Kamryn

The place won’t open for 30 minutes but cars are already lining up. Inside, Kamryn stacks empty buckets, getting the ice cream shop ready. This is his first real job and it’s important to him. “I’m saving for a car,” he says. “Right now I’m looking at a Toyota 4Runner, but that could change.”

“His first car will probably be our old Pontiac out there.”

That dad comment comes from Jeff. And even though he and Marie have been Kamryn’s parents for only a few months, all three are comfortable in their roles – and they’re happy.

Like so many others, Marie and Jeff came to us in hopes of fostering or adopting children. Young children. Toddlers. “From the beginning we said ‘no teenagers,’ ” Jeff says. “But the first weekend Kamryn came for a respite visit – and the rest, as they say, is history.”

History. Kamryn’s now includes Marie, Jeff, six cats, and Grace, the dog. Their story together will stretch far beyond Kamryn’s last two years of high school and well into the future. It will include the college years, career choices, marriage advice, and – someday – maybe even grandchildren.

As they talk about what it means to become a family at this stage, Jeff says, “Kamryn has a good head on his shoulders. We are here to help provide boundaries, keep him on track.”

Marie adds, “I think he’s further along than a lot of people his age. He knows what he wants to accomplish in the next few years and he has a big-picture mentality of his future.”


Shemar

Life is a song.

Music is his love language.

Shemar has a tune on his lips and a song for everything: His plastic tools – there’s a song for his wrench when he “fixes” things around the house – and the lotion his dad rubs on after bath-time.

“You can get him excited about anything if you make up a song about it,” his dad, Jeremy, laughs. “He’s adorable,” says Jadie, his mom. “And he knows how cute he is, too.”

Shemar came to Jeremy and Jadie three years ago – not long after their boys started asking when they’d get a baby, since their preschool friends were getting siblings. At 2 years old, Shemar was not the baby Davis and Kannon expected – but he was old enough to wrestle, and that was a plus.

Besides tumbling with his brothers, Shemar loves family dance parties and jumping on the trampoline. His adoption was finalized earlier this year, so he has a big extended family with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and – because there’s always room for love – his birth mother and younger sister.


Adelind

Facing the Unknown

Your first child is born, and you discover that your heart can love in a new gear; one you’d never imagined. Your world shifts to this tiny person and her every first move.

It’s bliss. And it’s frightening.

Margo and Ken were as prepared as any new parents could be when Adelind arrived seven years ago. They are planners and doers, and they knew what to expect – until none of it went as expected.

Adelind had unexplained illnesses as a baby, including pneumonia. Her body was floppy even by infant standards; at 6 months she started to miss milestones for normal development. Delays were diagnosed by her doctor, but nothing explained why – or if and when she would catch up.

Her first-time parents were overwhelmed by the unknowns. But fortunately for Adelind, her mother is “persistent as all get-out.” Margo placed Adelind at our Jordan Center when she was 1½ years old and pushed on for an answer to her child’s global developmental delays.

The answer was not something we could provide as early childhood educators. We didn’t know why Adelind couldn’t speak or make sounds, or why she struggled to control her movements. But we could provide this – a team that loved and encouraged Adelind and her parents. We became family and helped tackle their issues together, making Adelind’s classroom a welcoming home away from home and sharing strategies for parenting and therapies.

It took two rounds of genetic testing before Margo and Ken got their answer: Adelind was born with a mild case of Kleefstra Syndrome, a condition so underdiagnosed at the time that only 500 cases worldwide had been confirmed.

Today, Adelind talks a blue streak, and she has no self-consciousness about expressing herself in her own way. She makes up stories and acts them out on the spot. She reads above grade level and, to the delight of her “word nerd” mother, spells like a champ.

“We set out from the beginning – obviously every parent does – to have a child that is healthy, happy, and lives independently,” Margo says. “We’re still aiming for those three things, to help her be the very best she can be, and the foundation that was built for her at the Jordan Center is just amazing.”

Margo and Ken with Adelind and her brother, Lowen

John

When John came to us, he was 14 years old and hadn’t been in a classroom for years. In fact, we searched and never found middle school records for him. Testing revealed he was working barely above an elementary grade level.

