November is National Adoption Month. When adoptive parents open their home, they create loving forever families across Kentucky. In this guest blog, Phyllis shares her story of adopting children from the Special Needs Adoption program. Though they faced challenges, her family is strong and has built connections to strengthen other adoptive families. Hear from Phyllis’s daughter, Stacy, here.
By Phyllis Hildreth
When I was young and saw pictures of orphans, I thought I would have biological children and adopt. As years passed and I married I had three children, all boys. I really wanted a daughter, but my youngest son had Cystic Fibrosis, an inherited disease, so we decided no more children. Over the years I longed for another child. My husband, a social worker, came home one day and told me about a program called Special Needs Adoption and asked if I would like to attend some classes to adopt a child. I was excited! Our boys were 16, 14, and 11 then. We attended classes every week to help us prepare for adopting one child. We were ready! Then my husband came home with a picture of four beautiful children, three girls and one boy ages two, four, six and eight. Immediately wanting one child turned into wanting four. People told us we were crazy, but we didn’t care.
We thought we were prepared since we had raised good kids and considered ourselves good parents. We soon found out we weren’t prepared! We knew the children had been abused, but thought with lots of love, discipline and a stable environment, they would thrive. Little did we know many other factors would play out. Even with love and a stable environment, that wasn’t enough to heal the scars and the mistrust that comes from abuse. We had unrealistic expectations from the beginning. I never even thought about what it was like for them to come into a stranger’s house and how scared they must have been after what they had been through. I think we learned and changed as much as our children did.
Knowing that we, as well as other parents, needed support, another adoptive mom and I formed a support group called Blended Families and we had bi-monthly meetings. Our group grew throughout the state, and we received some funding for a monthly newsletter and a two-day conference. These conferences and newsletters continued for years. It was the best thing we ever did for ourselves and our children. There was overnight child care, and the parents listened to speakers who gave us ideas and methods to help the children and ourselves. At night parents gathered together and shared stories and ideas. We all laughed when one woman said “You mean your kids do that, too?” We helped and encouraged each other, as well as trading off some weekends for respite. We were a close-knit group for many years. This was many years ago, and our children are grown, but we keep in contact and I have watched many children who wouldn’t have had a chance, turn into responsible adults.
Some of our kids still struggle, but they have a forever family who loves, accepts, and helps them. My children range from 36 to 50 now. We have 21 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. I can say it has sometimes been a rocky road we have traveled, but when I see my wonderful and happy grandchildren, I know that they are what they are because we never gave up. Happy National Adoption Month!