- Gary Dinges American-Statesman Staff
With all the craziness in the world, it’s always nice to see news outlets devote some time to positive, upbeat stories that put a smile on your face.
That’s exactly what’s happening over at CBS Austin, where the station’s new “Forever Families” franchise aims to connect Central Texas children in foster care with adoptive parents.
If that name sounds familiar, it should. The series had aired for years on Spectrum News, but it was one of several specialty segments the 24-hour cable news channel dropped earlier this year.
CBS Austin news director Rob Cartwright said “Forever Families” fits right in with the station’s desire to deliver community-focused journalism.
“The foster care system is often in the headlines for all the wrong reasons,” he said. “We wanted to do what we could to help some of these children find their forever families.
“It is our honor to work to connect children who have lived a majority of their lives in foster care with a forever family. The reaction we have gotten from people who have seen the segment online and in our newscasts has been amazing.”
Anchor/reporter Lindsay Liepman is producing the reports, which air Wednesdays during CBS Austin’s 6:30 p.m. newscast. The segments are also archived on cbsaustin.com.
Liepman said she grew up watching legendary Dallas news anchor Gloria Campos, whose “Wednesday’s Child” segment on WFAA-TV helped connect countless children with adoptive parents.
“The impact she made is immeasurable in both the community and for each child who was adopted,” Liepman said. “All these years later, the need is still there. It’s an opportunity to give more of myself to create real change in a child’s life. I wanted to do it for the kids. I wanted to do it for all the caseworkers and volunteers who are working with our state’s foster children every day.”
A mother of four, Liepman said many of the stories she hears are simply heartbreaking. It’s her goal to help heal that heartbreak.
“I have three boys and a baby girl – all of them 5 years old and younger,” she said. “When I come home after spending time with a ‘Forever Families’ child, I hold my kids closer. I share their stories with my kids and explain how I’m trying to help. It’s making me a better mom. When a child makes an imprint on your heart, it never leaves. It’s the difficult part of telling their stories every week. But even though the work is hard, it’s important.”
The children she meets are all so incredibly different, Liepman said. That can make it hard, at times, to relate. But she says she’s always able to eventually break down walls and get camera-shy kids out of their shells.
“Some of the children I’ve felt an instant connection,” Liepman said. “Others I’ve had to work hard to build rapport and trust. Interviewing children can be difficult because so much of their personality isn’t in what they say on camera. It’s what you observe them doing. I want each story to reflect the child’s hopes and dreams so they have a chance to shine.”
Reaction, so far, has been phenomenal, Liepman said, and she’s looking forward to sharing some success stories in the coming weeks and months.
“The Central Texas community has rallied behind the segment and liked, shared and tweeted each story,” she said. “Within the newsroom, we are all grateful for the chance to do this type of storytelling and we’re all waiting for the update that one of our ‘Forever Families’ children has been adopted. I’ve been told many times the segments have brought viewers to tears. I’m glad people are connecting with the kids.”
‘Austin After Hours’ debuts
There’s a new locally produced show on CBS Austin.
“Austin After Hours” with host Taylor Ellison will air the first Saturday of each month at 10:35 p.m., featuring extended interviews with the people and places who help make Austin such a one-of-a-kind place to live.
“The only thing I love more than living in Austin is getting to share the joy of this city with others,” said Ellison, who also co-hosts the station’s weekday lifestyle show, “We Are Austin.” “I look forward to sharing these uniquely Austin stories in hopes that they my uplift and inspire audiences everywhere.”
The series debut, which aired Aug. 5, featured interviews with “Everybody Loves Raymond” executive producer Phil Rosenthal, ceramic artist Keith Kreeger and soul-pop guitarist Jackie Venson.
“ ‘Austin After Hours’ gives us the opportunity to highlight Austin in a format that is as unique as our city,” said CBS Austin vice president and general manager Amy Villarreal.