These children have widened my horizons
Jamere, 9; Bryce, 4
DeVette will be adopting her great nephews, Jamere and Bryce, during the 5th Annual Ramsey County National Adoption Day event. DeVette had been providing foster care for both boys when the county informed her that they were looking for adoptive homes for the two siblings. She had grown very close to the boys and didn’t want them to leave her family, so she decided to adopt them. Before moving forward, she spoke with her family members, including her 26-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter and gained their support. “Having these boys in my home has helped me become more organized, patient, intuitive, supportive and nurturing” stated DeVette. Her other children are happy to have the boys join their family, and are very compassionate toward the boys needs. DeVette has no fears or concerns about adopting the boys because the African-American Adoption Agency helped her understand what adoption was really all about. They assisted her in waiving fees and prepared her for the parenting responsibilities. Both boys have disabilities, but the Permanent Connections Adoption Worker at Ramsey County was helpful in getting necessary services in place and connecting the family with programming at Family Innovations, Inc. DeVette’s advises families who are thinking about adopting to be aware that it is a permanent life long commitment and one that should be discussed with other family members. She also suggests that you ask for help with children with disabilities from the County Social Worker before the adoption to make sure all the services needed by the children are in place. “I enjoy being there for them” said DeVette about Jamere and Bryce. “They widen my horizon”. They have helped me realize that I want to be more available for other children, especially those with developmental disabilities.
“All Children Make Me Happy”
Dandedda Davis Child- Ta’Tiana, 2
Dandedda had provided Childcare services for 15 years when she noticed a great need for loving foster home placements, and she decided to become a foster parent. Now, she loves having children around all the time, and currently has a granddaughter and another adopted child living in her home. She started out providing foster care for Ta’Tiana, who will be turning 2-years-old in December. “I fell in love with her,” exclaimed Dandedda. “Once you get these children in your home, it is hard to give them up.” Dandedda will be adopting Ta’Tiana on Saturday, November 19th, during Ramsey County’s 5th Annual National Adoption Day Celebration. She said the adoption process went pretty smoothly for her, and she has no fear or concerns about becoming an adoptive parent. All children make me happy, Dandedda explained, especially Ta’Tiana. Every morning she’s smiling. She gives you hugs and kisses. She’s just a very happy baby.
Their lives have changed significantly . . .
Courtney and Laurie Burks Children- James, 10 and Alyseanna, 9
Courtney and Laurie had been trying to have a child for awhile when they decided to pursue adoption. Last October, they decided they wanted to adopt older children who had been in foster care. By May, they had finished all their paperwork and within the same week they were contacted about two siblings, James and Alyseanna. Initially, the Burks received only two photos and a short paragraph about the children, but it was enough for them to know they wanted to adopt these children. Examining the photos, you could tell they loved each other, Courtney stated. “They seemed to have similar interests to my wife and me”. While looking at them, they just seemed to be a natural fit for us. Their [the Burks] lives have changed significantly since having James and Alysesanna come into their home in August this year. The family had to establish a routine and things became a lot busier, but in a good way. “We’ve been married almost 11 years, said Courtney, “we had the time to do the things we wanted to do as a couple, and now we want to put our time and energy into our children.” While talking about the adoption process, Laurie expressed that she found support from family and friends to be very helpful. They both stated that the great Social Workers on their case, as well as parenting classes and services at Children’s Home Society helped significantly in preparing them for adoption. Courtney admitted it was initially challenging to hear about the previous trauma and problems that the children had experienced. “You bring the children into a new environment, and it is amazing how a lot of the issues improve. Therapists and people at the schools can’t believe how well they are doing now.” The Burks are eagerly waiting for their adoption hearing to occur. The children are excited too and want to take the Burks’ last name. The whole family is looking forward to celebrating, “We’re even having t-shirts made up for the event,” Courtney said. When thinking of advice to give other families considering adoption, Laurie suggests, “Make sure it’s what everybody wants, especially when adopting older children. It’s a big process, and it’s important that everyone is on the same page.” Laurie described the most memorable moment in the process was hearing them call me ‘Mom’ for the first time. Courtney agreed and stated, “It really hits you hard when you hear that. They called us mom and dad within the first few hours of placement, and it just showed how comfortable they were. It sealed the whole relationship.”
“Hopefully, I can make a huge difference in his life.”
Darrell Martin Child: Jordan Waters
Darrell Martin hadn’t seen his grandson Jordan since he had entered the foster care system nearly four years ago. Then one day while he was working his job at a shopping center, Jordan who was shopping with his foster parents, suddenly noticed and approached him. Instantly, the two were reconnected! Shortly following that day, visitations began between Darrell and Jordan. The Social Workers on Jordan’s case asked Darrell if he would be interested in providing foster care or possibly adopting Jordan. Darrell started going through the licensing process, knowing he wanted to adopt his grandson. In late July, Jordan was placed in Darrell’s care. Since that time, the two have been preparing for adoption. Darrell has two grown daughters in their 30s, so it has been an adjustment for him to learn how to be a parent again. Darrell said, “It’s challenging and difficult at times. I’m still learning, but it’s rewarding. The hugs, love and the good times definitely outweigh the hard days.” Darrell stated that it is nice to have another person in his home again. They both enjoy spending time at home with one another, as well as going out to concerts and dinner together. Jordan has some challenging behavioral issues that can be difficult to deal with as a parent, but Darrell is hopeful that he can provide a supportive environment for him. “I feel like he is my own son; there is just a connection between us. Hopefully, I can make a huge difference in his life.”
We would love to hear your story. Ramsey County Adoption / Guardianship Unit is looking to post a few successful adoption stories to share with the community.
