Opening Her Home, Opening Her Heart: Amy Carney’s Story
When Amy Carney was called to her journey into the child welfare system, she had no idea where it would lead her.
Beginning with a weekly read of Wednesday’s Child in the Arizona Republic, continuing with a series of foster placements, mentorships and now, with an adoption, she credits both God and the Children’s Heart Gallery, an Arizona Department of Child Safety resource that helps connect potential parents with children seeking adoption, with helping her decide to get involved.
“It’s heartbreaking to see kids who don’t have a family,” she says, “how could I NOT do something?”
And do something, she did. First by inquiring into foster care. With months of training and preparation, she and her family welcomed their first foster placement.
It didn’t go as planned.
The boy was struggling, and despite the family’s best efforts, and was moved to a placement that would better fit his needs.
The pain of the situation nearly ended their time working with kids in the system – the sense of failure was just so strong.
But, little by little, Amy felt the call to try again. She and her family began by providing respite care, supporting foster families by giving them time to rest when they are traveling or just need a weekend off of the challenging work.
She also began mentoring teenagers in care, thinking it would be a less intense way to help. One day, as she visited one of her mentees, Amy overheard her group home staff discussing scheduling a cab to take the teen to an adoption event for the Children’s Heart Gallery.
Amy had never heard of the event, but she figured at the very least, she could drive the teen so she wouldn’t have to take a cab.
She had no idea that this simple decision would alter the course of her – and others – lives.
Once she arrived, Amy and her mentee walked around the event and began to understand what it was about. Amy remembers a big room, full of volunteers, foster parents and especially, kids.
All ages, all stages, all without a forever family to go home to.
The kids were there for a last chance at adoption, having had other potential adoption opportunities fall through for various reasons already. While at the event, the kids were having their photo taken for a gallery, in hopes that someone would see their photo, read their profile, and end up becoming the adoptive parent they dreamed of.
She remembers feeling her heart break as she took in the scene.
Then, something happened that would change her life forever.
As they sat together, finishing up a game before their planned departure time, her mentee stopped to introduce Amy to a young boy. They had met while in associated group homes, and they were thrilled to see each other.
Amy looked into the boy’s eyes and, at that moment, felt an immediate connection, an impression on her heart and direction from above that told her, “this is going to be your son.”
She left that day to explain to her family what had happened. They were skeptical. Could they take another full-time child just as their teens were nearing college? Could they handle the inevitable tough times that would come from adopting a child?
Amy knew they could, and her family eventually got on board too, realizing the opportunity they had to improve a child’s life, and their own.
A few months later, Nix was in their home as foster child, and four months after that, on National Adoption Day, he was their son.
Today, Amy’s adopted son is thriving, living with their supportive family and being “loved on” by his doting brothers and sister.
Beginning with an article in the newspaper, coming full circle to adoption through the Children’s Heart Gallery, this journey was one of opening hearts as well as homes.
Now, she’s helping others open their hearts and homes to these opportunities through the Children’s Heart Gallery and adoption venues.
Amy wouldn’t change a thing.
Stepping Up to Misconceptions about Teen Adoption: The Carrasco Story
For JR, this was his last shot at a family.
At 17 years old, he had lived in a foster home and group homes for several years. Having also seen past adoption opportunities fall through, he didn’t want to get his hopes up when he met foster parents Berdette and Frank Carrasco.
It’s an emotional choice that many teens in foster care face: whether or not to continue putting yourself out there in hopes of adoption, knowing chances may be slim.
Despite trepidations, JR went to his first meeting with the Carrasco’s, and made it clear that he really wanted it to work out.
“He was trying to pitch himself, to really sell us on the idea of adopting him, and that just broke my heart,” says Berdette. “He wanted and needed parents, and my husband realized we had to step up. Why wouldn’t we? He was a child in need.”
