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.”


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.

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 it made sense. His mother had died when he was 4 and his father, remarried, was in and out of his life, serving time in prison or traveling to construction jobs. John was living unparented in a home without regular meals or clothes for school. He needed a lot of help academically – but before that could happen, John 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 that fear and he tried something else. And we started moving up, gradually building that success and giving him that belief 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.


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


Halie, Ryan, & Madison

 

Lorreen and Dan and their two sons were relocating to North Carolina. They were house hunting and, like all homebuyers, had a checklist of features. The house had to accommodate their mobility – both sons have spina bifida and wheelchairs are their primary mode of transportation. And it had to be big. They were a family of four, but Lorreen and Dan had decided to become foster parents.

When they found a house they liked, they prayed together and looking up, they both just knew. Dan spoke first. “We’re going to live here. And we’re going to get three kids.” Lorreen responded, “Two girls and a boy.” And so their story begins.

HALIE, AGE 15
RYAN, AGE 12
MADISON, AGE 11

The kids are arm wrestling in the front room. When Halie is pinned, she calls out “Whoopsie-daisy!” and her laughter fills the air. Anyone who has known her longer than a year knows this is nothing short of a miracle.

Lorreen and Dan met Halie two years ago when she came to their home for a one-week respite visit. They knew she had hemiparesis, or left-side weakness, a result of a congenital brain disorder and they knew this limited her ability to communicate. But they didn’t know how much pain she had.

She was terrified of Dan, all men really, because of abuse she suffered while living with her biological mother. She couldn’t regulate her emotions or make attachments. She felt loss and confusion at being separated from her home, her mother, her aunt, and two siblings. And because she could communicate none of this, she raged.

It would be great to say that Lorreen and Dan loved her through it, but that doesn’t tell the full story. They loved her, yes, but they also gave her a safe home, medical interventions, consistency, and stability. She improved, then thrived. And it was at that point Lorreen and Dan learned Halie had a brother and sister, each living in a different foster home.

“When I heard this,” Dan says, “I just looked at Lorreen and said, ‘We can’t let these kids separate.’ ” Soon they were visiting one weekend a month; then two. They would play together before returning to their foster homes. Over time, the siblings became comfortable together and with Lorreen and Dan and their two sons. And then the phone rang.

“Methodist Home for Children called and asked if we would be a family to all three,” Dan says. “And I replied, ‘Abso-fricking-lutely.’ ”

Last December, the teens were adopted in a ceremony uniquely styled for this family. Halie brought her baby doll, who was also officially adopted – and they unapologetically laughed and cheered. They had  come a long way and were joyously committing to a lifetime of family.


Jumping Back In


Alexis, age 6; Jamie, age 5

They had done this. Kevin and Susan had raised three children into their teens already, so a couple of toddlers couldn’t do anything to surprise them. Right?

On his first day alone with Alexis and Jamie, Kevin turned his back for just a moment while the kids were in the kitchen. When he looked again, he saw the 2- and 3-year-olds “showering” in the water dispenser on the refrigerator.

The last time Kevin had parented preschoolers, his refrigerator didn’t even have a water dispenser. Now he and Susan were discovering all that had changed since their own teenagers were young – and suddenly remembering how relentless young children can be.

“They were everywhere,” Susan says.

Susan and Kevin were new to foster care then, but they were ready to jump back into the preschool hustle of car seats, diapers, and potty-training. They knew the first days with Alexis and Jamie would be chaotic. They were prepared for the demands of parenting neglected children who’d lost everything. Alexis missed her birth mother, and both struggled to sleep.

Today Alexis and Jamie are bright, happy kids – still everywhere, eager to try new things. They were adopted this summer and live every day secure in the love of their parents, Susan and Kevin, and their siblings Jacob, Emily, and Sam.