Willie was just 11 years old when he was placed in foster care after experiencing abuse and neglect.
“I remember that we were struggling, me and my mom,” reflected Willie. “We didn’t really have food, nothing like that. We were sleeping on the floor.”
As his time in foster care began, Willie’s mother passed away, his father’s parental rights were terminated, and his family members were unable to care for him. He felt abandoned and was mad at the world.
Thankfully, Willie was referred to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids® program and met his adoption recruiter Melissa from Family Support Services of North Florida, Inc. Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters, like Melissa, are dedicated to finding the right family for every child in their care. And Melissa did just that.
“To be a great recruiter, you have to love your kids like they’re your own,” said Melissa. “You show them that they’re lovable. Just support them. Be there for them so they’re not alone.”
Stefanie and Geffrey formed a connection with Willie thanks to the support of Melissa, who communicated with the couple on a regular basis. Stefanie and Geffrey had met Willie previously through a community mentorship program. Melissa was an advocate for Willie and an integral part of the family’s adoption experience.
“We knew that we wanted to adopt him, but we wanted to make sure that, for Willie, we were also a family he wanted to be a part of as well,” said Stefanie. “Willie experienced a failed adoption previously, so he was apprehensive. I think Melissa built a great bridge between her and Willie with the trust factor.”
At 12 years old, a house became a forever home for Willie. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the adoption finalization happened on a Zoom call, but Willie’s loved ones showed up virtually to support him through this transition.
“Now that I’m adopted, I feel great! I feel like myself again,” said Willie.
But that wasn’t the end of Stefanie and Geffrey’s adoption journey. When Willie moved in with his forever family, he continually brought up his friend Alex who he knew in foster care. After spending time together, the family decided to adopt Alex too.
“Adoption, to me, truly means commitment. It means love. It means sacrifice,” said Stefanie.
Now, the boys are both thriving in school and enjoy playing sports together.
“I think for Willie, he sees he’s not going anywhere. He isn’t worried about his next meal. Knowing that he has a family that loves him, now he can fulfill his dreams and move forward,” reflected Geffrey.
While Willie and Alex’s story has a positive outcome, our work is not complete until every child has a permanent home and a loving family. If you are interested in learning more about foster care adoption or have considered how you can grow your family through adoption, download our free, step-by-step guide.