Winning the title of Mrs. Kentucky International 2010, Elaine Barnes Bateman uses her pageant platform to raise awareness for mentoring and adopting troubled young adults.
LatinaLista — To look at Elaine Barnes Bateman, one can easily see how this petite, pretty Venezuelan-Cuban with the mega-watt smile was crowned Mrs. Kentucky International 2010.
What's not so easy to see is how this Latina beauty queen has overcome personal tragedy, and in the process, developed such a strong passion for mentoring troubled and abused young adults that, these days, she is officially "Mom" to a brood of twenty.
While Elaine always envisioned herself a mother, and had four children she was raising alone after a divorce, the notion of being an adoptive mother to so many wasn't on her radar until she met her second husband, William Cody Bateman.
Elaine had joined a local church after the brutal murder of her father and was mentoring young women who were victims of broken homes. However, it wasn't long before she could see past her personal grief and notice William. A single father of four boys, William was mentoring fatherless boys at the same church.
Mrs. Kentucky International 2010 Elaine Barnes Bateman
Before Elaine knew it, her and William's shared love of helping troubled young adults turned their newfound love for one another into a unique family mission.
"Each and every time a young adult enters our home, my husband and I -- with the help of the rest of the family -- begin the long process of lovingly embracing them. Never an easy task with so many issues involved: spiritually, emotionally, physically and even financially (but) we emphasize repeatedly with each young person the core foundation for what we believe -- "Parents are not raising children. They are raising parents!"
At home in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Elaine and William are the parents of 20 children and adoptive grandparents to two grandchildren, both younger than 18 months. Admitting that it hasn't been an easy road adopting young adults, Elaine says adoption is a two-way street.
"Our desire is that we become a 'permanent solution' for them as lifelong parents, something most have never seen. They too, must make the decision whether or not they will accept us into their lives," said Elaine.
"When each embraces the other as family, a very profound solution to a modern day social dilemma is solved. They begin replicating our example in their own lives, having learned what 'being a parent' is about."
The fact that all her children are indeed young adults is something Elaine credits for helping her balance the life of a beauty queen with that of being a mother, wife, mentor and businessperson.
Because her children are older, Elaine encourages their participation not only in every facet of family life, from shopping to cleaning house, but also with pageant work. They help her with networking opportunities, marketing, publishing and scheduling her many appearances.
Elaine's pageant win was the culmination of a life-long interest. Due to her family's conservative values growing up in Venezuela, Elaine could only be a passionate pageant observer until she reached high school. Schooled in the United States, the closest she got to being a pageant winner was when she was crowned "Sweetheart Queen" and voted part of the senior class homecoming court.
Yet, Elaine feels that receiving such an important crown later in life has been an unforeseen blessing. The win has enabled her to raise awareness for mentoring and adopting young adults.
"Being a contestant in the pageant has opened numerous doors for my publicly being able to speak on behalf of a whole generation of young adults that cannot readily speak for themselves; older young adults with no family heritage.
"Every day, hundreds of young people leave our state's foster care system and begin their life's journey with no family support to draw from. I am now able to share their plea to be a part of someone's family with people from every segment of Kentucky's population."
It helps that Elaine has an eloquent style in which to deliver that message. She is also a motivational speaker. She shares her family's story at women's conferences, church groups and business luncheons. Also, Elaine serves as an ambassador to a grassroots organization called "Mother the World."
Started by the contemporary Christian artist, Deanna Jones, "Mother the World" encourages women to use their influence to "mother" those children most in need.
It's a message that Elaine has no trouble sharing. So much so, that she and her family created in January 2010, Ruth's Hope Project.
"With the Lord's help my goal is to connect the young people out of the (foster care) system to a family that is willing to meet them half way," Elaine said.
With the launch of Ruth's Hope Project, Elaine's schedule is busier than usual these days but it's the kind of activity she doesn't foresee herself giving up.
"I see myself doing the same today, five years from now and even ten years from now -- investing in and reaping the many joys associated with having a large bonded family of children, grandchildren and maybe even great-grandchildren!"