“Our story is more complex than most”
Melanie and her husband, Mike, always knew they would adopt. Melanie grew up with foster children as part of her family, and Mike has six adopted siblings.
They adopted their first son, Andrew, from foster care shortly after they were married, when they were in their early 20s. Soon after, they had four children by birth—first a son, and then three triplets.
When the triplets were eight months old, they were diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
While many parents would be overwhelmed by suddenly having three children with medical needs, Melanie and Mike were inspired.
“We were always committed to adopting more children. Before the triplets, we weren’t planning to adopt children with medical needs. But having them made us realize that we were not interested in a “typical” child. We felt that God was giving us this experience for a reason,” Melanie said.
Finding Forever through AdoptUSKids
Melanie and Mike went on to adopt a daughter with ongoing medical needs, Forever. Melanie loves to tell the story of how she found Forever on adoptuskids.org during a late-night search—by mistake.
“We were planning to adopt a child from Virginia, where we were living at the time, or a nearby state. So I had my child search parameters set to limit our search to our area. Apparently, on this particular night, I hadn’t set the limit. And up popped Forever! Who, as it turns out, was living in California at the time.”
Melanie was so smitten with her that she woke Mike up immediately. He agreed. The little girl—who has cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, and a movement disorder—captured his heart too.
Melanie and Mike decided to go for it, and they began the process that would result in their adopting Forever 15 months later. Soon after, their social worker called them about a little boy with Down syndrome and autism. His adoption is in the process of being finalized.
“I could not do this without all of the support I have in place.”
Melanie is a full-time mother—and very organized manager of her children’s lives and care. She says that she could not get through the day without the support she receives—from paid professionals and from her family.
Melanie and Mike work with two case managers and have two full-time certified nursing assistants (CNAs) —paid for through a combination of their family insurance and Forever and their foster son’s ongoing adoption assistance. One CNA takes two of their sons to school and cares for them throughout the day. The other stays at home and helps Melanie with the other children.
Mike’s parents live close by. Melanie’s mother, who, at 65 years old, is still fostering children, lives next door. She and Melanie provide respite care and emotional support for each other.
“With my Mom, it’s kind of gone full circle. My parents fostered when I was growing up, and that inspired me to do it. Then we had kids with special needs. And being around them inspired my mom to start fostering kids with higher needs. Doing that has given her a real sense of purpose and filled an emptiness she felt after my father died a few years ago.” Melanie said.
To complete the family affair, Melanie’s older son, who is 22 and lives in a duplex on their property, helps with the boys and takes care of all of their pharmacy runs.
Taking a needed breath
Despite all of the support—and in one sense, because of it—Melanie she says that periodically, she and Mike just have to get away.
“Every four months we start to go a little crazy. It’s not the kids, it’s all the bodies in our house! With two full-time nurses, check-ins from our foster son’s workers, and frequent visits from family members, we never have 100 percent privacy. We can’t ever let our guard completely down,” Melanie said.
When they feel the tension rising, Melanie and Mike call family members and book a trip to a one of their favorite destinations nearby—Nashville or somewhere in the Smoky Mountains. A few days later, Melanie says they return refreshed and ready to do it all over again.
“People always ask me why we chose this life. Society doesn’t look at our lifestyle and think ‘Oh, that’s what I want to do.’ And truth be told, it’s not always pretty. But raising these beautiful children is so rewarding. There are days that I just think, I can’t believe that this is what I get to do.”