JR wasn’t the first foster child the couple had taken into their home. The Carrascos had been licensed foster parents since 2013. They began fostering medically fragile babies, inspired in part by paying back the kindness they had received while grieving the loss of their son in 2007. Berdette, a licensed nurse who cared for her child through his long illness, felt like she had the skills and experience to meet the challenge of infants facing health challenges in foster care.
Over the years, as their own children grew older, the transition to fostering and mentoring teens made sense. Frank was enthusiastic about helping teens in foster care, who often struggle to find families. But the prospect was initially very intimidating to Berdette.
“There are so many misconceptions about teens in foster care. You get the message that teens are harder to foster, that they have so much trauma that they act out,” says Berdette. “So I was hesitant at first, because of what I had heard.”
The placement of a foster son in the Carrascos’ home opened up Berdette’s eyes. On paper, the teenager looked like a challenge, but in person she was immediately impressed by his kindness and intelligence. He brought both energy and peace to their home, and following that experience, Berdette and Frank realized that they were ready to expand their family again.
They connected with JR through his profile in the Children’s Heart Gallery, an online resource that features photos and short biographies of kids seeking adoption. Managed by the Arizona Department of Child Safety, it also hosts events where volunteers can help children and teens as they get their photos taken and biographies written.
“Looking at his photo, I saw such a great kid,” Berdette remembers. “I was sure that he must have already been adopted, or would be soon. But then I checked with his caseworker and he was still in a group home.”
JR’s experience had been similar to many teens in foster care, who often face an uphill journey to finding a family due to the shortage of qualified foster parents open to fostering teens. His story is special because he did find a loving home through the Heart Gallery, and Arizona’s committed community of foster parents.
When Berdette and JR met for the first time, she was more confident about adopting a teen in foster care. Having been a foster parent to a teenager already and knowing many other foster parents in the community, the potential challenges were in clear focus.
Berdette believed in her heart, however that she could honor JR’s past, while also helping him build a better future. She knew that they could give him a family, and she wasn’t afraid of any of the behavioral issues he had had in the past.
“Having parented teenagers, first my biological children and then a foster child, I already knew that teens in foster care are often just regular kids, who act in the same ways a lot of teenagers do,” Berdette explains. “They are figuring themselves out, and they need parents and a family environment just as any kid does. So I wasn’t worried about bringing JR into our home.”
It’s a decision that the Carrasco family is grateful for every day. From showing JR how to fold his laundry, to teaching bigger lessons on how to be a kind adult, a good partner, and navigate the world around him, the experience has been incredibly positive for Frank and Berdette.
And JR is thriving. After attending five high schools in a single year in foster care, he’s on track to graduate on schedule, an accomplishment that makes his parents very proud.
But mostly, the Carrascos are just happy to have him home.
Finding a Forever Home through the Children’s Heart Gallery
Carlos and Alan McMillian's Story
For Carlos and Alan McMillian, nothing is more important than the sense of love and comfort that comes from family. But their family – and, perhaps more importantly, their life – did not feel entirely complete until a chance meeting with a 10-year-old boy.
In 2015, the McMillians began their journey to become a family by becoming foster parents. They opened their home to foster children and made the most of those short-term relationships.
As amazing as these placements were, they always knew they wanted to grow their family permanently. So, at the beginning of 2018, they decided to volunteer at the Children’s Heart Gallery.
The Heart Gallery harnesses the power of photography to capture the unique spirit and tell the story of Arizona children awaiting adoption. The event runs with the help of volunteers, and Carlos and Alan knew their talents could help.
Carlos, a cosmetologist by trade, could help with the children’s hair before photos, and Alan, who was in IT, could put his excellent writing skills to use in biography writing.
During the event, Alan was asked step away from writing biographies for the children and serve as a guide for a 10-year-old boy. “J” was a humble yet self-assured boy who “sold” Alan in more ways than one.
“No kid should have to sell themselves to be a part of a family. He just wanted to make a good impression,” Carlos said.
