Michael and Emily Beck were high school sweethearts when they decided they would start a family through adoption.
This fall, the Keystone couple will be recognized in Washington, D.C., for their contributions on behalf of children in need of homes, as Sen. John Thune's nominee for the 2010 Angels in Adoption Award. The Becks have adopted four children, including three siblings.
"A lot of people are surprised that we haven't had biological kids," said Emily Beck, 33. "But I'm surprised when they say they wouldn't do it the other way. It's just the way I think. We're all called to help each other."
The Becks adopted their daughter Tehya, 6, when she was a baby. In July, the Beck family grew by three more, when the adoption was finalized for their foster children, John 7, and his sisters, Emily, 5, and Shyanne, 4.
"It really was God. I had been praying that we would be able to add to our family permanently," Emily Beck said. "When we got the call for these kids, one of the first things the social worker said was these kids might be available for adoption. We said yes before we even knew their names."
Since 1999, Angels in Adoption and the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute have honored more than 1,600 individuals, couples and organizations nationwide. The coalition is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children in need of permanent homes worldwide.
Thune, a member of the coalition, commended the Becks for their care of children with significant needs. All four of the Beck children have special needs.
"They are committed to providing a promising and loving future for their new family members," Thune said. "The Becks' story makes me proud to be a South Dakotan."
As part of the recognition, nominees are invited to Washington, D.C., for an awards banquet and three days of training for future advocacy on behalf of foster care and adoption. The Becks already speak at local churches about their experience, and they hope to secure the resources to attend the events in Washington.
"It was kind of a shock," said Michael Beck, 34. "We know a lot of people in the foster community and here locally. To be selected out of all those people, it was humbling."
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Emily Beck said many people don't realize how much support is available for foster families. The Becks work through Lutheran Social Services, which provides financial and training support.
There are challenges in fostering or adopting an older child, the Becks said, and many of the children have special needs and attachment issues.
When their daughter Emily was first placed with them, she didn't speak at all.
"She had to fend for herself. She didn't need a mommy and a daddy," Emily Beck said. "Now, she's learning to be a kid again and to enjoy life and not have to worry about things."
"We find joy in the smaller accomplishments, such as watching a child give a hug for the first time, or speak after months of silence, or look at you in disbelief when you tell them they are special," Michael Beck said.
Their goal since the beginning has been to provide permanency -- a stable home and loving family -- for children who, if they don't find a family, can often spend their entire childhood in the foster care system.
"These older kids, especially kids that are siblings, it's very hard to find an adoptive family that can take them all. It's so sad to see them separated out to different homes," Emily Beck said. "We just felt a calling. There is such a high need."
Contact Emilie Rusch at 394-8453 or email@example.com.