How it all started.

One July day in 2015, I was at work. It was a busy day. I was working toward the close of a transaction that had been dragging on for over a year when I paused to take a breath and saw I had a new e-mail on our CSN account. That email is often the first way I hear from newly diagnosed families so I keep a close eye on it. This was an e-mail unlike anything I ever expected, however…

Hello,

My name is ******** ****** and I am a social worker for the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange. We help children who are in Massachusetts foster care find families. Adoption from foster care is free, families actually receive a stipend and once the adoption is finalized they can apply for a post-adoption subsidy.

One of my children I recently started to recruit for is a 4 year old boy who is diagnosed with Fragile X syndrome as well as Autism. I was reaching out to your organization to see if you could assist me in helping to find a family for him. In the past I have written little profiles for children that organizations have been able to share in their newsletter, blog or on an email.

We also are having a special needs adoption party on August 9th at Ironstone Farm in North Andover from 11-1 pm that this child may attend (at the very least I will be there!). This event is open to the public and families are welcome to attend to learn about adoption from foster care and services that are available to our kids with special needs. You are welcome to share the fliers attached on social media or in a blog/email.

I am in the office today (I have a meeting until 2) and Thursday and Friday if you would like to discuss this more on the phone. I am also always accessible by email.

Thank you!
********

An hour and a half later, after a long and hesitant conversation with Eric, I responded.

Hi ********,

We will do whatever we can to assist. In fact, my husband and I have been discussing adoption to grow our family recently and might be interested ourselves. We had not been planning to focus on a special needs adoption but we are both interested in leaning more about him.

Regardless of our personal interest, we would like to share this with our network. We have a lot of contacts in the FX community and they’re spread across the country. Are there any geographic restrictions or is he available to be adopted across state lines?

Best regards,

Melissa Welin

I’ll skip over a few back and forth emails that can generally be summed up by “Really?” “Yeah, we’re kinda nuts…but totally serious…” By 3:15, we got this:

Hi Melissa,

Here is a not so little write up. We have lots more info on him that his adoption worker can share with a family if they are interested! We can’t share a picture quite yet as his birth mother’s rights haven’t been terminated but I asked his adoption worker for a picture so we could share it with families that are seriously considering him. Let me know what else you need! As I said families are welcome to come to the Ironstone event on August 9th if they would like to learn more about him and the process. Thanks!

Anthony is a delightful three year old Caucasian boy who has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Fragile X, and global developmental delays. He has been diagnosed with a feeding issue and is being followed by a feeding team due to this diagnosis. Anthony has made significant gains in his progress since being placed in foster care and in his foster home. He has also made significant progress at school where he has become more comfortable with the staff and loves being around his peers. Anthony attends a partial day preschool and has an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) through the local school system. He will also receive OT, PT and ABA services in the home.

Anthony received Early Intervention services for the past two years. He is described as a sweet boy who relies on those in his environment to interpret his rather subtle nonverbal cues to indicate preference or continuation of activity. Anthony’s articulation skills are severely compromised with extremely limited vowel and consonant repertoire. Anthony will need to continue to receive speech therapy to address his communication needs. He will benefit from a family that has a consistent structured approach to teaching him communication skills. He has done well using an iPad to communicate.

Anthony can have social anxiety and does well when he is with someone he is familiar with. He is much calmer in his home environment. With routine and familiarity his behavioral needs decrease and he becomes more comfortable. He is improving his walking skills and can walk around his foster home and up stairs with support. He likes toddler toys that light up and make noise. A future family will be able to work with his foster family to transition him into their home. They will need to learn his routine and work with his providers.

After reading the write up, I called Eric while he read it…and the prophetic words were spoken. “He sounds like our kid. Oh my God…he sounds like our kid!” At 3:30, I responded:

Hi ********,

We will share this with our families in MA in the next day or two, we are away from our computers today.

Based on what you’ve written about Anthony, my husband and I are most definitely interested in learning more about him. He actually sounds a lot like my son at that age though we did not have feeding issues and he was walking independently.

What would you recommend as a next step for us?

Within 2 days we had our first pictures of the little dude, 132 days later we were a licensed foster care family, and 23 days after that little dude moved in for good. It was a year and a half from that first e-mail to the finalization of our adoption. Since getting licensed alone can take that long, we may have broken some records.

The only reason that it worked is because we had teams of DCF social workers, on our side and his, doing everything they could to smooth the way for this, we had a foster mother who did everything she could to support this outcome and we had family & friends encouraging us and stepping up to help with the logistics involved.

I call the whole story magical…and it was the very best kind of magic…it’s the kind of magic people make happen for each other.

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