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Gwen and John Blackman
Lavell, 15; Larrijha, 12; Aries, 11; Aisa-Lynn, 11; Sebastian, 2
Blackmans “Better the World” Through Adoption of Grandnephews and Grandnieces
Gwen Blackman sprung into action when she received a phone call that her grandnephew, Sebastian, was in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury. After working her way through the system, Gwen received Sebastian once he was released from the hospital in September 2007. At that time no one in Gwen’s family knew that Sebastian’s four older siblings, Lavell, Larrijha, Aries and Aisa-Lynn, were all in foster care. The kids all wanted Gwen and John to adopt them and began spending weekends with the couple. In June 2008, Gwen and John began fostering the four children and their adoptions will be finalized at the November 21st Ramsey County National Adoption Day event. Gwen and John also have two biological children, Johvontea, 14, and Andre, 16. “We’re on this planet to help others,” Gwen said of her decision to adopt. “The sooner we realize that, the better the world will be.”
Claire and Warren Braun
Marty, 39; Michael, 26; Penny, 25; Jenny, 24; Sabrina, 18; Mark, 16; Lucas, 16; Victoria, 15
Braun Family Provide Love and Family to More than 80 Children
Claire Braun will speak about her adoption experiences at the Ramsey County National Adoption Day event November 21st. Claire and her husband, Warren, have three biological children, have adopted eight children and have fostered over 80 children. “Taking foster children in was never the problem,” Claire said. “Giving them back was the problem.” Her interests in nursing and teaching led her to foster special needs children. Claire and Warren tend to adopt children in their transitional years, when they are teenagers, because that is often a difficult time and children in that age group are often considered the most difficult to place. Claire and Warren’s oldest adopted child is 39 years old. “If you want to save kids, you have to invest in them,” Claire said. “It’s not easy to adopt special needs children, but where would these kids be without us?” Claire said she will most likely adopt more kids because “everyone needs love and a family.” Many of Claire and Warren’s children play sports and two of their kids, Mark and Lucas, are two-time national wheelchair basketball champions. Claire also said that adopting special needs children can be stressful because of their health concerns, but because of them she gets to see astounding things every day.
Vanessa and Leroy Johnson
Adoptive and Foster Parents Give Children a Home and Family
Vanessa and Leroy Johnson have adopted three children, ages 20, 18 and 12, and are in the process of adopting a set of twins, age 3. The Johnsons became involved in foster parenting after their nieces and nephews became foster children and the Johnsons began caring for them. While the nieces and nephews were eventually transitioned back to their mother’s care, Vanessa and Leroy continued to serve as foster parents. The couple’s first child came into their home at the age of six weeks and they adopted her at age 2. She is now 18 years old. “The children are all blessings,” said Vanessa. “Each one is unique.” Vanessa said she always encourages others to foster parent and adopt, “because it’s about the connection, a whole family unit, giving a child a home and a family where the child doesn’t feel like just a number.”
Dondra and Clayton Moore
Jamal, 9; Ra-kin, 8; Mika-il, 6; Shakira, 2
Grandparents Provide Kinship Adoption
Dondra and Clayton Moore began kinship foster care for their four grandchildren in 2007. They were attending family group meetings for reunification with the children’s parents, Dondra and Clayton’s son and daughter-in-law. The reunification did not work out and Dondra and Clayton took custody of the children. On September 22, 2009, Dondra and Clayton finalized their adoptions of Jamal, Ra-kin, Mika-il and Shakira, all four of whom have special needs. Clayton urges others to adopt, especially in kinship circumstances. He said it’s been more rewarding to see the results of great parenting through his adopted kids and considers adoption a second chance. “I feel honored to be in a position to be able to come to the rescue,” Clayton said.
Billy and Sharmaine Russell
Naijia, 7; Charvez, 5; William, 4; Billy, 3
Sibling Group “Meant to be” Part of Russell Family
Billy and Sharmaine Russell became interested in adoption after the African American Adoption Agency did outreach at the couple’s church. Billy and Sharmaine had wanted a third child and chose to adopt rather than conceive. Once the couple began adoption training, they saw a picture of a sibling group and from then on, never considered adopting anyone else. “It was meant to be,” Sharmaine said of choosing to adopt the kids. Billy and Sharmaine had the four children for 10 months before finalizing their adoptions October 9, 2009. Sharmaine left a more than 10-year-long career in sales to stay home with her children, a decision she called “rewarding.” Sharmaine has since been on a parent panel and has encouraged others to adopt, resulting in two of her friends currently filling out paperwork to become adoptive parents.
Patricia “Pat” Wright
Javen Killen-Dame, 7
Quiet Toddler Becomes Exceptional “Chatterbox”
Pat Wright is adopting Javen Killen-Dame, 7, on National Adoption Day November 21, 2009, after six years as Javen’s foster mother. At 21 months of age, Javen came to Pat unable to speak. Pat is now happy to report that Javen is now a “chatterbox” and has scored above the Minnesota averages on standardized tests. Though Javen is in second grade, he will soon begin third and fourth grade level academics. Pat describes Javen as “very blessed and happy,” and though Javen was burned very badly after an accident with matches in 2008, he has healed well with the help of skin grafts. Pat said it has been very rewarding to watch Javen grow. Javen’s foster mother to his biological father or foster grandmother is still in his life as is his biological great uncle Casey, who was adopted by Javen’s biological father’s foster mom. His foster grandmother adopted his biological dad’s uncle, Casey. Casey has worked on the “Lord of the Rings” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” films as an animator. Casey is also a very important presence in Javen’s life.