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Coming Full Circle


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This is our Thanksgiving story this year.

Fifteen years ago a little brother and sister, Annie and Vincent, were dropped off in our living room to foster. Annie, as you know, has grown up with us and is as magnificent a daughter as parents could have. Vincent was a severely damaged 2 yo that we did not know how to help. He was wild, violent, angry, and totally detached. Then came the test results that he had lead poisoning. We knew that the leading result of lead poisoning was mental retardation. We were a newly-licensed foster home and had NO services, supports, resources, or any means to meet the needs of a child like Vincent. When he tried to dive out of the car window at 45 mph we knew we had to give him up and put him in the hands of truly experienced foster parents. While we knew we did the right thing, there were always feelings of tremendous guilt and sadness about giving up a child. We heard that he got bounced from foster home to home by others who could not meet his needs and finally ended up in a group home. We heard nothing further after Annie's adoption was completed.

Flash forward to last week. Annie opens up a letter, falls into a chair crying and covering her face saying, "Oh my God!" She's been contacted by Vincent who is now in a facility only 15 minutes from our house! At first she was NOT happy. Any thoughts of her bio family cause great fear and pain. I called as many of our kids together as could get here quickly and they rallied around her. The next morning she had made some decisions. She felt that her bio siblings had been victims just as she had been and that they deserved the same chance to have help, love, and a new life just as she had been given. She wanted to help Vincent. We went to the facility and talked to his counselor and psychiatrist. They said he initiated the letters to all of his bio sibs because he felt isolated and all alone. He wanted to know if they'd respond. We told them that he would not only have Annie but that she came with 14 people ROFLOL and that the family was unanimous in that he'd have parents, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews if he wanted them! They smiled and said they thought he would want that very much and that this had the beginnings of being something wonderful!

Yesterday was Annie's first phone conversation with her brother. He has obvious disabilities (from the sounds of it he's very similar to our Brian and the exact same age!) but he was very excited and happy. The counselor said that she would contact DCFS to get consent to begin visits and in the meantime Annie can continue phone calls. She plans on calling him on Thanksgiving Day. Maybe we were never meant to raise Vincent (had we done so we definitely couldn't have saved Brian's life all those years he was in and out of the hospital with his kidneys) but it appears he's been brought back into our lives at this stage! Maybe we're meant to be his family and lead him into adulthood and help support him as he transitions into adult services. At any rate, we're giving thanks to be able to be part of this young man's life again and maybe be the family we were meant to be. And we're thankful that Annie is secure enough in her family to not fear reaching out and being the compassionate person she was meant to be. Our prayers are for new beginnings that make nothing impossible!

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Thank you both so much! I wanted so much to share this with my family here because this is such an emotional event in our lives. No heroes here, though. We're all too fallible, believe me. My husband always says, "There are mothers and there are moms. You're the most natural mom in the world." This comes incredibly naturally to me and to John, too. It was just a matter of teaching the kids that their differences were inconsequential --- "It's not that I can't. I just that I do things differently." I've drilled that motto into them for years. Once you have the mindset that change is power and power makes a difference the rest becomes easier. You know the old adage about not being able to change the world but being able to change your little corner of it? That's what we're doing here one person at a time... teaching kids that they have the power to overcome their own needs and that in gaining knowledge and experience you can then pass that on to others and teach them to do the same.

Recently it's been rewarding to see Annie go off to camp this summer to work with children. Our oldest, Shaun, is now in the process of establishing a Rock Band gamer's marathon as a fundraiser for the Spina Bifida Association of America in honor of his daughter and other who live with this disease. He's received donations of gaming equipment for the event from corporate sponsors and donors/sponsors who will be financially backing the players. I'll keep you all posted when he develops the webpage for the event. They're each finding their own ways to make a difference in their little corner of the world! Honestly, it's really that simple.

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Thank you both! I can't tell you how excited we are about this opportunity. It has it's drawback --- mostly involvement with DCFS again (you all get into heated discussions about politics and religion, you can't even BEGIN to imagine what I have to say about DCFS!) but it'll be worth the work.

I don't know when we, other than Annie, will be allowed to visit with him because we're not family. I'd like to get a sense of his condition so I know how to research and prepare. I've got a lot of experience with multisensory teaching and a growing knowledge of mental illness and retardation so I'm definitely in my element and comfortable with this. So is the rest of the family. We're excited and just focusing on the positive things we have to offer!

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Kathy Lee, I don't know you, but have been following posts since September of this year. Sounds like you and your family have made a tremendous difference in so many lives... what truly beautiful things you've accomplished. Happy Thanksgiving... and, G-d Bless You!!!

(BTW Ecstasy is one of my favorite EC songs!)

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