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“I can’t save them all, but I’ll try”

Peggy Manley and her family
“In my house, there is no ‘can’t do.’ You can do anything you put your mind to.”

A television show and a phone call helped Peggy Manley begin the road to adoption.

While raising her sons Cameron and Brandan the 1990s, Peggy regularly watched Wednesday’s Child, a feature on her local NBC channel. The program shares the stories of children and youth waiting in foster care for adoption. When her younger son turned three in 1996, Peggy made a life-changing phone call to the District of Columbia’s Child and Family Services Agency.

Once they had completed training and licensing, Peggy and her husband soon learned about a four-year-old girl, Devona, who would be eligible for adoption. “During our first visit, Devona called me Mommy,” Peggy remembers.

The couple prepared for Devona’s arrival. “We decorated a room for her with a Strawberry Shortcake theme. There were doll babies and a closet full of clothes for her,” Peggy says. “During her first weekend visit, she took one look at that room, and said ‘This is mine.’”

The year 2000 brought joy as Devona’s adoption was finalized. There were times of sadness and challenges too, as Peggy and her husband divorced that same year. Peggy began to raise her daughter as a single, working mom, and was inspired by memories of her own strong mother, who raised 10 children. “In my house, there is no ‘can’t do.’ You can do anything you put your mind to,” she says.

In 2011, when Devona was nineteen years old Peggy felt called to adopt again, and thought of adopting a seven-year-old girl. Once again she called DC Child and Family Services. After hearing about her experience as an adoptive parent, the social worker talked with her about Imani, a fourteen-year-old girl who was living in a group home.

Months later, Peggy visited with Imani and the social worker at a Chuck E. Cheese. “I took two photos of us and gave her one, and promised that I would be coming back for her,” Peggy remembers.

Peggy made Imani’s first visit to her home just as memorable as Devona’s had been. She created a photo book titled “A Passport to Your Home,” and gave Imani her first-ever house key. Imani moved into the Manley home in November 2011, and her adoption was finalized on Valentine’s Day 2013. Only later did Peggy learn that Imani had once been featured on Wednesday’s Child.

Today both girls—now 23 and 19—live away from home. They know that Peggy is always there for them. “I used to leave them notes around the house, and today I text them words of encouragement every day, and send care packages,” Peggy says.

Meanwhile, about a hundred children are waiting for adoption at any given time in the District. Peggy is honored to do her part to help. “I can’t save them all, but I’ll try,” she says.

In 2014, Peggy opened her home to three siblings, girls aged 19, 18 and 16. She is pursuing adoption for the two younger girls and guardianship for their sister. On weekends, the girls’ four other siblings join the household. “I grew up in a big family, and it feels right to have lots of kids around,” Peggy says.

Peggy has advice for others considering adoption. “Give your child a firm foundation and lots of love. You will find the experience blesses your child and you.”