Alan felt a connection right away. He knew it was unexpected, and he hoped the same would be true for Carlos.
Carlos, while cutting and curling and braiding the hair of the children and teens who were at the Heart Gallery, had started to feel a sense of guilt. He had previously been closed off to the idea of adopting an older child – afraid, he said, that it would be harder to feel a connection.
But then he met J.
Up until the Heart Gallery, Carlos said, every potential child came their way came in the form of a file, and that file didn’t typically provide a complete snapshot of a child’s life.
“The experience [at the Heart Gallery] was super eye-opening,” Carlos said. “It was putting a face to the files. This was the first time we didn’t get a chart. We just got him.”
As soon as the McMillians got home from the Heart Gallery, Carlos emailed his caseworker, who in turn made all the right connections to find J from the Heart Gallery.
After five months of team-matching meetings, phone calls, and lots of nerves, the McMillians finally were able to meet J again.
“There was a lot of anxiety around the same-sex parent thing. In his profile he talked about wanting a mom and a dad,” Carlos said. “But it went out the door when we got to talk with and see him again.”
Now, after nearly six years in foster care and group homes, just “surviving” as Carlos put it, J is settled in to his new home with his forever family and learning how to just be a kid, with activities like a typical 10-year-old.
December 14, 2018, will be J’s official adoption date. For the McMillians, they now have the same hopes every parent has: for J to see his future and know that he can do anything.
“These are just kids, and all they want is a family. They’ve just had too many people tell them no,” Carlos said. “The Heart Gallery really changed both of our lives. If it wasn’t for the Heart Gallery, we wouldn’t have met our son.”
The McMillian hearts are finally full, they say, but maybe not completely. The future is wide open for their family, and they’re excited to see what is to come.
The Heart of the Matter: One Mom’s Adoption Journey
For Beverly, the call to become a foster parent came from a unique source: her work as a counselor.
As she watched clients struggle with substance abuse, Beverly saw firsthand the devastation that addiction could unleash on an entire family. Her clients included women whose children had been removed following a spiraling substance abuse.
She saw many of these moms working as hard as they could to stay sober and reunite with their children, but in the interim, depend on the foster system to keep their kids safe and cared for.
Beverly truly admired the role that foster parents, or “middle mamas,” played in helping kids in these devastating situations grow up and prepare for a more permanent family environment.
Her experiences inspired her to become a licensed foster parent herself, able to leverage her own knowledge and caring heart to support children and families in these situations.
But the journey didn’t end there.
Beverly first saw Jay’s picture as a part of 12News’ Wednesday’s Child feature, which highlights children seeking adoption in Arizona’s foster care system. She immediately sensed a connection to the active, caring boy who was looking for a family, and applied to adopt him.
At the time, a number of others had also seen the feature and applied to adopt Jay. Two families who were selected first reviewed his case and determined it would be too challenging to take him in.
The reasons why were complex. Jay’s case file came with a long list of mental health issues and behaviors. The behaviors displayed seemed to be a reflection of the struggles he endured during his early childhood, and the other families didn’t feel equipped to overcome them.
As a result, Jay remained in a group home, longing for a forever family to take him in.
But Beverly was committed to the little boy and the connection she had felt since she saw him on Wednesday’s Child. So, months later, in response to a letter from the Arizona Department of Child Safety encouraging foster parents to consider fostering older children, Beverly wrote them a letter, sharing her story of applying to adopt Jay.
DCS responded, and caseworkers assisted Beverly in becoming Jay’s foster parent.
This year, Beverly completed the adoption process, and Jay became her son.
At long last, the connection was solidified, though it wasn’t easy.
“Foster care and adoption has many challenges,” says Beverly. “But the reward is special. For me, seeing Jay and my biological son form a new bond all their own – playing video games together, genuinely caring for one another – that’s the kind of end result I had hoped for.”
