Keeping an open mind
Mark and Nicole Hayward had been married for 15 years when they became parents for the first time through adoption from foster care.
As part of their search for their “perfect child,” Mark and Nicole registered their family on adoptuskids.org. They began a search for a girl, preferably no older than 12, who shared many of their interests, such as music, movies, and traveling.
But each time Nicole logged into the AdoptUSKids website to search for a child, the profile of Mathieu, a 14-year-old boy with a nice smile and a faux mohawk would pop up.
“He just looked like a go-with-the-flow, fun kid,” Nicole said. “Reading his narrative, he sounded like he could be our son. He shared many of our interests, right down to a love of pizza and French fries!”
Nicole became convinced that this boy could in fact be the child for them. When she shared the news with Mark, it turned out that Mark had been looking at the same boy’s profile. Of the thousands of waiting children, they had each selected the same child.
“I like to say that he was everything we never knew we wanted when we first envisioned our family. Had we not kept an open mind, we never would have found him,” Nicole says.
“Children need parents, regardless of their age. They give love, hugs, and kisses no matter how old they are.”
At the time, Mathieu was living in a residential facility six hours away. After an awkward introduction, the three began to gel. Soon it was as though they had been together forever.
“Of course he challenged us at times,” Nicole says. “He had been through 25 placements in about 10 years and had learned that forever didn’t really mean forever—it meant just until you do something that makes us give up on you. But, no matter what he did, we didn’t give up.”
Mathieu’s adoption was legalized right before Christmas 2013. He had a new forever family and a new name of his choosing: Derrick Jayson, or “DJ,” as he likes to be called.
Mark and Nicole thought their family was complete for the time being. But again their lives took an unanticipated turn.
Right around the time that Derrick’s adoption was finalized, Mark and Nicole learned that a young woman they had gotten to know while attending teen panels at their adoption agency was on the verge of aging out of the foster care system without a permanent home. Like Derrick, Lorraine had endured many failed placements and adoptions. When they heard that she was going through yet another disruption and was about to be moved again, the family sprang into action and stepped up to be her permanent family.
Lorraine’s official first visit to Mark and Nicole’s house was to decorate the tree for Christmas. Soon, she was spending every weekend with them until moving in permanently. Instead of worrying about where she would live on her 21st birthday, she was planning her party with a family there to support her. Lorraine’s adoption was finalized in January 2015, just a few weeks shy of her 22nd birthday.
“People often ask us why we adopted older children. And we always tell them the same thing: Children need parents, regardless of their age. They give love, hugs, and kisses no matter how old they are.”