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Friendship to Family

Story from #ellendegeneres #theellenshow #fostercareadoption May 21, 2021

Monyay, at 19 years old, finally found a forever family in an unusual place: her former foster care caseworker. Leah Paskalides had watched Monyay grow up in foster care. Monyay’s was one of the first cases that Leah had worked on as a new social worker. At first, the girl didn’t like her, but after some time they became close. Leah began as Monyay’s caseworker and later became a mentor who helped Monyay learn and grow. Year after year, she watched the girl get passed over for adoption.

Leah was unable to adopt her because of a conflict of interest as her caseworker. The law prohibited Leah from becoming involved legally while Monyay was under 18. This is because in some cases, it could be construed that a caseworker wishes to remove a child from his or her home so the caseworker can adopt the child. While this is not the case with Leah, it is a standing law that cannot be overruled, much to both parties’ disappointment.

However, when Monyay aged out of the system, still without a family to love and support her into adulthood, Leah was struck with an idea. She had seen a news story about adult adoption. She had been entirely unaware that was a possibility. With this new information, she contacted Monyay and asked her if that was something she wanted. Monyay said yes, and Leah began the process to legally and officially adopt 19-year-old Monyay.

At age 19, Monyay did what many older children in foster care will never do: she got adopted. Caseworker Leah is now officially her mom. Monyay was ecstatic. She had wanted a mom her whole life, and now she finally has one. “It’s not all about the younger kids in [foster] care, because us teenagers and older kids in care, we need love, too,” Monyay said. “A lot of people have assumptions about us, but we’re not bad kids. We need love, too, just like the younger kids.”

“It was really hard going from being in a group home with an adult to help you to immediately being by yourself without an adult to help,” Monyay told Good Morning America. This young lady is currently working in a daycare center and mentors foster youth just like her mom had done for her. Monyay is thriving in her home, thankful and grateful to have a mom after so many years of not having one. She had called Leah “Mom” since she was 16, but making it official was really special.

Leah told Good Morning America, “She now refers to her adoption day as her birthday, so she has two birthdays each year. We were always close, but now when she calls me, it means something even more to her. It’s legal, and that means the world to her, because for so long she didn’t really have a mom.”

Leah said, “I just wish that people that are open to adoption don’t look at an age and a picture and are just open to getting to know them as a person.”

Leah stated, “[Monyay] had always said, ‘I wish you could adopt me.’ I couldn’t because of the job, and then, I was watching a documentary where the person had been adopted as an adult. I had never really heard of it,” she said. “I never thought I was getting adopted—never—especially not as an adult. So, my thing is don’t give up,” Monyay said.

Monyay hopes that their story will inspire others to consider adopting an older child. All children are in need of a family, not just babies and little kids. This is a girl speaking from personal experience. She could have let all of those years of waiting make her bitter and disappointed. Instead, she is using her voice to advocate for people like herself who just need a chance. I find that to be so special in a world full of people saying you should only look out for yourself. This woman could have been bitter and angry, but she isn’t. She is simply thankful she finally has a mom and wants other kids in her former situation to feel the same love she does. It is especially beautiful that they were able to complete the process right before Mother’s Day, so they could celebrate that special day as an official family.

If this wonderful adoption story could happen to Leah and Monyay, why couldn’t it happen to you? There are literally thousands of children waiting, praying, and hoping for a family. You don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to be wealthy or extra special. You just need to be willing to learn and grow. Things won’t always be picture perfect and you need to be okay with that idea.

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