John was angry and discouraged when we met, and we understood. He was living unparented in a house without regular meals or clothes for school. He’d lost his mom when he was 4 and his father, remarried, was in and out of his life, serving time in prison or traveling to construction jobs.

We knew John needed a lot of help academically – but before that could happen, he needed to know somebody believed in him. That’s where Ms. Mary begins her work. She’s the full-time teacher in his group home, and she understands how kids like John are resigned to failure, afraid to try. “We all told him you can do this,” Mary says. “You can do this. Every day we said, we are going to make sure that you have food to eat, you have clothes to wear, you have a shower, you are going to school – and you are going to do what you need to do.”

Mary started by giving John work she knew he could handle. “When he realized he could do it, he got that success experience. He lost a little bit of his fear. Then he tried something else and moved up, building on that success and starting to believe in himself.”

John is in high school now, with plans to go to culinary school – and we are delighted to see him working toward a dream. It’s because of you that children like John are able to learn, love, and discover their God-given talents. Your compassion, prayer, and gifts give them hope.


Ethan, Ella, Jackson

Marc Ridel Creative

ETHAN, AGE 6
ELLA, AGE 5
JACKSON, AGE 4

In the spring, we told you how Tabitha and David adopted their first two children – a brother-sister pair, then 8-year-old Myles and 6-year-old Mia. Now we can introduce the rest of the family – siblings Ethan, Ella, and Jackson.

All five children love trips to the zoo and video games on the weekends. Ethan has the big imagination and likes to tell stories; Jackson has the appetite, always thinking about his next meal. Mia is the chatty one – and Ella is her spunky sidekick. Myles is the quiet one with the sharpest memories of life before foster care.

There were some “oil and water” months integrating two sibling groups under one roof, Tabitha says, “but now they’re all part of the family.”


Daniel & Hazel

Photography by Chalice

DANIEL, AGE 8
HAZEL, AGE 5

Lindsay and Robbie arrived a few minutes early. They were understandably nervous and – this is important – they wanted to be the first to arrive. They claimed a spot in the lobby and watched the door. Every time a family with two children came in they wondered: Is that them? Are these the ones?

Lindsay and Robbie were at Marbles Museum in Raleigh; they were waiting to meet two foster children who had just become eligible for adoption. They hadn’t seen a picture of the kids and were unsure of their ages. “All we knew,” Lindsay says, “is that it would be a boy and a girl. We honestly didn’t know if they were white or black – we didn’t care about that sort of stuff, so we never asked.”

And then Daniel and Hazel walked in with their foster parents – and Lindsay and Robbie say they just knew. “I started tearing up,” says Lindsay. “I said, ‘That’s them and I already love them.’ ” Robbie said the same thing and together they walked over to introduce themselves.

Fast forward two years.

Now they are a close-knit family of four people and three dogs. Daniel’s in second grade, Hazel just started kindergarten. And even though their lives are full with school, camp, and family outings, they all dream of one day living on a farm. Deep cords of love – present before they met – hold them together. The only dissent came on adoption day.

As papers were signed and the seal put in place, the judge asked Hazel if everything looked right. Her answer was quick and clear: No.

Pointing to her new last name and she said, “This is all wrong. My name should be Unicorn Princess. Hazel Unicorn Princess.”

God bless the child.


Josh

Marc Ridel Creative
Josh, 9 These are the things that make Josh happy: Trips to Bojangles’ for Bo-Berry biscuits; afternoons riding his scooter at the park; routines like haircuts with Dad, making breakfast with Mom, reading together at bedtime. Josh came to Amy and Richard at age 7, a zombie-fighting, Hot Wheels-racing, noisy burst of boyish energy – who guarded his heart and craved a family. “Josh desperately wanted a mom and a dad,” Amy says. “He would give up playing with his most favorite toy just to receive undivided attention from us.” So they folded him into their lives – parents Amy and Richard, sisters Brianna and Alyssa – and gave him a family that will be his forever. “We cannot imagine life without him,” Richard says.

