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Adoption Heroes

UPublish story by Lisa McKelvey

November is National Adoption Awareness Month! With your help, we can raise awareness about the children who are waiting for their "forever family."

Below are the stories of local families who are Adoption Heroes to some of Ohio's foster children who were waiting, but now have found a permanent, loving home. If you would like to interview one of these families or our knowledgeable adoption staff, please contact me at 330-345-7949 ext. 2318 or mckelveyl@ccho.org. Thank you!

The Smiths: Todd and Melinda have adopted four boys, three teens and one 11-year-old, since 2004. Boys Curtis (adopted 2004), Koty (adopted 2007), James (adopted 2009), and Mitchell (adopted 2010) found their forever family. They were also foster parents. Todd and Melinda Smith have opened their home and their hearts to around 30 foster children over a period of six years. As a family, they have worked to deal with the pasts of their adopted and foster children, trying to heal the scars of abuse and neglect.

For the Smiths, adoption is an opportunity to give them a better life—to show them someone cares. As foster parents, the Smiths received funds to help pay for the children’s needs. However, as adoptive parents, they assumed the costs, truly accepting the boys into their family despite the financial setbacks. The boys have been welcomed into the family, and are undeniably brothers to Caleb, Todd and Melinda’s biological son, who is also 17.

The best part of all this? “To me, it’s what I get back from them. It’s the satisfaction of seeing them happy.” The boys have come a long way. They’ve had a lot to deal with, and we’ve been able to help them. There is joy in that.

The Gerwigs: Celeste and Gary Gerwig have been foster parents with CCHO since 1990. They have adopted five children from the child welfare system, all of whom were born with fetal alcohol syndrome and/or drug exposed. Their oldest son, Courtney, is 20 years old and a worship leader in Elkhart, Indiana. He was adopted in 1994. Kenniqua, their oldest daughter, is also 20. She is an STNA at a local nursing home. Laniesha is 18 years old and a senior in high school. When she graduates she is planning to attend the University of Findlay and study Equine Business Management. Ross, 12 years old, and his biological brother, Garrett, who is 9 years old, are their youngest adopted children. The Gerwigs are also currently fostering a sibling group of three boys, ages 12, 4, and 2.

They are also very proud of their daughter, Kenniqua, who has overcome tremendous disabilities, yet she is able to be independent and live on her own. Of Kenniqua, Celeste says, “She has accomplished so much—it’s what every parent wants for their child as they become an adult.”

They are most excited about what they do when they see kids coming to the Lord. Providing care for children in their home is a mission for them.

 

The Roberts: Phil and Rita adopted two sibling groups, James and Destiny in 2004 and Starla and Ryan in 2008. All four children were considered special needs, suffering from early childhood neglect, which can cause trauma, learning, and social issues. James and Destiny were 10 and 8 and Starla and Ryan were 10 and 11 when adopted. Having survived for nearly a decade in difficult circumstances, it is not uncommon for the children to exhibit trauma responses and responses learned in the culture that they grew up in. These behaviors can be hard to cope with. Rita, who is a long-time social work professional, was familiar with these difficulties prior to adoption. It was through her work experiences that they decided to adopt. For the Roberts, adoption is a ministry.

When asked what is the one thing that you wish you knew before you adopted, Rita responded, “I wish I know how truly hard it was going to be. It brings out the worst and the best in us.” For Phil, it would be understanding that “There are some things in the lives of your children that you just can't fix. Early childhood abuse and neglect leave scars that no amount of loving parenting will alleviate. The separation of children from their family of origin, no matter how abusive, will leave a hole that your adopted or foster children will live life trying to fill. Your task as a second family for these children is to invite them to a better way of living. One of love, not control. One of grace, not law. Help them to understand life in a new and freeing way that only God in Christ can create. Offer yourselves to them as caring, but imperfect examples of the love of God.” The most valuable piece of advice they would give to someone adopting a child is that “It’s a tough, tough job. Don’t feel guilty or weak because of the struggles you’ll face, the doubts and fears. Make sure you have a strong support system and be willing to reach out, not just to your friends and family, but to others who’ve adopted and can relate to what you’re experiencing. They will help you feel normal and help you to keep perspective.” In addition to a group of supportive people, “Do not be surprised when friends or family think you have lost it or distance themselves from you when things get messy. Find those who have also experienced "family mess" and lean on their friendship. Don't go it alone.”


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