A big-picture result is also coming into focus for Beverly and her family since adoption. Through a connection with a local foster agency, Beverly met the adoptive parents of Jay’s biological brother.
Jay’s last memory before legal separation from his brother was a fight they had had – it was pain both he and his brother felt every day. It was entirely possible that that pain could continue for the rest of their lives – legal separation could have meant never seeing each other again.
But through Beverly’s connection with his brother’s adoptive parents, Jay and his brother were not only able to meet again and make up, but today, are able to connect and spend time together regularly – they’re even participating in activities as a pair.
Since adoption, Jay’s challenges haven’t gone away, but the improvement is clearly felt. As a family, they’ve traveled to Alaska and Disneyland, and they’ve taken a Disney Cruise together – things that Jay might not have had the opportunity to do without Beverly stepping up and becoming his mother.
With experiences like hers, Beverly has apt advice for future foster and adoptive parents.
“Keep an open mind, stay consistent, and just love them,” she says.
Shine Bright Like a Dimon: How Adoption Made a Difference
According to Dimon Sanders, the abuse started when she was 6 years old. She recalls being locked in a freezer and tied to a tree. She said she watched her sister get thrown across the room. It was a daily occurrence for Dimon until she was removed from the home of her biological parents at the age of 8, after the abuse was discovered.
Dimon entered the foster care system. Between the ages of 8 and 13, she experienced 13 different placements — 13 placements with different rules, different curfews, different family dynamics, different values. She stopped caring about her grades. Adoption opportunities fell through. She acted out.
Dimon was barely a teenager but was having to make decisions that could impact her future success. Would she run away from her group home? Would she shut down? And there, at the crossroads, she met Apache and Joshua Sanders, two incredible people who stepped up.
Apache had known from a young age that she wanted to adopt. “I always knew that I wanted to adopt, just at the time I didn’t know it would be a teenager,” she said laughing. At the time Apache and her husband Joshua met Dimon, then 13, Apache said, “I was like 28 or 29, so having a 13-year-old wasn’t a part of the plan.” Nevertheless, Dimon and the Sanders family began to get to know each other. Then they began to trust in one another. The process took about a year.
“At first, I felt skeptical because it’s not common for someone to want to adopt a teenager,” Dimon said. Plus, Dimon was worried that her at-the-time undiagnosed ADHD and need for supervision would affect the Sanders’ desire to build a bond.
Dimon said Apache learned more about her, including the need for medications and supervision, and still wanted to proceed with the adoption process. “That gave me hope that maybe this one wouldn’t fail like my other ones did,” Dimon said. And the hope continued. Dimon and Apache’s bond grew stronger. Apache was able to be there, providing understanding and support for Dimon.
When Dimon joined the Sanders family, she was also given the opportunity to pursue a passion she has long-loved – dance. “I started dance classes three years ago when I got adopted,” Dimon said. “I’ve always had a love of dancing, but never had the money to take classes.” Prior to taking a dance class, Dimon taught herself the basics, thanks to the internet. “YouTube was my best friend,” she said.
For all the credit Apache and Joshua deserve for helping Dimon find a permanent home, Apache also credits Dimon for her impact on the immediate and extended Sanders family. “Just as much as we changed her life, she changed ours. We can’t imagine a time when she wasn’t a part of our family.”
In the summer of 2017, Dimon was crowned Miss Arizona’s Outstanding Teen, the first African American to win the competition. She is succeeding in school and has plans to attend college. She is open and honest, using her story to speak out as an advocate for foster care youth and the importance of community involvement.
“For the past three years I’ve been working diligently to make sure there is awareness about the foster care system, that we increase the number of CASAs, and get more foster parents,” Dimon said. “[I want] people to know how many kids are in the system so they can make a difference in some way.”
