Classified as “Unadoptable” as a Child…Man Gets New Parents!

Imagine going through life being told you are not worthy to be loved…you are “unadoptable” and left to be on your own!

I find the story below from CNN a happy ending story, however it is a shame that it took so long for it to happen…this man’s life to this point may have been different if someone had cared before now.

By Stephanie Chen, CNN

Mark Hauck and Tim Ferraro adopted a 23-year-old man in 2008

John, who changed his name to Sam Ferraro-Hauck, spent years in foster care

Adopting adults and older teens is becoming more popular

Individuals leaving the foster care system face higher rates of incarceration and homelessness

As far back as John could remember, he was on his own.

Like the 20,000 foster children who “age out’ of the system each year, John left California’s foster care system six years ago believing he had missed his chance to be part of a family.

But then something unexpected happened.

In spring of 2006, he met Mark Hauck and his partner, Tim Ferraro, a couple in their 40s. They were living next door to his former high school nurse, who had taken John, 21, into her home temporarily.

John was curious about the couple, particularly Mark who worked with high school drama programs. John enjoyed writing scripts in his spare time.

Maybe he could get some advice from Mark, he thought.

Neglected and abused

Growing up, John took care of himself.

By the age of 5, John says he fixed his own meals while his mother slept through the day. He began caring for his newborn sister, Ashley, shortly after his seventh birthday. The process became routine: Preparing the formula, pouring the milk into the bottle and feeding her tiny mouth. He changed the baby’s diapers, too.

He describes his mother as impulsive and unable to hold a steady job. His biological father disappeared before his birth.

Teachers noticed something was wrong. John’s maternal grandmother tried to intervene. California Children’s Services investigated.

Their inquiry included John’s background file, a thick stack of social worker reports, police documents and photographs. Authorities concluded John was a victim of neglect and physical and sexual abuse. When he was 16 months old, authorities reported bruises on his face. He had bite marks on his body when he was about 2 years old.

John recalls his goodbye with his mother. He was 7 when authorities whisked him away.

“I remember feeling freedom,” he said. “I remember walking out. I remember my mom saying not to go, and I returned to her and said ‘Sorry, I have to.’ ”

His mother’s parental rights were later terminated, and John stopped talking to her in 2004.

By the time John reached high school in the foster care system, chances for adoption were slim. Only 7 percent of foster children 14 and older find a permanent home, according to a 2008 Department of Health and Human Services report. The state had already labeled John with attention deficit disorder, depression and behavioral issues.

His social worker wrote in his file that he was unadoptable.

Shortly after they met in the spring of 2006, Tim Ferraro offered John a job at his remodeling company. Tim knew John needed the cash since he was then renting his own apartment.

One afternoon when John’s shift ended, Tim and Mark invited John into their home for dinner.

John ate as they talked about politics and religion. “I channeled my paternal Sicilian grandmother in me,” Tim joked. “And I just kept asking him, ‘Are you hungry?’ ”

Their friendship blossomed, and John became a frequent guest. Sometimes after dinner, they played board games or watched movies. John showed them his scripts and music.

To help the young man out, Tim and Mark donated extra groceries to John when they could. They hired him to complete odd jobs around the house.

The couple helped him with “adult tasks” that John hadn’t learned before such as tracking finances, résumé writing and answering job interview questions.

When John fell ill, they loaned him money for doctor visits. They knew the young man struggled with depression so they found a counselor for him.

Hearing adoption stories from teens

At the same time John became part of their life, the couple was looking to expand their family.

Mark Hauck and Tim Ferraro had always considered adoption during their 20-year relationship. Career goals and imperfect timing derailed them but they were determined to become parents.

The couple got serious about adopting in the summer of 2008. They completed an adoption training program required by the state of Minnesota.

They had preferred to adopt a child, but during one training session, Mark and Tim listened to the teens and young adults share their adoption stories. The teens talked about how a permanent home gave them the support and confidence to succeed.

At that moment, they realized John needed parents too.

Already friends with John for two years, they knew he was struggling. John was fired from his food service job in May 2008. His credit card debt grew to $50,000. John became anxious and depressed.

“He was really trying hard against odds that were stacked completely against him because he was unprepared to be on his own,” Mark said.

The couple says they wanted to adopt John because they believed John deserved a family

Because John was an adult, the couple knew the adoption process would be easier than adopting a child, a process saddled by home studies and heavy paperwork. Tim and Mark also knew some agencies would rule them out for adoption because of their age and sexual orientation.

