(Posted 2021 November)
Two brothers, ages 7 and 13 years, entered foster care for the second time in July 2019. The boys had experienced a long history of physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. They often witnessed domestic violence between their parents and were left to care for themselves.
The boys were placed in the care of a very experienced couple. The pre-adoptive father, Joe*, was retired, and the pre-adoptive mother, Mary*, was very close to retirement. While the goal was adoption of these brothers, Joe and Mary weren’t sure they could meet the brothers’ needs long term.
Joe and Mary cared deeply for the boys and understood the importance of maintaining a connection to the children’s biological family. They formed close bonds with relatives who were important to the boys. They also encouraged regular contact between the boys and their biological parents and maternal aunt.
A Decision to Adopt
Joe and Mary displayed patience, understanding, and unconditional love, and they formed a unique bond with the children that was undeniable. They first decided to adopt the boys in December 2020, but throughout the process they experienced doubts and interruptions as challenges arose with the kids. The adoption specialist explained, “I understood the family’s hesitation and their decision to pause the process. I was disappointed and decided to work on supporting them while still advocating for the boys.”
Focusing on the Family’s Concerns
The adoption specialist met with the couple once a week to support them in their decision-making process. Joe and Mary aired very real concerns such as parenting younger children at their mature age, being able to financially care for the children after retirement, the couple’s plans to relocate for retirement, availability of resources, needs that would arise for the boys as they got older, family history, and maintaining family contact.
Staff listened and responded by providing adoption resources such as the Fairfax County Attachment, Regulation, Competency Reflections training, and books such as “Raising Good Humans,” and “The Connected Child.” Joe and Mary explained, “These resources helped us understand the trauma both boys had experienced and how to change our parenting approach to help the boys heal.”
Joe and Mary also benefited from connections with other adoptive parents, support groups, and meeting with other partnering colleagues such as the Adoption Assistance team. These supports helped Joe and Mary receive the full picture about what was best for their family as they moved forward with making one of the biggest decisions of their lives. This overall experience showed them that they were capable and well prepared to be the long-term caregivers the children needed.
During one of the many sessions that the family had with their adoption specialist, they were asked, “What would you do if the boys were to transition from your home today?” Their heartfelt response was “We can’t live without these boys; they are our children.” In that very emotional and tearful moment, things began to turn around.
Forming Bonds with Adoptive and Biological Family
After working closely together, Joe and Mary declared enthusiastically, “We are ready to move forward with adoption!” The entire team was so excited and celebrated the fact that the boys would have the parents they so desperately needed to care for them as they navigate through life. Today the brothers have been adopted, and the family has relocated to Florida.
Prior to moving, Joe and Mary planned a date with the brothers and their biological parents. The boys were so happy to visit with their birth parents and thanked their adoptive parents for including their biological family in their lives.
Joe and Mary have committed to support their son’s connections to their biological family by bringing the children to visit relatives in Northern Virginia three times a year.
The boys are happy, healthy, and loving life together. Our experience with this beautiful family has taught us that patience, persistence, support, teamwork, resources, and dedication are huge keys to helping families maneuver through the adoption process to become a permanent family.
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.
This article is by Tamiara Johnson, Adoption Unit.
This article posting is part of the Foster Family News monthly newsletter designed to keep foster parents informed about all the new and notable happenings in Fairfax County.
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