Category Archives: Northwest Region

Knit together by birth and adoption

Guest post by Holly Lowmiller, a mother of adoptive and biological children in Niceville.

The beautiful Lowmiller children

The beautiful Lowmiller children. (Photo courtesy of Neda’s Notions Photography, http://nedasnations.com)

My family’s story starts when I was a single mother of a sweet boy. When my son Zane was 14 months old, I found myself suddenly parenting solo. On April 1, 2007, I married an amazing man named Brian. In addition to my beloved I also scored two wonderful bonus boys, my step-sons Mason and Carson. The Lowmillers were now a blended family of five.

Before Brian and I were married we spoke of the desire to grow our family. We were both very open to adoption so we agreed that is where we would start. I had a very strong desire to adopt from foster care, so we signed up to take the necessary classes to get our adoption home study. Taking those classes opened our eyes to the need for foster families in our community.

After much deliberation, we decided to open our hearts and home to children needing a loving family for perhaps a day, a week or forever. We had several little loves come and go but in November 2009, our Naomi came at 6 months old and stayed forever. We were thrilled to have our sweet daughter join our family.

Two years later we received a call on a Monday morning that Naomi’s birth parents delivered a baby girl the day before. I was asked if we would consider being a forever family for her. I called my husband at work to pose the big question and my amazing husband asked, “Another daughter, a baby sister for Naomi?” He then said, “Yes! Call and tell them yes!”

Two days later I brought Phoebe Violet home from the hospital. Adoption has blessed our family beyond measure!

For more information about adoption and children available for adoption in Florida, visit www.adoptflorida.org or call 1-800-962-3678.

Anything can be

Guest post by Kimberly Golden, a parent of two biological children and one adoptive son in North Florida.

family

The Golden family

Two years ago my family finalized the adoption of our now 20-year-old son, Terry.

We were not a foster family. We had never fostered children before, never taken a class, never even considered fostering or adopting a child into our family, let alone an 18-year-old!  We truly thought our  family was complete just the way it was with our little brick house, two kids, three dogs and a partridge in a pear tree.  But it was at the cusp of this decision that I realized … LIFE BEGINS AT THE END OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE!

I am an Educational Consultant with a children’s book company where I did a charity book fair at a local vacation resort.  The resort selected Anchorage Children’s Home as the recipient of the free books from the fair.  I went to meet with the staff at the facility to discuss their needs to place the book order and during my meeting the Administrative Assistant had been telling me about this kid who had lived there off and on for many years and was pretty much a permanent fixture at the group home called Hidle House, a place I’d never heard of.  She told me how he was 17 and applying for a job at Sonic and how he practiced his roller skating on the basketball court every day, just in case he got the job. She told me how his Guardian ad Litem had just helped him purchase a bicycle so he can ride it to and from work (that bicycle sits in my garage as we speak and we still use it to take family rides around the neighborhood!).

Then she told me something I would never, ever forget. She told me he was about to age out of foster care and would be put out into the world … alone. Those words stung.

Terry

Terry

My colleague and I took our tour of the facility and I saw his room, all neat and clean, positive and encouraging words posted on his door in his handwriting.  (Boy was the wool pulled over my eyes! You should see his room now! But I digress.)

As the tour was wrapping up, a counselor came through with this kid, smiling from ear to ear, who was well-spoken and friendly. This boy told us he was heading out to do Meals on Wheels with the counselor.  Told us he had been there for a long time and enjoyed his outings.  I only spoke to him briefly, probably 30 seconds or less, but it may as well have been a lifetime.  I was IN LOVE WITH THIS KID!

I left the building and burst into tears.  I had left my heart with this child. I called my husband from my car and we briefly spoke about his situation.  Later that night at the dinner table we discussed in detail Terry’s options, which were limited and not very appealing.

After a short discussion my husband said, “Well, who do we call?”  I immediately sent an email to Hidle House. We met Terry in July, had several  weekly visits and weekend visits,  he moved into our home in September and we formally adopted him in November.

I’ll never forget the day Pauline brought him to my house to officially move in.  I was terrified.  I was NERVOUS!  What about my kids? What if he runs away? What if … what if … what if …

Son and mother!

Son and mother!

