Telling Ryan’s story is not easy. Not that his start was any harder or easier than Colin’s, but it is more…complicated. He was born to a mother who had been in and out of jail several times. She had two daughters that were removed by CPS and adopted by another family, but they were an older couple who did not wish to “start over” with a new baby. The fact that Ryan’s half sisters had already been removed by CPS is the main reason placing him in care when he was born. Ryan was originally placed with a different foster family who intended to adopt him. That family was later shut down for reasons of which we were not made aware.
At the beginning of that year (2006), I told my wife that I was going to give foster parenting one more year, but at the end of ’06, I wanted out. We wanted to adopt one more child, but if it didn’t happen by the end of that year, I was prepared to move on. Wendy had begun getting sicker, and the emotional toll of bringing children into our home only to lose them later was beginning to weigh heavily on both of us (especially Wendy). Colin was our 18th child in 4 years. Ryan would be number 23 in 5 years.
The Friday before Colin turned 2, we got a call from our family caseworker, Regina (not her real name). She knew we had an opening, so she said, “Hey, I’ve got a little football player for you!”
Regina knew how much I loved football and she knew we were getting near our breaking point as foster parents. Ryan was a stocky little 1.5 yr old with the biggest brown eyes you’d ever seen. He was just a really cute kid; still is, actually. She told us CPS was about to close down Ryan’s current foster family. She said they needed a placement for him fast, and that he would more than likely be adoptable (though you never know with CPS). That was the clincher for Wendy. We took Ryan in to our home (at the time, his foster family was calling him Jeremy, but his birth mother originally named him Brendon). We didn’t like any of those names, so we changed it to Ryan (he looks more like a Ryan anyway).
For about the first month he was with us, we weren’t sure that Ryan could speak at all. He mostly just grunted and made other noises with his mouth. Turns out, he had a pretty severe speech delay (that he has almost completely overcome now, with the help of speech therapy). He also wasn’t the happiest of all children. Who could blame him? In 1.5 years, he had been in three different families (birth, and two different foster families, counting us). The poor kiddo didn’t really know what it meant to have a “stable” home life. Literally 6 months and 2 days later (a foster child has to be in your home for 6 months to be eligible for adoption), we adopted Ryan on National Adoption Day 2006.
This is where things got even more complicated. It’s hard enough to explain it to myself, or Ryan, let alone a stranger reading this blog. In his young life, Ryan lost his biological mother, a foster family, and an adoptive mom all within the span of less than 3 years. At the time, the only “stable” adult in his life, me, was overcome with grief and depression. Ryan did pretty much the only thing he could do in the situation. He started acting out.
The only other kid in his life that he was able to use as a role model was Colin. Since Colin was such a handful, I had to spend most of my time just making sure he wasn’t doing something he wasn’t supposed to (like leaving the house while I was asleep-another story for another time). Ryan learned that the best way to get attention was to follow Colin’s lead. By the time I met Sara, Ryan was having a lot of behavioral issues. He was probably very close to being diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder. He had a real mean streak to him sometimes, and he just flat out refused to follow directions when he didn’t feel like doing something.
Credit Sara for really sticking it out with Ryan. Today, about 2 years after coming into our lives, Sara has helped Ryan become a completely different child. He has really started maturing and growing into a great young man who is making A’s and B’s in school, and rarely ever has less than a “green” (or good) day at school. He recently became the first kid in his class to pass the reading portion of a standardized test the district gives. I am so very proud of him, and the turnaround he has made, but really, Sara should get most of the credit here.
Now, in mid-2012, our little family is beginning to blossom beautifully. We are pretty much the definition of “blended family”. Sara and I are both on our 2nd marriage, Colin and Ryan were both adopted, and Robbie is my step-son (who I will adopt sometime soon, hopefully). Ryan also has half-sisters who we keep in touch with pretty regularly, plus I keep in close touch with my first wife’s family (they absolutely adore Sara and Robbie). I don’t think we would have it any other way.