Friday, June 20, 2014

A true full circle experience

If you had told two fifth grade girls in Dry Creek 20 years ago that there would be a day when one would be interviewing the other for a local news story on adoption - chances are we wouldn't have believed you!

Marcie (Allen) Dobbs and I met in fifth grade - my first year at East Beauregard.  We both towered over the boys at 5'8" and loved basketball.

Through our junior high and high school years, we had some fun and unforgettable times.  Our circle of friends was much like the crew of gals in the movie "Now and Then."  There were laughs, tears, secret languages, slumber parties that involved no slumber and a bond that can't be broken to this day.

The summer before our senior year made all of us grow up and recognize what really mattered.

We were getting ready for a week "away" at Dry Creek Baptist Camp - packing, doing our hair and make-up - and then our world was shaken.  Marcie got into a terrible car accident after leaving my parent's house and heading back to her house to get her camp bags.

Our friend, Tiffany, and I came across the accident scene before the medical helicopter arrived.  Marcie's crushed car was wrapped around a big pine tree and she was covered in blood, shattered glass - and in shock. It was terrifying to see.

Marcie had multiple injuries and doctors did life-saving surgeries so she could be here today.  Part of that resulted in doctors telling Marcie some devastating news.  "I broke my pelvis in certain areas that the surgeon said when he repaired, it was life-saving repairs and he wasn't able to fix what would help me carry a child and conceive a child," she said.

That news was a tough pill to swallow, but Marcie said when she thinks back to hearing that at 17 years old, it really didn't change her thoughts on becoming a mom one day.  "I knew I wanted to be a parent, absolutely," she said, "but I didn't have the drive that I want to feel the baby move in my tummy.  It was just that I want to be a mommy."

So when Marcie met Chris Dobbs and the two began dating more seriously, she was honest with him about the hurdles that could come with trying to build a family.  "She brought adoption up here and there in conversation," said Chris, "but it wasn't a serious talk until years later."

After six years of marriage, Marcie said she was bit hard by the baby bug.  "It was around Thanksgiving time in 2010 that I said, 'Okay Chris, we're gonna adopt.'  And he just looked shocked and he just said, 'We are?'" said Marcie.

Chris said he had concerns about adoption and the unknowns that come with the process.  "The what ifs piled up in my mind," said Chris, "what if there's something medically wrong with the baby?  What if?  Because you don't know anything about the history of the mother, you don't know anything about the history of the family, so that's always in the back of your mind."

It took about a month for Chris to get on board with Marcie's full steam ahead adoption approach.  By the time the new year rolled around in 2011, Marcie and Chris had met with DeColores Adoptions in Lake Charles and they were knee deep in paperwork, plus completing the assignment of filling up a life book for potential birth moms.  "We showed just how loving we are, how caring we were, how ready we were to be parents," said Chris.

Marcie and her mom, Mrs. Mary, hand-delivered their book to the adoption agency and figured it would take some time to get a call stating that a birth mom had selected the Dobbs.  That was not the case, though, and they were shocked that the call came within a week.  "Every story I had heard, people were on waiting lists for months and months, even years," said Marcie.

These parents-to-be thought they had a few months to prepare for their daughter's birth, but the baby came eight weeks early.

When they met Analise for the first time, they knew she was their child.  "It was like a real calming peace about seeing her, holding her," said Chris, "no nervous feelings, just a calming, relaxing peace."

Analise spent several days in the neonatal intensive care unit and it was there that the birth mom placed Marcie's hand onto her baby in the bed.  "It was just so selfless of her, because in her own way she was letting Analise know that 'I have loved you all of these months that you have been in my belly, but this is your momma who will love you for the rest of your life.'"

Private adoption is not cheap.  Marcie says the total cost was between $25-30,000.  She says she knows the money can be a huge burden, but she tried to see it as something that gives extra peace of mind to a birth mom.  "It's not just because of the money, but the time and the effort and us being able to afford it - that she had really placed her child in somebody's arms that would love her forever," she said.

Once at home, this family of three was living the dream - surrounded by family, horses and land to roam.  Then came a big surprise: Marcie was pregnant!  "That was more shocking than finding out that we were going to get Analise," said Marcie, "I just couldn't make myself believe it."