Increasing the number of volunteer Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) available to foster care youth is especially important to Dimon. Her CASA, Cynthia Dean, was there to support Dimon, beginning when she was just 9 years old. And they continue to stay in touch. “If I didn’t have a CASA, I probably would not have ended up where I am today,” Dimon said. “She was my ‘constant’ on my journey through foster care, and my biggest advocate.”
Dimon is now a loving older sister to Akeelah, 8, and Joshua, 7, and has come a long way from the standoffish teen that Apache and Joshua met five years ago. “I would like to encourage people to take a chance on a teenager,” advises Apache. “Don’t write them off and feel like they can’t be helped or are so damaged. Everybody wants and needs a family. Make your decision on a case-by-case basis and get to know the child. Keep your heart open, don’t write off an age group.”
Three Precious Miracles
Answering a call
Imagine adopting three children in two years. Now imagine that all three of those children are less than one year old.
For Elisia Manuel and her husband Tecumseh, they don’t have to imagine that scenario; they lived it.
The couple, together for 20 years, was unable to conceive naturally. Elisia says that her sister-in-law, who aged out of foster care, opened her eyes to the world of foster care as she shared her stories of being in and out of homes.
“Really, it’s just been around me,” Elisia said. “Every time I turned around, I felt there was a secret little sign from God saying, ‘This is what you need to do.’”
In 2012, Elisia began volunteering at a group home and, as a new foster parent, took in two boys.
In February 2013, she received another sign: a call from her case worker saying they had a baby boy that needed a forever home in the form of adoption.
The boy was seven days old when they met and brought him home.
Four months later, they received another call, this time for a baby girl who was born just eight days apart from their son.
“In a matter of six months, I had four children [at home],” she said.
Despite having a large family, grown basically overnight, Elisia and her husband weren’t done helping children quite yet.
A year after she received that first call about a seven-day-old boy, she received a call from her case worker about another baby boy needing a forever home.
“Elisia, this is your son’s biological brother,” the case worker said.
“I couldn’t say no,” said Elisia. “How could I say no?”
It takes a village
Following this incredible experience through the foster care and adoption process, Elisia and her husband started Three Precious Miracles, an organization that helps provides basic needs to Native American foster children and grandparents raising grandchildren.
Elisia’s husband Tecumseh is enrolled in the Gila River Indian Community and they have seen a need for Native adoptive families and more support for kinship placements.
Three Precious Miracles (named after the children’s three initials) runs off donations and fundraisers. Since its start date, Elisia says they’ve helped 800 kids.
“If we can prevent child neglect or abuse by providing a simple item, that’s what I want to do. I don’t want to see kids forced into the system because their parents were having a tough time,” she said.
Elisia continues to be a strong advocate for the foster care and adoption system.
“We’ve had to jump through hoops, but now we are blessed with three children that are ours forever,” she said.
No case is hopeless. The right adoptive family is out there.
By Ned Letto, Cochise County CASA volunteer
My story begins on October 20, 2014. I received a phone call from Elizabeth Wolfe, a DCS Case Manager. I was shopping at Home Depot and couldn't discuss it at that time but was able to hear the details the next day.
Elizabeth was asking me to take a case with two teen boys, ages 14 and 16 at the time.
These boys had been in DCS care since they were 6 and 8 years old. Parental rights had been severed two years ago, in 2012, so this was the second time these boys were in DCS Care.
My first court report showed that the 16-year-old had been in 10 placements and the 14-year-old had been in 17 placements.
The older boy was in a licensed foster home in Sierra Vista while the younger boy, Joseph, was in a therapeutic group home in Casa Grande. Joseph was about ready to be discharged from the group home for a standard placement. The placement that had been arranged for him was All The Kings Horses Children's Ranch in Benson. I was the one to transport him from Casa Grande to Benson. This placement only lasted one week. It took them that long to read his file and decide this was not the place for him.
The next placement was a kinship placement with a sister and her family in Sierra Vista. This placement lasted three months to the day; his behaviors just could not be dealt with.
