Nikki and Mike had been married for more than 20 years by the time they started thinking about adoption. They adopted a teen named Ty’Airah when she was 14. Nikki and Mike were in their 50s at the time. They’ve learned so much through the adoption process and even more from parenting in the years since. Hear from Nikki and Mike in their own words.
Motivation to adopt:
Mike: “We had been working all our lives. This felt like the next thing and next step for us. Adoption was always in the back of our minds, but the thought grew over time. You see, it was something we would often talk about, but it’s a pretty nerve-racking thing to do. Every time we would talk about it, we would get more and more comfortable with it.”
Nikki: “We realized we were at that stage in our lives—our careers were good, so what else can we do to make an impact?”
Nikki and Mike on their wedding day in 1998. They would adopt their daughter almost 21 years later.
Nikki: “We met her at a bowling event! We found adoption events online and went to about 5 or 6 that were unsuccessful. We ended up going to a bowling event in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. At this event, we met Ty’Airah. We went through icebreakers, and then Mike and I actually met with her separately. When we chatted after the event, we both said that we connected with Ty’Airah. But she had to feel it too. And so we were excited to hear that she went back to her adoption specialist after the event and said our names.”
Nikki: “After the bowling event, we had 6 months of visitation and went from monthly to weekly visits. She moved in June of 2018 and adoption day was in January of 2019. When she moved in, we had to settle into a family routine and life. You see, you have to go through struggles as a family and realize that we’ll still be there for you as you grow. Through the process, we’ve learned this: you have to grow as a family, you have to learn as a family, you have to trust as a family.”
Mike: “And now? It feels like she’s always been here.”
Nikki: “But it ain’t trust right away. It ain’t all roses and sunshine from the beginning.”
The family celebrating at Ty’Airah’s Sweet 16 celebration!
Mike: “If you’ve been in the system for a long time, you probably have it in your head that this new placement isn’t going to work. But once Ty’Airah saw that we were sticking by her side and weren’t going to call up the child worker folks, she thought, ‘OK. This is my group. These people care about me. They love me, and they’re not going to turn their backs on me.’”
Nikki: “What also helped develop that trust was including her in everything we did, even the decisions we made. It was important to make sure she felt part of the family. That took a while, understandably, but over time the walls came down. We showed her that if we said we were going to do something, it actually got done. And we expected the same from her.”
Nikki: “She’s our quirky girl. She brings a lot of joy to me and my mom, who lives with us. She just brings us joy by being herself.”
Mike: “Knowing that you have an impact on somebody and you’re helping them grow.”
Mike: “When we started off—I think like most people with adoption—we thought we were saving someone. You think you’re going to be the savior riding in with the white horse. But let me tell you something: you’re not saving anybody. These are relationships. She derives benefit from us, and we derive benefit from her. That’s the big thing we didn’t know going into it: if you’re paying attention acutely, children give you back equally what you’re giving to them.”
A couple of weeks ago, Ty’Airah moved into her college dorm.
Mike: “We wanted to enhance our life and provide a good environment for a child. What I didn’t expect was the sheer amount of joy when we think back to where we all were on day one and now we’re sending her off to college!
As we’ve gotten older, she’s really been our purpose. We’ve been able to help her be all she can be. I don’t think there’s a better feeling.”