By Diane Ponist
This week was very emotional and very exciting as many people can imagine with having multiple foster children for the first time with us during this time of year. With all the newness from each child we received this year, I almost forget the things that got me here. Sitting at home a few days after Christmas, I looked at the date and it reminded me of our sons’ adoption anniversary, Dec. 28th.
DeAndre is a very impressionable boy who has come a long way. When we found him on an internet adoption site, he opened our eyes completely. DeAndre was a Foster child not yet legally free for adoption. He was in the system from age 2 when his bio grandmother overdosed and passed away in front of him when she was his legal guardian. His bio dad left a year before and bio mom was incarcerated for drug charges.
We called our case worker when reading his story, it felt like it was just meant to be. She at first advised us that he was already matched with another couple. The case worker sent over our adoption profile anyway and told us a little more about DeAndre’s everyday life. He is autistic, nonverbal, and extremely small for his age, still in diapers at the age of 4 1/2, but a genius. They said he will probably be dependent on us the rest of his life, we didn’t care. His case worker called immediately and asked us to drive the 7hrs to meet him face to face.
We met he and his foster mom in an empty room. We played for as long as they would allow us, they were shocked he didn’t have melt-downs like he had with everyone else. As soon as the meeting was over, we expressed that we were in love immediately. With no time wasted, visits with us started and we had him every weekend for 4 months. They told us he might never be able to speak, but quickly he started saying certain words when with us.
After he was placed with us full time, we took him to a behavior specialist. It was concerning that this child was on Prozac at such a young age to calm his behavior. We believe in not medicating and the doctor agreed to remove him from medication. The next day, DeAndre started potty training. Soon after that, smiling more often, and we were seeing facial expressions we never knew existed. That medication made him a zombie!
It was extremely challenging as new parents in the beginning. This was our first child, from the Foster system, with autism. Our whole life had changed pretty quickly. We had to be cautious going to many places; he would melt-down quite often. Even going to another house, his obsession with electronics took over and he would try to touch everything. At first we would apologize in front of others, than we decided we were not going to do that, this is who he is.
After DeAndre’s adoption at the end of 2012, we became open to fostering. Before that it was just adoption from kids that had already been through the system. The lesson there is that a lot of children are not getting what they should be out of most Foster parents. DeAndre was definitely not getting the love and help he needed. Especially since it seemed he was counted out before even given a chance.
DeAndre started kindergarten 4 months after being placed with us. He began in a special needs class than soon we realized the class was not intense enough for him. We made the decision with his amazing teacher to place him with the intermediate unit. This was best for him since he was able to get one-on-one attention. He was doing very well. He even received student of the month for his growth with helping others.
We had a major setback once he went to 1st grade. In the beginning he loved to go to school, than his behavior started to deteriorate. The new teacher told us he was becoming violent, red flags went up, that wasn’t our son at all. Later I learned through our child who couldn’t speak, but he told me in text message through his innotab what happened. His teacher hit him in his face, because he went into programs he shouldn’t have on a school computer. Needless to say, she was fired. We felt incredibly depressed, we were the ones that were supposed to protect him and this happened in the one place we couldn’t imagine.
So now, 2 years after the official adoption, DeAndre has surpassed every obstacle they said he would not. Currently he is in 2nd grade and the entire school loves him. He is now 4 ft. 2 inches and tall for his age. He talks nonstop and plays every day with his peers. He loves having siblings, which is funny because they said he should be an only child. He is our biggest accomplishment to date; he has taught us more than we have taught him. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t look at him, smiling, wondering how we ever existed without him. He created structure in our life that we didn’t have before. He brought this love that we never knew we needed so much. Yet somehow, people tell us how great we are for saving him. We feel that he saved us; we are lucky that he opened his heart and showed us what love really is.