Eight-week-old James Huck has started smiling and giggling in the past few days. His parents, Dave and Suzie Huck of Acworth, haven’t stopped smiling since he came into their lives Aug. 13 through an open adoption.
“He’s such as blessing,” Suzi says. “We felt like he was meant to be ours from the very beginning. Watching my husband as he holds James has been amazing.”
The couple waited six years to have their family, first trying fertility treatments when Suzi was 30, then contacting Independent Adoption Center 2 ½ years ago. Two potential adoptions didn’t work out – one birth mother didn’t want an open adoption, and the second birth mother they met unfortunately had a miscarriage.
“We felt an open adoption would be best for the child and in the long run, best for the birth mother,” Suzi says. In an open adoption, the birth mother and father can stay in contact with the adopting family, visit the child regularly and are kept in the loop on the child’s progress.
Two days after James was born, the Hucks met with his birth parents and later posed for a group photo with James. Suzi recently sent a text to her son’s birth mother just after James’ two-month checkup to let her know his weight and that he’s meeting all his milestones. She’s trying to arrange a visit with the birth parents soon.
Dave is back at work as a production technician for the Weather Channel, but Suzi, a registered nurse at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, is on leave until Feb. 1 (a combination of 120 hours of “mommy leave” the hospital grants and the vacation days Suzie saved for several years).
Why did you choose an open adoption, instead of an international adoption or fostering to adopt?
“We considered fostering to adopt, but we were afraid the birth mother would change her mind and take the child back,” Suzi says. “We weren’t sure we could deal with the heartbreak of losing a child we had come to love. With international adoptions, many of the children are adopted from orphanages and many did not get the love and human touch in the first weeks and months of their lives. Those children are at a disadvantage and do need a lot of attention. We knew I couldn’t stay home indefinitely and that eventually I would need to go back to work.”
What was the biggest surprise when James came home with you?
“I definitely thought that babies slept more,” says Suzi. “I thought I would feed him and he would sleep for three hours, and my house would be spotless and the laundry always done.”
What would you tell prospective adoptive parents?
“As you’re working on an adoption plan – the agencies tell you to develop a marketing plan to get yourself out there for a birth mother to find you – also work on yourself,” she says. “It’s very stressful, and you start to wonder, ‘What’s wrong with us?,’ that nobody’s choosing us. We didn’t stop living our lives because we were waiting. We got physically active, we took trips, we’re training for a marathon right now. We made memories as a couple while we were waiting.”
– Amanda Allen
Tovah Martin, a special education teacher, and James Ringland, a risk manager for Barclays, of Marietta adopted their boys, Nathan, 7, and Jadon, 5, as infants from Russia. Both of the boys have special needs. Nathan has fetal alcohol exposure and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Jadon has pervasive developmental disorder on the autism spectrum.
Nathan plays chess and both boys are learning karate. Nathan is a fan of the rock group Kiss, and has posters on his bedroom walls. Jadon is fascinated with cars and lawn mowers.
The family’s love of reading led to the adoption of their second son. “There is this story that we use to read to [Nathan] about a young boy with funny blond hair in an orphanage and Nathan said that he wanted a brother with funny blond hair,” Martin says.
Before the couple left for Russia to adopt Jadon, they created a book for Nathan to read. “The Story of Nathan” is all about where Nathan is from and how he became their son. The family also has created books about the boys’ favorite things, full of family photos and adventures to places like the Butterfly Garden at the Chattahoochee Nature Center.
What advice would you give to parents who want to adopt?
“You never know what you are going to get when you adopt. You have to have patience and the resources that you need for the children. There are so many parents who we know that adopted kids and were in over their heads,” Martin says.
What has this experience taught you and your husband?
“It’s taught us how hard it is to be a parent and how much one can love a child,” she says.
What was the hardest thing for you during the adoptions?
“The hardest thing was being away from our sons when we had to leave them in Russia before we got custody,” Martin says.
– Kelli Richardson
The Jost family of Dallas is kept on their toes by their fiesty 21-month-old daughter Penny. Mary Jost describes her adopted daughter as a spunky independent spirit who has changed the couple’s lives forever.
“We no longer think about ourselves; instead we focus on her and what is best for her. She has filled every day with happiness and joy,” Jost says.
The couple chose an open adoption through the Independent Adoption Center. The family suffered through several failed attempts to adopt, including one where they brought the child home but had to return him to the agency after his father contested the adoption.
Jost says those challenges helped them decide to become foster parents, which the couple believes will be an easier route to add to their family. They currently are fostering an 11-month-old boy, though it is unlikely they will be allowed to adopt him. “I know that every child will not be able to stay in our home but while they are here we get to teach them about Jesus and show them love,” Jost says.
When they are not busy with their two children, they spend their time at their church; West Ridge Church in Dallas, where Jost volunteers every Sunday. Her husband is a firefighter for Paulding County and she is a stay-at-home mom.
What advice would you give to people interested in adopting?
“We highly recommend working with an adoption agency throughout the process,” Jost says.
If you could say anything to the birth mom what would it be?
“She is my hero and I can never thank her enough for what she has done. She chose life for our daughter to begin with,” Jost says.
– Kelli Richardson
The best word to describe this family would be “energetic.” Hiram residents Teena and Kevin Donnell are foster parents who have adopted five boys, now 2 to 21 years old. “There is no such thing as a quiet morning,” their mom says.
Oldest son Sword and 17-year-old Zeke were adopted about the same time through foster care, Sword at age 4 and Zeke as an infant. Keenan, 8, joined the family when he was a baby, also through foster care.
After they adopted Keenan, the family felt that he needed someone his age to play with so they started looking for another child to adopt. Teena was hoping to adopt a girl until she got a call from a social worker about a baby boy that a family planned to give up for adoption. Kaleb came to live with them. A year later, the social worker told Teena that the same couple was having a second child and they were hoping she would adopt him so that the siblings would to be together. The family was on vacation in Hawaii when the birth mom went into labor with Kai. This is why his name is Kai; it’s Hawaiian for “ocean.”
Although the Donnells never expected for their family to become this large, they would not have it any other way. The boys say they enjoy their big family and what they have learned from it. “It’s fun sometimes, and sometimes I don’t like it because it’s hard to get away,” says Zeke, a senior at Paulding High School. But I like being around people and I like playing with my little brothers.”
The Donnells are not only foster parents but they also want to help save lives. Both Teena and Kevin Donnell work for Paulding County. Teena is a 9-1-1 Database Coordinator and Kevin works for the property maintenance department during the day. At night Kevin attends school to become an Advanced EMT.
What advice would you give to other people who are adopting?
“Adopting through foster care is not scary and there are lots of wonderful kids out there who want a home. A lot of people get so intimidated by the process and you just have to be persistent, it’s not that hard. It’s not that intimidating, it’s not that complicated, you just have to stay with it,” says Teena Donnell.
How have these adoptions changed your outlook on life?
“It’s very easy to look at people who are different from you and have different value systems and priorities from you and judge them,” Teena Donnell says. “It’s hard to do that on Mother’s Day, to look down on the women who gave you your children because they cared enough to let their kids have what they couldn’t provide for them. So each of their birth mothers I love, even if their values are different from mine. I love them for what they have done.”
– Kelli Richardson