We’ve Been Blessed: Four Different Adoptions, One Common Bond in Harrisburg PA
Nancy Jamison of Catholic Charities Adoption Services, Harrisburg, likes to remind parents that adoption is intrusive. Stressful. “Not a cakewalk.” It’s all true, but remarkably, parents who have endured the emotional extremes of adoption always reach the same, comforting conclusion: Their families were meant to be.
Open adoption: Love is all around
Open adoptions vary, but at Catholic Charities, they work like this: Birth parents may choose the adoptive family by reviewing profiles or through meetings. The range of contact is negotiated, from the exchange of first-name-basis letters through the agency, to regular family get-togethers.
In the end, that’s why Jacob Moore, four months old, will always know that he has two sets of loving parents—his teenaged birth parents, and his adoptive parents, Andrea and Chris Moore, of Shippensburg. They met when the birth parents were selecting the adoptive parents, and in the hospital, when Jacob was two days old. After Jacob’s birth, the parents exchanged heartfelt letters.
“Craig and I would like to send Jacob a little outfit or something for his birthday and Christmas, if that is alright,” the birth mother wrote. “. . . I hope Jacob realizes when he is older the hard decision we made to give him a much better life than we could have provided for him.”
The Moores, with their letter, gave the birth parents an honored place in their family.
“We cannot possibly be able to express our gratitude enough for the beautiful blessing you have given us,” they wrote. “That blessing has been named Jacob Christopher. The moment we took him in our arms we felt immediate love for him. Every time we look at him we say a prayer for you and thank God for bringing you into our lives.”
When the Moores registered for adoption, after years of fertility problems had delayed their hopes of starting a family, they knew that Catholic Charities encouraged open adoptions. Andrea accepted the idea, but Chris was warier. Now that they are in an open adoption, exchanging letters and e-mails, they see nothing but enrichment ahead.
“There’s a whole other part of Jacob that makes him so much more special,” Andrea Moore said. “His birth family cares about him, and we care about him. If he ever wants to meet them, I’m OK with that, and Chris feels the same way.”
Fostering a new family
Katie and David Garman think a house without kids is empty. So, in the young couple’s two years of marriage, they have made their house a home, at different times, for nine young foster children. Three of them have been or will be adopted. The Garmans adopted foster child Mitchell, 4, when he was 2. They expect to finalize adoption of 15-month-old Devan very soon. In another year, they hope that Joey, 2, will be an adopted son.
A friend with six foster kids first inspired the Garmans, of East Petersburg, to open their home to foster children. The longest the Garmans had a foster child was 15 months. Giving her up “wasn’t fun, but you had to accept it,” Garman admitted.
The Garmans have always worked with the Lancaster County Children and Youth office, which acts as an adoption agency when a child moves from foster care. After the Garmans said they were interested in adopting, they got the call for an adoptable newborn waiting at the hospital. But heartbreak came again when, after three months, the agency found an aunt and uncle willing to take the child. And yet, the experience didn’t deter the Garmans from the opportunity to adopt Devan—another newborn foster child— almost immediately after.
“We were a little worried, but we thought, ‘We’ll take a chance on him,’” she said. “Take a chance on getting our hearts broken again. You take a risk.”
Devan is African-American—never one to be confused as a biological child of the red-haired, freckled Katie. The Garmans sought that diversity because they believe a house of different heritages is full of more opportunities to learn.
“I like to have a diverse house because all the kids will be very accepting,” Garman said.
In the future, she said she would like to adopt a girl from China, but in the meantime, they love sharing their gifts of home and health. Friends say they’re crazy to devote their young years to so many children. The Garmans think otherwise.
“This is why God wanted us to do this early,” Katie Garman said. “You need a lot of energy.”
A world away
Steve Miskin and Denyse Frushone-Miskin always knew they were going to have kids—just not in the usual way.
“We just thought that somehow, some way a higher power was telling us this was the way we had to go,” Denyse said.
The Miskins, of Hampden Township, traveled to Russia four times, twice for each of their sons, Benjamin, now 6 years old, and Max, 4, because the Russian system requires an initial getting-acquainted meeting and a separate visit for a final court hearing. They went to China once for Hannah, 18 months. Denyse likes to show the kids a globe and point to the remote spots, including Siberia, where they came from. “We went across the world to get you,” she tells her children.
The difference in the two Russian adoptions was horrifying, the Miskins said. Benjamin, at 11 months old, was in a loving orphanage. “The caretakers cried when Ben was leaving,” Denyse said. “We took a picture with him and his nurses. They told us everything about him.” But 15-month-old Max’s orphanage “was awful. I don’t think anyone even loved him at all.” Steve remembers a “playpen,” about three feet by eight, crammed with seven children. Still, Max had no trouble bonding, Denyse said. “He got a little bit of love, and there was no turning back.”