The challenges came early on as Terry was testing us at every turn. He wanted to prove to us that we would not adopt him, that we were not faithful to our word.  That we were just like every other person he had ever dealt with.  That our promises were empty.  And given his history, being in foster care since he was age 10, who could blame him? To the final hour he was testing us, but we didn’t judge him by his past; he didn’t live there anymore.  He lived with us, in our home with a fresh, new start.  And I knew even in the darkest hour, after all it was only 60 minutes, this too shall pass.  And you know what?  It did!  Terry’s adoption was finalized on November 2, 2011.

Terry and I had our share of butting heads.  Were there growing pains?  Absolutely!  Was it easy?  Certainly NOT!  Would I do it all over again?  YOU BETCHA!  In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. With every challenge came the chance to reach him.

We spent a year in therapy. A therapist came to our home and sat in our living room.  Terry and I sat side by side, hour after hour, week after week until he learned to trust and  he started to believe that HE was worthy of love.  It took time and patience ON BOTH OUR PARTS.  I did a lot of forgiving, but you know what?  SO … DID … HE! We are all a little broken, and that’s okay.

I went from being the mother of a 9 year old and 4 year old to jumping into a pot of boiling water with a 17 year old, and not just any 17 year old, a teenager no one else wanted; one who came with baggage.  But I loved him enough to help him unpack it piece by piece.

I have been blessed with an AMAZING kid.  One who loves unconditionally, who would jump into a lake of fire for me. One who lives to please, one who gives with his whole heart.

The Golden family

The Golden family

And please don’t misunderstand; he’s not perfect. He’s still a kid who screws up and does stupid kid stuff – the kind of stuff WE ALL DID!  But I’m so glad he does, it’s what he’s supposed to be doing!  Let’s face it, kids screw up.  And our jobs as parents are to CORRECT THEM, FORGIVE THEM, ACCEPT THEM and LOVE THEM!

Our family just made the trip out to San Antonio, Texas where we attended Terry’s graduation from Basic Military Training from the United States Air Force.  I am so proud of the man he has become.  He has overcome obstacles and beaten statistics and proven that he is a survivor. But even more, he has shown that EVERYONE IS WORTHY OF LOVE and that HE is WORTHY OF LOVE and that all of the trials he went through paid off for him.

In the words of Shel Silverstein …

Listen to the mustn’ts child,

Listen to the don’ts.

Listen to the shouldn’ts,

the impossibles

The won’ts.

Listen to the never- haves…

Then listen close to me.

Anything can happen child….

Anything can be.

 

For more information about adoption and children available for adoption in Florida, visit www.adoptflorida.org or call 1-800-962-3678.

Preston’s Road to Recovery

Guest post by Sherry Griffing, Medical Foster and Adoptive Parent in North Florida. 

I remember the day Preston came to our home. We were so happy he was a part of our family, but also worried for his health. At that point his little lungs were struggling so much that I could hear his wheezing from across the room.

He was on albuterol breathing treatments, steroids and 3 percent saline solution via nebulizer every three – four hours. At that time, his breathing treatments would take approximately 45 minutes. He had already had one surgery to drain the fluid from his lungs and they were filling up again, not responding to the 3 percent solution. I slept in the room with him the first couple of nights to keep better track of his breathing. The pulmonologist labeled him a “fragile asthmatic” and soon she was talking about doing another surgery on this precious, just-turned-2 little man.

I learned that there was a 7 percent hyper saline solution that the pulmonologist thought would clear the “crud,” as she called it, from his lungs. After a short time on the 7 percent solution, Preston responded to the breathing treatments and his lungs were clear!

As time went on, we watched Preston flourish. He became stronger, requiring fewer and fewer breathing treatments. Now he requires no daily breathing treatments. In fact, he no longer takes any asthma medication at all. For peace of mind, I carry his emergency inhaler everywhere we go, but honestly I can’t remember the last time we had to use it! He is a sweet, loving, funny, stubborn, handsome, smart addition to our family!

It is amazing the extent to which medically involved children can benefit from being in a home where they receive consistent attention from a parent who is willing to pursue options to improve their health. What condition would Preston be in today if he hadn’t been brought into our home? How many surgeries might he have been subjected to? We feel so blessed to be able to see the impact we have had onPreston’s health. If you are thinking about becoming involved in the adoption of a medically involved child, I can’t encourage you enough to do it! It is a great way to contribute to the lives of medically involved children and is indescribably personally rewarding.