His next placement was with his brother in the licensed foster home in Sierra Vista. Joseph disrupted from this placement in a little over three months. The situation between him and his brother became dangerous; someone was going to get seriously hurt.
All along, Joseph professed a desire to become part of a family but since he had been in foster care since he was 6, he didn't even know what being part of a family meant.
His behaviors were not conducive to reaching his goal of permanency. In early 2015, Joseph was selected to be included in the DCS Children’s Heart Gallery, a website for children who are eligible for adoption.
When he left the placement with his brother, he was placed in a licensed foster home in Duncan, Arizona. Joseph loved to be in the center of town and this placement was on a farm in a very rural area of Arizona. He hated it. Whenever he talked about his placement, his comments were filled with 'F' bombs and other foul language. I was sure he would disrupt. He had been told he would only be there three weeks and we were now at that magical three-month mark.
By this time I had developed the belief that this young man was unadoptable. There was no place that he would be able to maintain a relationship with any family.
However, as time went on and school started after the summer break, this young man started to settle in. He became interested in sports and played on the school baseball, football, and basketball teams. He actually attended classes and received passing grades. He accepted being baptized into the Mormon Church.
As the 2015-2016 school year went on, his attitude toward his foster family changed, as did his attitude about school and living in Duncan. In early 2016, he asked his foster family to adopt him.
On November 18, 2016, Joseph was adopted. It took a very special and loving family to work through his issues, and in the end, become his mother and father (or grandma and grandpa as he calls them).
If you find yourself with a very difficult case and start to feel it is hopeless to find permanency, remember, the right adoptive family is out there; we just need to find it.
Our Little Boy Was Worth the Wait
Every adoption story is special. Sometimes it’s the result of a new relationship and bond forming; sometimes it’s family members taking in a relative in need.
In Tara Montgomery’s adoption story, an adorable 18-month-old boy came into her family’s life through a foster care placement and changed everything.
You may remember seeing a photo of the boy, raising his fist victoriously by a decorated sign that read, “Some things are worth the wait, after 832 days in foster care, today I’m adopted”. The photo was posted to Twitter on that special adoption day and proceeded to go viral.
Below is Tara’s story, originally published in The Washington Post.
Eight hundred thirty-two days. Worth the wait.
My name is Tara Montgomery. I’m a single mother and an administrative secretary at a high school in Arizona — and, on Dec. 20, 2016, I officially adopted my 3-year-old son, Michael. My first adopted child.
My daughter, who wanted to savor the moment, snapped a photograph of Michael, one victorious fist raised in the air, another hand holding a chalkboard with a few words written in marker: “Some things are worth the wait,” the sign read. “After 832 days in foster care, today I’m adopted.”
She posted the photograph on Twitter. More than 143,000 likes and 57,000 retweets later, my new son’s adoption — and the joy on his face at finally joining his forever family — went viral.
Our Valentine’s Day baby
Michael first entered our lives as a foster child on Feb. 14, 2015. My decision to become a foster mother wasn’t easy (or quick). I never expected to become one. My daughters’ dad passed away in 2001, and I was a single mother raising three young daughters in a tumultuous economy.
But a few colleagues approached me: Are you willing to use your experience and speak with teenagers who have lost a parent? I said yes. I talked to them. I counseled them. As time went on, though, I began noticing more and more students who didn’t have anyone. My heart felt for these children and their circumstances. It’s not their fault — and it’s sad to see anyone in a situation where they’re moving through life without guidance from someone who loves them.
One day, after being approached by another colleague at the school where I work, my daughters and I made the choice. We were going to do what we could with what we had to make a difference to children who had nothing. I became a foster mother — and my daughters became foster sisters.
We welcomed three children into our family, one at a time, acknowledging that each welcome would be temporary: a short-term relief for these kiddos whose immediate futures were unclear.
In early 2015, I received a phone call from the Arizona Department of Child Safety, which handles foster care in our state. “We need to move a little boy to a new home,” said the voice on the other end of the line. “Are you interested?”