Rowan was born last June and these parents say their love for their adopted daughter and biological son is identical.  "It was equally as emotional and it was the instant bond that I had with Analise, I had that instant bond with Rowan," said Marcie.

"Analise is mine, Rowan's mine.  They're both my children," said Chris, "adoption doesn't change those feelings."

Analise opened this couple's eyes even more to the huge need for more adoptive families and Marcie says the best time to pursue it is now.  "It's never going to be a perfect time, but it's absolutely always the perfect time for that child that needs the family, so just do it," she said.

Chris says adopting Analise is one of the best decisions he and Marcie have ever made.  "Adoption is a perfect and absolute number one option for anyone wanting to do it."

Looking at Analise, I found myself wondering what her life would be like if Chris and Marcie had never taken the steps to adopt.  Looking at Marcie and Chris, I know that their lives would have a huge hole without that bright-eyed, bouncy, giggly little girl - and their easy-going, smiley little boy.

I love the verse in Ephesians 3:20 and I think it sums up the Dobbs family perfectly:

"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think."

Check out the Dobbs' story that aired on KPLC in The New Family Tree.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Critical time to adopt 13-year-old Danielle

Beautiful. Sweet.  Playful.  Girly girl.  Smart.  Driven.  Animal Lover.  Polite.  Ready to be adopted today.
13-year-old Danielle has been in foster care for several years.  Fortunately, she is in a loving home with a single mom and foster sister, but it is temporary.
Danielle will turn 14 in September.  That's one year closer to aging out of the foster care system.  This year is a critical year to adopt Danielle.  She needs someone to help her see her dreams come true.  She wants to go to college and become a veterinarian.  She wants to be someone's daughter.  She wants what every child deserves: stability, love and someone that is proud to be her parent.

The clock is ticking for Danielle and she knows it.  When I met her at Club Tabby in Lake Charles for our filming day, she was cautiously guarded about sharing her hope to be adopted.  She knows it might not happen.  It hasn't happened for the years she's been waiting, but she bravely agreed to talk on camera with the dream of the outcome being different this time.

We kicked things off with manicures and pedicures.  Danielle had specially painted her fingernails and toe nails for her TV debut, but was happy to remove it in order to get her first "professional nail painting."

Danielle said if she could do anything for one day, this is exactly what she would do.  
I could slowly feel the heaviness this tiny teen carried begin to lighten.

Next, it was interview time.  On a scale of 1-10, Danielle told me her nerves were at a 7.  She knows this is it.  Her biggest chance for a potential adoptive parent to hear her story.

Danielle took off her glasses.  She tucked her hair behind her ears, sat up straight and her foster mother adjusted her leopard print shirt.  Then the questions came.

Do you know what it means to be adopted?
You stay in that place forever.
If a family said that they were willing to adopt you, would you want to tell them anything?
That I'd be excited to come with you.
Does it matter to you if you if you live in a big city or small town?
No maam.
What about the color of their skin?
No maam.
Does it matter if you're the youngest or oldest kid in the home?
No maam.

Danielle has been with her foster mother, Vickie Moreno, for the past three years.  "She has a lot of love, she has a great personality," she said.  "You wouldn't have to instill a lot into her.  She would be bringing a lot with her."

Both Vickie and Danielle's adoption worker, Katrina Evans with the Department of Children & Family Services, know that if an adoption does not happen soon, this beautiful young lady with so much potential is at a much higher risk of aging out of foster care.  "That means if by the time a child turns 18, a permanent home has not been found for them" said Katrina.  "When they turn 18, it can be a scary time."
When I asked Danielle if the thought of getting adopted was exciting or scary, she had this to say. "It's a little of both. Scary because I won't know them and I would be going to a new place, but exciting because I would stay there and have a family."

Danielle says she has been through some tough times, but still shines and wants an adoptive family to know this: "That I'm awesome," she said.

Danielle is legally free to be adopted through the Department of Children & Family Services.  Call 337-491-2470 to make an inquiry.

Click here to see Danielle's story that aired in The New Family Tree on KPLC.