Siblings Help Each Other Heal

Guest post by Willy and Kristen Bolander, adoptive parents in North Florida.

Siblings2Several years ago, about two weeks before Christmas, two sisters became a part of our family. The experience was surreal: the sisters didn’t seem to acknowledge each other or play together. In fact, it took several days before we finally saw them interact.

What we eventually observed (and were able to observe again and again as time went on) was that Lilly would go into the refrigerator and, still fearful of not having anything to eat from her prior  years before foster care, eat whatever she could grab. After getting a few bites for herself, she would turn and hand some food to Tera, who was patiently waiting behind her. Lilly later told us that she was the main caretaker for her 1-year-old sister and if there was enough food she would share. Tera suffered for a long time with food hoarding and Lilly would overeat to accommodate for the times when she feared food might get scarce.

Siblings3The first time they played together, Kristen cried. They held hands and jumped up and down chanting the Barney song. It was like they finally realized they didn’t just have to survive, but could start to enjoy life. Today, the girls have a bond that is strong beyond words. The girls do everything together. Even though she doesn’t remember the abuse, Tera is happy to retell the story of her big sister providing for her when no one else would. She is proud of her sister for what she did. Lilly still looks over her sister daily, ensuring that she is ok at all times. Being together through this ordeal has helped them heal faster than if they had been separated into different homes.

We would encourage people to consider the benefits, both to the children and to themselves, of adopting sibling groups. Having siblings around adds to the stability of a very difficult situation, can help facilitate the healing process, and is just a little more fun when it comes to play time. In contrast, separating siblings compounds the trauma, increases the difficulty for a child when he/she has questions about the past and creates a much harsher landscape for healing.

Siblings1So, what do you think? Want to replace that twin bed in your kids’ room with a set of bunk beds? We very rewarded by opening our home to foster and adopted children. It is a wonderful way to grow and complete a family.

For more information about adoption and children available for adoption in Florida, visit www.adoptflorida.org or call 1-800-962-3678. 

Together at Home

Guest post by Marion Green, a mom in Auburndale who received assistance from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), Heartland for Children, Devereux and Youth Villages. 

 

Marion Green, far left, and her children were reunited after five years of living apart. Audrey Mayfield-Gordon, right, is the Youth Villages family interventions specialist who provided the intensive in-home help that made the difference for Green and her family.

Marion Green, far left, and her children were reunited after five years of living apart. Audrey Mayfield-Gordon, right, is the Youth Villages family interventions specialist who provided the intensive in-home help that made the difference for Green and her family.

I cried constantly during the five years I was separated from my children. They were all I could think about. My youngest son, Jeremiah, wasn’t even walking and talking when I had to leave him. But I never gave up hope that one day I would pull my family back together.

I was a foster child when I was younger and I made some mistakes along the way. I was involved in a car accident and ended up having to go to jail. My family stepped in to care for my children.

As soon as I was released, I began working to bring my kids home. I knew I could be a good mom, but it was hard to prove it. I considered suicide sometimes. But my children were all I had. I couldn’t stop fighting for them. Youth Villages made getting my family back a reality.

My three sons, Adrian, 11, Joshua, 8, and Jeremiah, 7, came home just before Christmas in 2012. Jakaliah, my 13-year-old daughter, came home soon after. But it was hard. They didn’t remember that they used to live with me. I needed help.

Audrey Mayfield-Gordon, family intervention specialist with Youth Villages Lakeland office, was that help. It was hard to manage the kids. They were out of control. They didn’t know how to behave. I was afraid they would run Audrey off!

Audrey worked with me on behavioral charts and finding rewards so the kids would want to be good listeners and follow directions. The behavior chart is still up at our house. The children get excited when they see me marking the board because they know they’ll get rewards.

She worked with us for four months. She came by the house about three times each week and even visited the children at school. She became a part of our lives to help us know how to handle every situation. I knew we had to work each day to get better and Audrey knew how to get us there.

Jeremiah just had his first birthday at home in many years. I was even able to buy new bikes for Jeremiah and Joshua. I’m excited about what’s going to happen in our lives. There are so many things I want to do with them. I look forward to watching them grow.

I want to tell other parents who may be in my situation that it’s never too late. It took five years, but my family is now together at home.