Emanuel, Tanginique and Trey Jerome are siblings -- all born to the same mother but with different fathers -- whom I adopted out of our very broken foster care system. Tragically, they were even more abused by foster care givers than they were by their drug-addicted mother. Because of all the upheaval and abuse in their lives before they came, in their early teens, under my care, Manny, Tangi and Trey Jerome have attachment issues, and they all left my home less than five years after I adopted them. All three have beautiful smiles, outgoing personalities and strong wills to survive. The youngest of the three, TJ, works for me now and lives close by with his girlfriend and his infant son. When TJ found out Abbi was pregnant, he was only eighteen. I'm so proud of the way he stepped up to the plate and vowed he would be the father to his son that he never had, and of the way he parents his son. He is totally committed to his baby and to his fiancée and works hard every day to provide for his young family. When I see TJ holding Nehemiah, and talking to him with such deep love, I know the many trials and tribulations that I went through when Trey was a teenager have paid off. We are far closer today than when he came into my life at the age of nine, and I pray that one day his siblings will also decide to walk away from the trauma and poverty of their current life and walk back into the family that is waiting to welcome them.
My two youngest boys are Zacky and TK (Thomas Karlton). TK also became a part of my life through adoption. A woman who facilitates adoptions contacted me one day, wondering if I knew anyone who'd be interested in adopting a young African-American toddler whose fourteen-year-old mom felt overwhelmed. I asked her to send me photos and information, and I'd make inquiries. Less than a month later, two-year-old Thomas Karlton was a part of our family. It was an impulsive decision on my part, and the timing wasn't the best, as I was going through a divorce and Zacky had been diagnosed with mild autism and other special needs. But something about TK's wide, dark eyes melted my heart, and I couldn't bear the thought that he might have to go into foster care. TK is always eager to help and please others. He has a huge bright smile, and loves to play silly games, like crawling on his knees on the floor and pretending to be an alligator or a space monster, as he chases his younger sister and nephew.
And as I write this, I have just adopted two more children, daughters from Ghana, Africa, whom I've come to know on my mission trips there. At thirteen, Angel is a tiny slip of a girl, just six months younger than my mini-me, Shaylah, but she is over a foot shorter and weighs just 75 pounds. She has suffered malnutrition all her life, as well as malaria and other diseases. Blessing is only four. The day the adoption was final, I took the girls out to breakfast to celebrate. Angel and even little Blessing ate six eggs apiece! They had never seen a smorgasbord before, and could not stop returning for more boiled eggs.
It seems most of my adult life has been spent folding laundry and trying to come up with creative Halloween costumes made from paper bags and pipe cleaners, screeching "Get in your car seat!" and "Stop hitting your brother!" and driving carloads of kids on field trips. But each day my children teach me. About patience. About forgiveness. About life. About love.