There are 600,000 kids in need of families across the United States.

These kids are part of the foster care system and are available for adoption, but for children 10 and older, the hope of finding a family dwindles with every added year.

Helen Zeerip wants to restore these children’s hope.

Zeerip, who is a foster parent, said back in September 2014 she was watching a foster care training video as part of keeping her foster care license up to date, and one child’s words broke her heart.

“A little boy who was 15 said, ‘My older siblings told me once I reached a certain age, I would be unadoptable,’ and then he paused before he said, ‘No one should steal your hope.’ That hit me so wrong,” Zeerip said. “He is right; nobody should steal your hope.”

Since that day, Zeerip has been committed to helping children 10 and older find families.

She partnered with Barbara Aalderink, CEO of Fusion Graphic Consultants, and Jeanette Hoyer, former executive director at Pathways, MI, on Grant Me Hope.

The organization produces video segments of older-aged foster children available for adoption, which are then aired weekly on different television news channels.

Zeerip said the idea came from an initiative that was being done in California to help foster kids find parents.

“California did an initiative where they started getting these kids on TV, and they had a high success rate of getting these kids adopted,” she said. “I thought why aren’t we doing that here in Michigan?”

WZZM 13 in West Michigan aired the first Grant Me Hope video in January 2015 thanks to Catherine Behrendt, who agreed to air the segments for free on her Take Five & Co. program.

See our more recent Grant Me Hope kids: Dionte, Charles and Ciana.

Zeerip has landed a handful of additional TV stations since, including WXYZ in Detroit and WWMT, which covers Cadillac, Traverse City and Sault Ste. Marie.

She said after the first Detroit video aired, there were 19 calls from people interested in adopting the girl in the video, which Zeerip said was a “phenomenal” response.

“The TV stations air the videos for free, and they are integral partners to finding these kids homes,” she said.

Zeerip said Aalderink has gone all over the state shooting videos of kids. The shoots usually take an hour and include interviews with the child and their caseworker. The raw material is edited down to a two-minute clip that is aired on the area’s TV station and shared on YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo and other online outlets.

Grant Me Hope also has partnered with Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE), which takes all of the phone calls after a child’s segment has aired and does the follow up work of connecting the caseworker with interested parents.

Zeerip expanded Grant Me Hope outside of Michigan to Ohio, where the first segment aired in Cincinnati in February 2016.

She is working to expand to more TV stations in Ohio this year and considering other states like Illinois and Wisconsin for further expansion opportunities.

“My goal is to take it national,” Zeerip said. “It’s a national problem, 600,000 kids.”

To read the entire story, visit the Grand Rapids Business Journal's website or pick up a copy of this week's paper.

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