In both cases, bonding began with once-a-day visits for several days before departure. China was another matter. Eleven-month-old Hannah had been with the same foster parents since her abandonment, and the handoff was abrupt.
“She went through a loss,” Denyse said. “All of a sudden, she was given to people who were complete strangers.” Hannah cried for four days—“horrendous, bloodcurdling screams,” Steve said—but she adapted and, like her brothers, understood English within three months.
Ben thinks he was born twice—once from a mother’s belly, and once from Denyse’s heart. “People say we did a good thing,” adopting children out of restrictive circumstances, Denyse said, but she doesn’t believe they were noble. They’re just parents. “We couldn’t have gotten three better kids.”
A very special girl
Kelly Ann Jolly has four children, ages 21, 19, 17 and “little miss Shaelyn,” age 5.
Shaelyn came to the family as a three-month-old foster child, abandoned by a mother who left her in an unheated house. By six months, developmental problems were apparent. By 11 months, her vocabulary was limited to “mom” and “dad.” The Jollys, of Red Lion, York County, had been foster parents before. They did not start out intending to adopt Shaelyn, but her sunny personality won them over.
“We fell in love with her,” Jolly said. “We discussed it as a family, and we said she’s not going anywhere else.”
Even then, other issues were appearing. Shaelyn had difficulty swallowing. She wouldn’t keep her clothes on. She never stopped moving. She ate dog food, not realizing that it was inappropriate to eat. She was mistakenly diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism, which led her mother to co-edit a recent book from Jessica Kingsley Publishers Paperback, “Life with Autism.”
Finally, Shaelyn was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder. According to the KID Foundation’s SPD Network, children with SPD “misinterpret everyday sensory information, such as touch, sound and movement. Some feel bombarded by sensory information; others seek out intense sensory experiences.” They may have problems with behavior and coordination.
As Kelly Ann Jolly explains, “Her body feels basically suspended in space. She likes to do anything that moves. We have an electronic jeep that she rides. A trampoline in the backyard. She can swing and swing and swing.”
The Jollys have medical coverage, and because Shaelyn’s special needs were apparent at adoption, they kept state-provided secondary insurance that helps with co-pays. Still, there are fights with insurance and medical bureaucracies—something Jolly, currently a shock wave technologist studying to be a developmental psychologist, is equipped to handle.
Every inch of the Jolly house is childproofed, and Shaelyn, who has no concept of danger, can never be left alone. Jolly and her husband give each other breaks sometimes—an hour or two just to lock the bedroom door—but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“With all the controversies and all the diagnoses and getting help that we need, I think every single day where she would be if she had remained with the biological mother or abandoned or in a home where they didn’t love her,” Jolly said. “Her smile lights me up and gives me hope.”
Adoption and Foster Care Resources
For more than 20 years, the entire adoption community has observed November as Adoption Awareness Month (AAM). Originally and historically, the purpose of AAM was to dispel myths and focus on the normalcy of adoptive family life, as well as to call attention to the need for homes for hundreds of thousands of waiting children. AAM is about celebration, gratitude and hope—a perfect time to begin exploring adoption opportunities. Included here is a list of Central PA adoption and foster-care resources to help families with their questions and to walk them through the process:
Adoptions From the Heart
Harrisburg • 232-1787
Lancaster • 399-7766
Adoptions Home Studies and Services, Inc.
Shrewsbury • 227-9560
Adoption Horizons Inc.
Carlisle • 249-8850
Adoption Links at Jewish Family Service of Greater Harrisburg Inc.
Harrisburg • 233-1681
Adoption Services Inc.
Camp Hill • 737-3960
Lancaster • 431-2021
The Bair Foundation
Middletown • 985-6450
Bethanna Adoption Services
Lancaster • 800-989-1926
Bethany Christian Services
Lancaster • 399-3213
Catholic Charities Adoption Services
Harrisburg • 564-7115
Children’s Home of York
York • 755-1033, ext. 261
COBYS Family Services
Leola • 656-6580
Common Sense Adoptions
Mechanicsburg • 766-6449
Cumberland County Children & Youth Services
Carlisle • 240-6120
Dauphin County Social Services
for Children, Youth and Families
Harrisburg • 780-7200
Diakon Adoption & Foster Care
Mechanicsburg • 795-0320
York • 845-9113
e-mail, York: email@example.com
Families United Network
Mount Joy • 492-9338
Dillsburg • 502-1576
Lancaster • 397-5241
New Cumberland • 770-1364
Children & Youth Agency
Lancaster • 299-7925
La Vida International
King of Prussia • 610-688-8008
One Another Adoption Services
Hellam • 600-2059
PA Dept. of Public Welfare, PA Adoption Exchange Statewide Adoption Network (SWAN)1-800-585-SWAN
Perry County Children and Youth Services
New Bloomfield • 582-2131
Harrisburg • 221-0722
STARS (Sharing, Transracial, Adoption, Resources and Support)
Lancaster • 808-3472