment program to visit the Descanso Gardens: Enchanted Forest of Light exhibit. With the help of their church, Fellowship Monrovia, they are also participating in our holiday toy drive by donating more than 80 stockings filled with toys!
FA: How did you first get introduced to Five Acres?
Kaveh: While I was in training at UC Irvine, I often worked in the Pediatric Trauma Center. I saw a lot of tragic accidents or incidents of child abuse and situations where the child’s family wasn’t there to support or take care of their children. I kept telling Shea, “I want to bring these kids home.” We ultimately wanted to learn more about how to get involved and help these kids.
Shea: I conducted my own research of foster care / adoption agencies in the area, and called different agencies to get more information and ask questions. Five Acres was the most professional and informative, and the staff was able to answer all of our questions about foster care and adoption.
Kaveh: We went through the training and certification process at Five Acres and were initially interested in foster-adopt. We were paired with a 7-week-old baby girl, whose parents were still in high school. When she came to us, she had a broken femur, which at that age there’s not much that can be done except be put in splints and braces. The baby was ultimately placed with her biological grandmother. When we were looking to foster again, we found out we were pregnant with our second child! We’re definitely looking to foster in the future, we just need to figure out the timing, especially with having a 5-year-old and 2-year-old at home.
FA: Shea—tell us about your work with the group Chosen. How did you get involved? What type of work does the group do in the foster care support community and how has the group worked with Five Acres?
Shea: When you have a baby, family and friends tend to circle around you with support. We noticed that in the foster care community, a lot of foster families’ biological relatives or friends weren’t as supportive when they bring a foster child or children into their home. Foster families need that support and community. Chosen is funded by Fellowship Monrovia. The group supports foster and adoptive families and provides that community of support that we were looking for as foster parents.
We also host events that provide fun activities for foster kids, which allow parents to run errands or have date nights, all while the kids have fun. This month the event is holiday themed. We’ll have stockings for the children to fill with toys along with other fun holiday-themed activities, giving foster parents time to get their shopping done! We collected toys at a Fellowship Monrovia service and will be donating more than 80 stockings for the children living at the Five Acres residential facility.
Another way Chosen is working with Five Acres is exploring childcare support options for families going through foster and adoption certification classes. Kaveh and I found that it was difficult to arrange childcare and attend certification classes in El Monte at 5pm on a weeknight. For some families, paying for a babysitter may be a barrier to participation. We’ve been working with Ivon and Selena from the Five Acres Permanency division to try and implement childcare for families during the certification classes, with the help of background-certified Chosen volunteers.
FA: Wow! That sounds like a great partnership. Can you tell us a specific memory or experience that impacted you while working with Five Acres?
Both: Our relationship with Five Acres staff member Mary Gleeson really stands out. She was absolutely amazing throughout the entire process, navigating the child welfare system with us and answering all of our questions. She was patient and we felt like she had our best interests at heart. It was a really pure relationship, and she always had an open door.
Shea: To this day, I still text Mary with questions or thoughts! She has been wonderful.
FA: Why do you continue to support Five Acres?
Kaveh: We have a soft spot for Five Acres in our hearts with all it does for children and families. In our interaction with Five Acres, if it was better for the kids it would be done. With other agencies we’ve come across that seemed much more difficult. We decided to dedicate ourselves to Five Acres because that’s where children come first.
Shea: The concept that there are enough children living in California without a home to entirely fill Dodger Stadium is mind-blowing to me. I also feel like Five Acres is the best out there. Everyone we have dealt with has been supportive, professional, and cares about the children. You have a wonderful reputation in this town! Everyone I know who comes out of Five Acres raves about it and says nothing but positive things.