Quinn

His family shut him out but he is forging ahead

When he was 15 Quinn was a smart, well-liked 10th grader – active in his school’s athletics and clubs. That changed in an instant when he did something irrational and impulsive. No amount of regret could undo it and Quinn ended up in court.

A week later, Quinn was sent to one of our crisis & assessment centers and 30 days after that, he was accepted into our transitional living program. And this is where Quinn’s story turns.

Cast off by his parents, Quinn took control of his life. He accepted responsibility for what he did, made amends as best he could, and decided to move forward.

Now, barely 17, Quinn has graduated from high school and started college. He works full time at a restaurant, but he’s struggling. When he realized how difficult it would be to work, make ends meet, and succeed in college, he enlisted in the Army. There he plans to continue his education and train for a career in cyber security.

Everyone has a back story, everyone makes mistakes. But Quinn has learned he can rise above his worst moment and create a life worth living – and worth sharing.

What is transitional living?

     A residential program that prepares court-involved teens for their transition into adulthood by teaching them to live independently


Jarel

There was a promise Jarel’s mother always made to him, growing up. She’d say, “One day we’ll get our own place to live.”

But she was an alcoholic and never delivered on that promise, even when she had the money, so Jarel slept on the sofas and spare beds of other peoples’ homes. By age 15, he had nothing; he felt like a nothing. He was failing in school and he made a mistake – the biggest of his life. He stole a car.

That mistake brought him to us and it might well have saved his life because this is what we saw right away: Jarel has a debilitating learning disorder, and he can’t do basic math or read beyond an elementary-grade level. The inability to keep up in class and the chaos of his life had pointed him to the streets – a place that preyed on his vulnerabilities.

Jarel was trying to fit in somewhere as life was leaving him behind. “He’s the sweetest kid; there’s not a mean bone in his body,” says Tiffany Powell, program manager for our boys’ transitional living home. “But he’s gullible, and he’ll do what you tell him to do. If he gets around bad people, he’ll do what they say.”

When he came to us, Jarel had no understanding of nutrition or cooking – he thought he could live off the McDonald’s dollar menu. He had no familiarity with table manners. He didn’t know how to adjust his behavior when time and place called for it. He had to learn the mundane rules of life and skills for his own survival – how to apply for a job and be reliable; how to save money, budget, and write a check.

Today Jarel works in a fast food restaurant. He is struggling to pass the GED with his learning disability and years of education missing, but he’s trying, and if he succeeds he might go for a welding certification.

Later this year when Jarel turns 18, we’ll have to send him out – but we won’t let him go. We’ll help him get an apartment with furniture and a roommate, a place where he can catch the bus to work, and we’ll stay in touch to keep him accountable.

It won’t be a lot, but it’ll be a place of his own, and in Jarel’s experience that’s a huge step forward. Life has never been better.


Myles & Mia

Marc Ridel Creative

MYLES, AGE 8
MIA, AGE 6

A few years ago, they might have laughed at the idea. They definitely would have called it crazy.

But Tabitha and David couldn’t see then what they see now: How their hearts and home would stretch to make room for five children under the age of 9.

Tabitha and David adopted their first two children in September – a brother-sister pair, 8-year-old Myles and 6-year-old Mia. And when September rolls around again, they expect to have adopted another sibling group – by then ages 6, 5, and 4.

Let that sink in.

In the span of one year, this couple is adopting five children, ages 8, 6, 6, 5, and 4. That’s a 3rd grader, two 1st graders, a kindergartener, and a preschooler. In eight years, four of them will be in middle school at the same time, with one ahead in high school.

Myles and Mia came to this Franklin County foster home in May 2016 after their mother left them with friends and never came back. Social services tried twice to place them with relatives, first in Wilmington and then in Georgia, but neither option worked out. By the time it became clear Myles and Mia had no other family to help, Tabitha and David were parenting a second group of siblings already on track for adoption.

So the decision was made, no discussion needed. Tabitha and David would adopt all five of their foster children – Myles and Mia, plus three others we’ll introduce in the fall