Let It Be Us, Voices of Adoption

Let It Be Us Celebrates 5 Years of Loving Children in Illinois Foster Care

Let It Be Us Celebrates 5 Years of Loving Children in Illinois Foster Care

Five years ago, Susan McConnell had an idea to help the thousands of children in Illinois foster care find a family. A mother of four with three children through adoption and past experience as a human resources professional she created a website, gathered a Board of Directors, and became the Executive Director and Founder of Let It Be Us. She followed her heart and used her head to create a network of people and data to make her idea a reality. Hundreds of new families have formed thanks to her dedication and determination to provide each child with the family they deserve.

Let It Be Us Celebrates 5 Years of Loving Children in Illinois Foster Care

As told by Susan McConnell to writer Mary Klest

Let It Be Us is no longer new, but we are still unique. Unlike many nonprofit startups we had no investors. Our entrepreneurial spirit was met with open arms from the Barrington community, which was no surprise to me. I knew Barrington was the place to start. Being tenacious and very resourceful was our starter fluid. When I learned that Illinois ranks last of all 50 states in finding permanent homes for children in foster care I knew there was a problem. I have faced unexpected challenges in my pursuit to help kids in Illinois foster care but I have never given up. Kids need families.

There will always be dragons to slay and mountains to climb but what I’ve learned is that when you come up against a wall you knock it down or push on the door next to it.

Big Accomplishments

In the last five years we have recruited more than 2,500 families through our website, events, and social media. In 2019, we recruited well over 1,000 new parents and had 360,000 visits to the Let It Be Us website. We were designated a child welfare agency by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). This means we passed an audit that includes high standards along with proper staff and management requirements.

Thanks to the donations received we have been able to recruit smart, professional, dedicated staff members who make us more efficient and effective in our efforts to help kids in Illinois foster care. Our Deputy Director {Alex Montgomery} is an attorney with decades of non-profit operations experience. She is also an adoptive parent. Mary Jo Cusack is an organization and database expert who helps us offer new programs that are unique to us. Jeri Bark is our administrative guru. Lisa Hanson is our grant czar. Our recruiters/coaches have breathed new life into the field of foster and adoptive parent recruitment. They provide valuable information and support to those interested in becoming parents to a child in foster care. Our volunteer Board members are made up of can-do dedicated people. They are parents who know the importance of our work. It takes teamwork. Every volunteer, staff, donor, event ticket holder, and intern has shared in our journey.

Memorable Stories

On the day after Christmas, a DCFS caseworker needed to find a home for two little boys, ages two and three. No families were answering their phones. We did reach one couple who was traveling to North Carolina for their vacation. They immediately turned their car around and met the kids and their caseworker at 6:00pm. The new mom reported the next day that the boys slept well through the night, ate a lot of food, and that they all went out for a bike ride in the warm weather. She said they were prepared to take good care of the boys as long as needed. Imagine cancelling your vacation because two little boys need your help. I never doubt that there are good people in this world.

Another recent story involved a caseworker who was in need of a home for a little girl who was 10 years old. The girl was an experienced older sister. Even though she could not be with her siblings at that time, the caseworker was looking for a home where she could be comfortable and be a leader for other children in the family. We had two weeks to locate a licensed and open home. Within 48 hours we found the perfect home for her. The licensed home that we found had two little ones and a next-door neighbor who had a 10-year old daughter in need of a new friend. This is the magic of strong recruitment. This feeds our hearts and gives us the tenacity to never give up. Such successes also give us the confidence to take on our next case!

Valuable Lessons

When we first started, donations trickled in as the Board members and I shared our vision for helping the thousands of children in Illinois foster care. Awareness of the problem and continued support from our community was pivotal in our role as advocates for kids and potential parents. As I built out our team, we needed tools. We refined our database, strengthened our recruitment strategy, and tracked outcomes so we could offer unique, evidence-based recruitment programs.

In 2020 we are going to increase our digital recruitment throughout the state of Illinois. Many communities lack resources. For example, we got a call from a social worker at an agency in central Illinois who could not find a home for a child. In one week, we found seven licensed and open homes in the area and recruited 17 new families without ever stepping out of our office.

At Let It Be Us we also offer direct support to the children we serve. When a girl in foster care wanted to visit Washington, DC with her class we were able to help.

Once people connect with Let It Be Us they become informed and are prepared to build beautiful, caring families in Illinois. While I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in the last five years it’s hard for me to sit still I’m so excited for what’s to come.

You can wish Let It Be Us a Happy 5th Anniversary on their Facebook page. Supporting their efforts through donations, volunteering, attending an event, becoming licensed as a foster parent or just spreading the word makes you a part of the team. If you or someone you know is curious about how to get licensed as a foster parent in Illinois, please call 847-764-LIBU or get started by visiting LetitBeUs.org. If you haven’t already purchased tickets for the Be Mine annual fundraiser on February 28th you can do so here.

Learn more about lives touched by the work of Let It Be Us through Voices of Adoption, our ongoing series at 365Barrington.com.

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