Yes. We personally picked him up from the parking lot of a mall. Our fourth foster child, and his third foster home.
That Valentine’s Day in 2015, Michael joined our family in what we all assumed would be a temporary living situation in this 18-month-old boy’s transition to a more permanent home.
And that’s when everything changed.
Part of our family, right from the start
I wasn’t looking to adopt a new child. I have three daughters to care for — and a baby granddaughter.
All we set out to do was to make sure that kids without parents didn’t have to worry, if only for a short period of time, about what would happen to them. There were plans in motion to reunite Michael with his biological mother, and I was proud of being able to give him relief until that happened.
The next 22 months went fast.
Michael’s presence brightened our lives as much as we hoped to brighten his life through fostering. His laugh. His smile. His energy. It became a part of our home’s ecosystem. It was an instant connection.
Now, let’s be clear: Our foster experience wasn’t a cakewalk. Michael suffered from asthma attacks for which we had to take him to the doctor — more than a few times. We had to carry around his inhalers and learn how to use EpiPens. We visited doctors, emergency rooms and specialists 26 times in the first year. He was a sick little guy.
I wasn’t the first foster mother (and won’t be the last) to look into the mirror after an all-nighter with my new child and say to myself, “I don’t know what I’m getting myself into.” But, as often happens, overcoming these bumps in the road has made our family stronger.
Michael developed an incredibly special bond with my youngest daughter while dealing with these issues. Whenever he has a particularly bad asthma attack, the only person he wants to sleep next to is her. He’s comforted by her presence, and she’s comforted by being “that person” in his life. They adore each other in a way that may not have happened otherwise — at least not as quickly.
From changing his diaper, putting on his shoes, or simply pouring him a drink at dinner and snuggling with him at night, as Michael grew, my daughters grew, too.
It was clear: He belongs here
Michael loves trucks and trains. He loves running on the sand at the beach, seeing the waves come in and waving at the seals as they lie on the wet rocks. Only 3 years old, he calls the beach his “happy place.”
He revels in leaving surprise selfies on our cellphones. He often wakes in the morning to tell me, “Mom, I so happy.” He will run into the girls’ rooms and ask them, “Dae, T — Are you so happy?” (We are all so very happy.)
These are only a few of the things I’ve learned about Michael since picking him up that day in early February. These small, unique details you learn about children — they make everything worth it. He went from “a foster child” to “my foster child” in the blink of an eye.
And that’s why, when the next phone call came — informing us that the ongoing efforts to reunite Michael with his biological mother had fallen through — it didn’t take long for my daughters and me to decide.
Everything had seamlessly clicked into place from the beginning: This little boy came to us on Valentine’s Day. He came to us on Arizona’s birthday. He has the same last name as my biological daughters. He looks like them. He has our sense of humor. He made our family stronger.
And, more than that, we never wanted him to wonder again where he might end up next. So, on Dec. 20, 2016, we adopted Michael — and he became a permanent part of our family.
He woke up a few days later on Christmas morning to a tree with presents under it. He flung open the wrapping paper to find Thomas the Tank Engine trains and a new bicycle, all while being surrounded by new, permanent family members for the first time — people who loved him and cared for him and would continue to do so forever.
You can make a difference
The process may have been easier for us than for others, because Arizona has been working to make foster care and adoption an easier choice and to empower parents to welcome children in need into their families. According to the numbers, more children are leaving state care here than entering it for the first time in seven years — and more than 3,600 children in Arizona were adopted in fiscal 2016.
I can’t promise that every step of the way will be easy or that you won’t wonder whether it’s worth the upcoming speed bump in the road. What I can promise is this: Whatever you face on your route to adoption, the smile on your child’s face will be worth it.
It took me 42 years to realize what it feels like to adopt a child, this beautiful little boy, into my life.
More than 15,000 days.
Worth the wait.