30 Nov Touched by Adoption
Adoption is something we see on a regular basis. The primary goal when children enter foster care is to see the children reunified with their family. Unfortunately, there are times when that cannot occur safely, and we see children find safe and permanent homes through adoption. November is National Adoption Month and to close out the month, we want to share how adoption has touched many of our lives in a very personal way.
Several of the staff at Pulaski County CASA have experienced adoption within our own families.
Executive Director, Darryl Capps shared that that ever since he and his wife, Sandra, married, they had discussed adopting children somewhere down the line. They wanted to provide a home for a child or children that did not have one. Darryl and Sandra made the decision that they wanted to adopt a sibling group. They started their training classes with DHS in Texas and at the fourth class DHS called them into the office and told them about a sibling group that was available for adoption. The children were ages 2, 5, 7 and 10. They did not hesitate and immediately began to move forward with the process. So, in 2003, they adopted the sibling group. This was the first time that the county they lived in had a sibling group be adopted together and the first time the county recognized National Adoption Day.
The Capps quickly faced the challenge of having five kids in one home. Getting ready for school and church became quite the event!
Anya Mowry, Advocate Supervisor, has a completely different perspective. She was the adoptee. Anya was born in Siberia, Russia, and was adopted to America at age 11. A year before her parents adopted her, they came to the orphanage to adopt Anya’s friend and her friend’s brother. On the day they were there to pick them up, Anya met her future mom and fell in love with her, and she with Anya. Her adoptive parents came back to Russia and adopted her one year later. Anya says, “Being adopted into a good environment has changed my life for the better. I don’t know who I would be if I stayed and grew up in Russia. The only difficult part for me, would have to be that I miss my family in Russia. I want to hug them and see them in person. I don’t wish to live in Russia but to visit.”
Anya delighted us when she shared about her first experience at McDonald’s. She couldn’t understand why bread, meat, lettuce, and cheese were all together. Her new parents convinced her to try the burger and she didn’t like it at all! She also didn’t like the fries and was grossed out that the potatoes had been fried. She was a quick fan of the milkshake, though!
Sometimes adoptions occur within families. That was the case for the family of Angie Jones, Program Coordinator. Angie shared that her uncle and his partner where unable to care for their children due to substance abuse issues. At the age of 8 months, Angie’s future sister came to live with her family. Her family set down together and made the decision as a family to later adopt her then “cousin”. Angie recalls, “We each had a say. My parents made sure that my brother and I were on board. We already felt like siblings and wanted to cement that. Except for when I share my story in relation to the work we do at CASA, I never even think of my sister as adopted. She is simply my sister.” When another child was born to her uncle and his partner, that child ended up living with and eventually being adopted by Angie’s grandparents.
Angie shared that the family adoptions have never been regretted but they were very divisive to her extended family and that both her sister and the cousin who legally became her uncle continue to struggle and try to come to terms with the trauma associated with their early years and subsequent adoptions. Stating, “It breaks my heart to see them so hurt by the actions of their biological parents and circumstances that were beyond their control. Working for CASA has helped me gain valuable perspective into what they have experienced. And although they each struggle with past trauma, I am so proud to see them continue to work through their history. They are both pretty awesome!” On a lighter note, she also shared that describing her family tree can be quite confusing to others and she had to learn some special notations on Ancestry.com.
“Adoption was never truly on my radar,” stated Xanthoula Groom, Outreach Coordinator. “I have three biological children and two grandchildren I am raising. It was through my advocacy with the CASA program that my heart became open to the possibility. The stories of children in our foster care system longing for a forever family became very personal when I met those children. They ceased to be a statistic or a picture on the Heart Gallery. I vividly remember a little girl in one of my cases who hugged me and asked me if she could call me mommy. It was a poignantly heartbreaking moment that affected me deeply.”
Xanthoula and her husband, Bruce, met their daughter Sarah through a chance encounter with a caseworker. The caseworker asked if she could bring this child along on her way to a sibling visit and they, of course, were delighted. Xanthoula brought out some coloring books, crayons, and children’s book along with some toys. But then had the foresight to text the caseworker and ask her how old this little girl was, only to find out she was 16 years old! She put the coloring books and crayons away. When she answered the door, she was greeted by the sight of the tiniest 16-year-old she had ever met! Sarah could have easily passed as a 11 or 12-year-old! Xanthoula and Bruce conversed with such ease with her during a one-hour visit. When Sarah left, Bruce looked at Xanthoula and said, “I could adopt a kid like her.” Xanthoula replied, “You must be joking, because I was thinking the exact same thing!” They decided this was not a coincidence but a God-incidence.
Seven months later they stood before the Honorable Judge Hudson and became the proud parents of an almost 18-year old daughter. The Grooms stated that they are deeply grateful God created the right circumstances for them to meet Sarah. They cannot erase her traumatic past, but they can be the ones who give her unconditional love and stability. She is an incredibly smart, beautiful and talented young lady.
Xanthoula also shared, “One of the funnier aspects regarding who Sarah is, is her love of condiments. We are not joking! Sarah eats all foods either drenched in ketchup or drenched in Hidden Valley Ranch. Never in my life have I bought so many large quantities of Ranch and ketchup that were consumed in a matter of days! It has become such a family joke that oftentimes we might compliment the food but add that it would have probably tasted better had we poured ranch dressing on top of it!”
We have learned through our experiences, that adoption does not, nor should it erase the past. But adoption IS family. It is chosen and it is forever. It can be filled with heartwarming moments, but it can also be filled with lots of stress for everyone involved, with traumas that run deep, with laughter and joy, with heartache and pain. Adoption often brings a deep sense of security but also a deep sense of loss. It is not always easy, and you quickly learn that just loving someone is not always enough. Like with any other relationship in your life, it can involve a lot of patience and a lot of work and often requires some professional interventions, too. But, oh, is it worth it!