But how do you ask a 23-year-old man to be your son?

That is the question that confronted Mark and Tim after they decided to propose the adoption to John. Adult adoption in the U.S. is rare — fewer than 200 adult adoptions for individuals between the ages of 18 and 20 in 2008, government studies report.

For weeks, the couple mulled over their decision to adopt John. They knew if they offered to become his parents, the act, in their minds, would be unchangeable.

Close friends asked the tough questions: Could they financially support John? What would happen if John got into trouble?

Not used to commitment

The evening of September 12, 2008, began as usual.

John arrived at Mark and Tim’s home for dinner. Their casual Friday night consisted of pizzas and Cokes, followed by several games of Rummy.

The soda shot out of John’s nose when Mark asked the question. He thought that maybe he hadn’t heard Mark correctly.

“We’d like you to be our son,” Mark offered. “We’ll leave it up to you to decide.”

But John didn’t have an answer. He asked for a few days to think about his decision. At first, John grew angry when he thought about their offer to adopt him.

“I don’t think I was used to the level of commitment they were offering,” John said. “An adoption can’t end.”

The permanency Mark and Tim promised was a striking contrast from his past. When John stirred trouble, the state moved him to another foster home. When he acted violently, the state punished him by sending him to residential treatment.

Several days later, John appeared at Mark and Tim’s door with his belongings. John decided he was tired of spending Christmas and birthdays alone. He realized, even as an adult, that he still needed parents to provide him advice — and compassion. He wanted a family of his own.

Shift in adoption trend

This month, Mark and Tim are celebrating their one-year anniversary with their 24-year-old son.

The adult adoption was finalized by a judge in December 2008, a relatively smooth process compared to adopting a child. The three adults signed the adoption paperwork in front of a judge.

“To us, Sam was simply our son,” Mark said. “It didn’t matter that we didn’t bring him home in a blanket.”

That month, John legally changed his name to Sam Ferraro-Hauck. The change would mark a fresh start.

Sam’s adoption story represents a shift in the adoption world over the last decade. Adopting older teens and young adults has become more popular, said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. The number of individuals between the ages of 14 and 20 adopted rose from about 2,000 in 1998 cases to more than 4,200 in 2000, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Experts say the federal government’s passage of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 has given funding incentives to states that promote older adoptions. The act extends foster care payment cutoff age from 18 to 21 years of age.

The Minnesota nonprofit Ampersand Families, where Mark now works, is one example of a growing number of nonprofits that help older teens and young adults secure permanent homes. This Christmas, the agency matched a 13-year-old foster child with a Minnesota family.

A Feel Good Story to Start Your Day!!!

I’ll let this story from my local newspaper today speak for itself…all I know is that it made me smile and brightened the start of my day.

The Fargo Forum
Published December 29 2009
Bob Lind: Kind gesture brightens lives of 11 foster kids

It wasn’t Muriel Lamp’s regular day to work at the Boutique Retreat, but the Fargo store’s owner had to be out of town and would have had to close up if she hadn’t, so she volunteered to take that extra day.

It was last Sept. 1, a day that become memorable for Muriel.

About 11 a.m. that day, a man walked in and told Muriel he wanted to buy 11 gifts, they had to be “sparkly jewelry,” and he would be willing to spend up to $60 for each.

Muriel laid out some pieces of beaded jewelry: bracelets, earrings, necklaces. Fine, the man said. Then he handed her a letter. “I was stunned,” she says.

The letter said he wanted the gifts to go to girls who were in foster care. He didn’t care who. It said he also planned to shop for boys.

“(I) believe I know what it is like to be in foster care and not have parents whatever the case may be,” the letter concluded, and it was signed “Anonymous.”

The man mentioned he was passing through Fargo and had been staying at the Holiday Inn. But that’s all he said about himself.

Muriel didn’t pump him for more information; she just said yes, she’d get the items delivered to the foster care people.

So the man watched, and approved, as she packaged each item in small mesh bags.

The bill, she told him, would be $671.29. Fine, he said, and he paid her – in cash, including some large bills.

“I thought they might be counterfeit,” an aghast Muriel said.

As the man left, Muriel told him he was one wonderful guy. He said in turn she was one wonderful gal, because she didn’t ask him a lot of questions.

Muriel took the gifts to Cass County Family Services, which distributed them to 11 teen girls in foster care.

