The City of Newport News Department of Human Services held a National Adoption Day Celebration in November for National Adoption Month. As part of the event, they invited Mrs. Ruth McCall-Miller to share her story. The theme was "Follow the Yellow Brick Road". Her story was so moving, we just had to share.
Ruth's Adoption Story
My story is your story. My story is for all of us who do what we do to make sure that children and families find one another.
It was about 21/22 years ago. I saw an ad in the neighborhood paper looking for African American families to adopt. Adoption was never a consideration, but for some reason, this ad struck my interest. As an African American mother of two at the time, I felt almost compelled to find out the particulars (seeing as though I had absolutely no specialty skills, no medical background, and no special powers to care for a special needs child. I thought, there was absolutely no way
they would ever consider me to be an adoptive parent. So, with little hesitation, I made the call to inquire about adopting the special needs children.
"Hello, how are you today? I am calling about the ad in the paper. Seems as though you are recruiting for African American adoptive families for children? Who are these children and what are their special needs?" I said
The voice on the other end of the phone said, "Thank you so much for calling. We are looking for families to adopt African American boys over the age of six.
"Yes ma'am, I understand that but what is the special need that these children have?" I replied
And she replied, "They are African American males over the age of six. You see most people don’t want these children once they turn 6 years old."
My heart literally sank. Here I am a mother of one child, mothering a second child (my cousin’s son was 8 at the time, he had been with us since he was 8 months old and was my son by way of kinship care). I was separated from my husband at the time, and as an African American mother, I wanted to make a difference. My heart was racing and
I couldn’t even tell if I was breathing. Then I heard myself say,
"Well sign me up because I care and I want them."
Thus began my journey down the Yellow Brick Road.
Little did I know that simultaneously while I was maneuvering down the road, my sons were also on the yellow brick road. They had been on the road for quite some time.
"This is wonderful," I thought! I'm a caring, loving Mother of two, who has a 6 bedroom/3 bath home, a son in private school, a daughter in charter school, and steady employment. I had a supportive, extended family and a husband (although separated by addresses), who was a professional firefighter, still contributing. I was doing pretty well, I thought. This will be a breeze - easy peasy - no problem at all.
What I didn’t realize was that the Yellow Brick Road my sons were traveling on, was much different than mine. Their road began by salvaging through what others threw away in order to survive. My oldest, at four years, was caring for his younger brother who was only two. He made sure his brother was protected and made sure his brother was alright. The two of them were forced on the road by a mother who needed help battling the flying monkeys (the men who mistreated her, the men who physically abused her, the men who left her to raise her children alone). They were forced on the road as a result of a mother who visited the poppy fields (drugs/drug abuse) as a way to cope. By the wicked witches (the caseworkers and their supervisors who didn’t have the time or didn’t take the time to help her keep and maintain her children).
My road, on the other hand, was lined in gold (parent training, supportive workers, the completion of a successful home study, numerous matching parties, potential matches sent in the mail almost every day and each of them a potential placement for our family).
But back to the other road…the road my sons had to travel. My sons were trapped in someone/everyone’s need to complete paperwork. There were physiological assessments, treatment plans, court hearings, court-appointed GALs, multiple diagnoses, multiple placements/movements, and constant worker turnover. In the midst of all of that, there were a few glimpses of hope. There were a few homes that agreed to adopt the boys. In the distance, they saw what they felt was Oz (Juvenile court/adoption finalization), the Wizard (the judge granting their
legal adoption), and the promise of the Good Witch - that the someday had finally come to make it all be alright. And then it all fell apart. The report submitted to the Wizard stated the boys argued too much, that they fought each other all the time. Then the final recommendation came, a wonderful young worker with little to no real knowledge of the boys decided the best answer was to separate the brothers and maybe one of them would make it to Emerald
City - maybe one of them would be adopted.
The yellow brick road divided for my boys that day. One brother went into a family placement and the other brother was placed in a group home, a residential placement (one after another after another after the other).
Then one day my road and Abdullah’s road met. Abdullah was almost 8 years old and had the opportunity to interview me (to my surprise I thought I was trying to figure out if he was a good fit for our family… But ohhhh nooooooo he was tired of having to be the right one for every family that came looking. This time he wanted to make sure we were the right ones for him. So with a few bumps along the way, we found our way together down the road to the land of Oz (Adoption Finalization). We were all so very happy that we had finally made it home (there’s no place like home).
Only one thing was missing: his brother Leroy. Leroy was two years older than Abdullah (so by the mere definition of special needs he was really special. If six was the cut off age, he was now ten - four years passed the magic age of six. We visited Leroy and tried as much as possible to include him in family outings. He pretended to be happy, that it was enough. Then one day he asked me the question no mother ever wants to be asked…. He said, "Why can’t you love me too? Why can’t you adopt me? Why can’t you take me home with you?"
With tears in my eyes, I tried to tell him how much I wanted him - how much I loved him - how the wicked witches didn’t think he should be with his brother. I told him that it seemed like it just wasn’t in the cards for him.
Time passed and Leroy was placed in an adoptive placement with a single female who had a couple of sons. We visited him and shared outings and events. His prospective Adoptive mom even had paperwork drawn up that if anything ever happened to her, I would gain custody of Leroy. We were so happy for him! Finally, he was going to reach Oz. But then like so many times before, he hit a roadblock. He was living with a woman who was very much like
his biological mother. She was visiting the poppy field every day. She ran from the flying monkeys (the physical abuse). Her lifestyle choices allowed Leroy to wander on and off the yellow brick road at will - and at every turn, he decided what was good for him or what was bad for him. Only now, he was a big boy, he didn’t have to run and hide from the flying monkeys. He was a force - a tornado that had been gaining strength with every placement. With every disappointment and with every time we had to say goodbye. He had become a force to be reckoned with. So for every man that hurt his mom, he could take it out on this man.
The phone rang, the chicken was frying in the pan, the boys were now ten. My husband was back home where he belonged, and we as a family were looking to adopt a little girl. We would be complete: two boys and two girls. I picked up the phone and the voice on the other end said, "Hey, I know you wanted to adopt a little girl, but we have a 12-year-old boy that needs you."
Immediately I said, "Now you know the boys are ten and are not going to bring in a 12-year-old over them." To which she replied, "It's Leroy."
"Bring my son to me." I said
Making it back down the Yellow Brick Road to Oz was easier this time. It was quicker. We already had the roadmap. We knew the turns to make. We knew where the bumps were, and how to navigate them. And we definitely knew the WIZARD! Finalization for Leroy had come. He finally made it home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home…….
Although many would say that I saved them, I must say that it is because of them that I am. They define ME. I’m their Mom.
And with the click of my Ruby Red Slippers (not really), today I stand here the proud mother of three young men. Leroy my oldest son, Montez my middle son (whose Yellow Brick Road was one of Kinship Care), and Abdullah, our youngest son. And of course my husband Hanif, my lifetime partner along the road. So as this is the 2018 Adoption Day Celebration, let us all celebrate the gifts we have been given by way of the Yellow Brick Road. Let us never forget the bumps along the road. Let us be thankful for those who made our road easier, our load lighter, and let us forever be grateful for the opportunity to be called Mom or Dad.
Thank you so very much for allowing me to share my family’s journey down the yellow brick road.