Tina Buie had called countless times before. She called to schedule home study visits, to stop by with treats for Joenell and Johnell and to answer and ask questions about everything from adoption packets to court dates.
But about a year ago, when her call began with “I have something to ask you,” what followed took Letrivia by surprise.
The third brother needed a home—a temporary, emergency placement, until she found a foster family to take him in.
“I was very willing to with the first two, but with the third one,” Letrivia said, “it just caught me off guard.”
In 2010, Letrivia adopted Joenell, 8, and Johnell, 4, from Maria, her godmother’s daughter and the boys’ birth mother, who suffers mental disability from fetal alcohol syndrome.
If Joenell’s confession that “It would really make me happy if we were all together, because I worry about him,” wasn’t enough to convince Letrivia that Jarnell’s stay was more than temporary, his physical state was.
When Jarnell, 3, was born, he was placed with his father’s relatives, who physically abused him. He joined Letrivia and his brothers in August, with bruises on his body, burns on his fingers and a defensive, stiffening reaction to sudden movement.
“It just drew me closer to him and made me reach out and give him that love and nurturing to make him feel comfortable,” Letrivia said. “To let him know there is someone who loves you and to just give him a different life.”
This new life includes cookie baking, trips to the duck pond and a position in Alachua County’s Head Start program that promises a bright future.
In less than 6 months, Jarnell replaced pointing with verbal requests, a hanging head with eye contact and a fear of others with brotherly camaraderie and compassion for his mother.
“One of the things that always amazes me when I see adoptive families is that you can’t tell,” said Jennifer Anchors, the Children’s Home Society of Florida executive director. “The love is the same, as in any other family.”
From providing clothing and vouchers to childproofing the house and administering a perspective-parent preparation course (MAPP- Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting), Children’s Home Society of Florida has eased the transition for all family members during each of the adoptions, Letrivia said.
Although she had always planned to adopt, Letrivia encourages people who haven’t to consider adopting through foster care.
“You’ll be amazed, there are so many kids who are in the foster system who need a home,” she said. “Make it happen.”
The family’s smooth transition was not without the typical turbulence that all expanding families experience: “That’s my toy”; “That’s my mommy.”
But Letrivia has found that a little family time spent short- and long-term goal setting, cooking dinner and going to church help address the standard sibling disputes.
Raising three young boys while maintaining a full-time direct-caregiver job at 40 years old requires balance, Letrivia said. But with help from her mother, who lives next door, and Children’s Home Society of Florida , adoption has been less of a strain and more of a blessing, she said.
“They’re all here, and I love them. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
If you are interested in adopting and would like to learn more, please call Children’s Home Society of Florida’s Adoption Program at (352) 244-1659. There are more than 35 children waiting for a home to call their own in this community. Will you make it 34?