A Family Services staff member said the items “were beautiful, all handmade; very nice gifts.”

Yes, this occurred several months ago. But it seems like a good story for this, the last Neighbors column of 2009, because it typifies the many positive things people out there are doing.

Muriel, of Fargo, says she’ll never forget that day; a day when she was supposed to be at home, but “happened” to be at work.

“I just think someone had me there for a purpose,” she says.

P.S. The bills with which the man paid for the gifts weren’t counterfeit.

Former Foster Youth Helps other Former Foster Youth for Holidays

Someone sent me this article on Tuesday and I felt it needed to be shared. It shows some of us who have survived the system and have gone on to make something of ourselves…never forget where we came from. This is just one example of how other foster foster youth can reach out to those still in care or have aged out to let them know others have been there done that and extend a hand to help.

I still remember the first holiday season after I aged out I was in college, a small one, and they closed the campus during the holiday break. Since I had nowhere to go and couldn’t spend the holidays on campus…I did what I had done during the summer between aging out and college opening in the fall; I spent it alone and on the streets praying I would survive the three weeks before campus opened once again.

If you take this time to read the story below…I hope you will reachout to someone who may find themselves with no family to share the holidays with! 

Former Lee County foster child helps for holiday
By JANINE ZEITLIN December 1, 2009

Mackenzie Ramsay has not spent Christmas at the same place since he aged out of foster care at 18.

Over the years, Ramsay, 23, has bounced to friends’ homes. He once grabbed some Chinese food with another ex-foster child.

“I recall my Christmases and the holiday season not being so joyful, more like on the depressing side,” he said. “… I’m not big on the holiday spirit, and that bothers me.”

This year, Ramsay, a Department of Children and Families processor who is also in Florida Gulf Coast University’s graduate social work program, is trying to organize an effort to enliven the holidays for former foster children.

He’d like to link 95 young adults who have aged out of foster care to people willing to donate household items or gift cards.
“If I could help out and get others to help out, it would make a difference in their lives and show them that there are people out there who still care.”

Erin Gillespie, a DCF spokeswoman working with Ramsay on the push, said child welfare officials eventually hope to plan a Christmas party with a tree and gift-giving time especially for young adults.

“We want to try to get them together,” she said. “Just to try to show them people care and they deserve Christmas just like anyone else.”
The state requires that children leave care at age 18, when many are still in high school. If they stay in school full time, they can receive a monthly stipend, on average from $1,130 to $1,256 that covers some living expenses.

“It’s not just they’re 18, they’re adults, they’ll be fine because it’s not like that,” Ramsay said.

At 18, Ramsay, then in Broward County, packed everything he owned in three trash bags and caught a bus to a friend’s home.

Taken from his parents as a baby, he’s been told little else other than that his mother was a drug addict.

He spent most of his life in state care and doesn’t know his birth family.
After staying in a few foster homes, he was adopted at age 4. His adoptive parents showed him papers reporting that abuse occurred in that time, but he couldn’t tell what or if it happened to him or other children.

Around 13 years old, he began running away, as he felt his parents favored other children in the home.

He recalls being grounded often in a locked room that had the windows screwed shut.

Their parental rights were terminated when he was 14, Ramsay said.
He returned to state care and stayed at a handful of group homes and foster homes. At 17, he dropped out of high school and earned his GED, the high school equivalence certificate.

Once he aged out, he spent more than a year couch-surfing and struggled without a support system.

His first two years included brushes with the law for stealing a puppy and fleeing law enforcers while he was out on bond.

At 20, Ramsay headed to a youth homeless shelter.

Through it, he knew he had to stay in school to get checks through the state. He wanted to succeed.

After moving to Fort Myers in 2007, he earned his bachelor’s degree in social work from FGCU.

“I know what these kids have gone through, and I know some of the injustices that they see,” he said.

The Children’s Home Society is inviting young adults to a party Thursday at Mike Greenwell’s Family Fun Park in Cape Coral, said Aimee McLaughlin, of the Children’s Network of Southwest Florida, which runs foster care locally.

But McLaughlin said mostly teens in care attend.

She said the network is providing two gifts at $20 apiece to about 45 young adults who have requested them and some of their children, but they’re in need of so much more.

“They don’t have a parent who gave them a care package,” she said. “At the holidays, presents are nice but these youth also need to make a home. It’s bringing on a whole new philosophy to home for the holidays.