Adoption teaches parents to grow
ESCANABA — Raising children is something many people experience in their lives. When adopting across racial lines, the experience also teaches parents to grow.
Patty and John Thomas had four children under the age five when they first met, then two more children together. After having six children why would they adopt another, one might ask.
“I’ve always wanted a big family,” said Patty. “But after my sixth child, my doctor told me to stop … I took it to heart.”
The additions to their family would have stopped there, but it was not meant to be.
Patty saw Dallas when she was two weeks old and fell in love with her immediately. Dallas was the daughter of a co-worker, who brought her into work for Patty to baby-sit.
“It was love at first sight,” Patty said. “I could tell she was not as healthy as she should have been and I asked her mother if it would be alright if I brought her to my pediatrician. It turned out Dallas had asthma.”
Patty continued to care for the baby, then became the guardian to 6-week-old Dallas after petitioning the court along with Dallas’ biological mother.
“She was willing to give Dallas over to me,” Patty said. “We were two moms coming together to do the best they could for a baby.”
Patty and Dallas held a ZOOM presentation July 28, sponsored by the U.P. Kids Post Adoption Resource Center. The Center connects families in the Upper Peninsula to services that help ensure a successful and permanent placement for a child. They provide resources, training, interventions, and support to help families stay together, build relationships, and make connections. Post Adoption Specialists are well acquainted with the resources in their communities and surrounding areas.
“It’s a safe place to bounce thoughts and ideas off of, moms are moms all over the place,” said Patty. “Being a parent at any cost is so worth it. Children just need us, they need us there. It’s an amazing journey and you’ll never regret it.”
After raising eight children through 27 years, Patty and John now live in Brighton, Mich., in a house without children. They both continue to work and enjoy time with their children when they stop by with grandchildren.
Looking back, Patty admits having guardianship of a child, a black child, was more than she expected.
“We were clueless. We knew how to take care of babies, raise them. We did it six times before,” said Patty. “But we didn’t expect people to be so judgmental, white and black, when they saw us together … The first time I realized raising Dallas would be different happened when a black lady came up to me and asked – what are you doing with that black child.”
Patty was continually asked questions when in public with her children, and they could always count on a few stares from others.
“A black lady once said I must be the nanny. In Florida some people thought we were from the organization Make-A-Wish,” Patty said. “People felt like they had a right to judge us. Their filters just came right off. They would say things they wouldn’t say about other children.”
The father of Patty’s first three children was Filipino, and two years after adding Dallas to their home, Patty and John became custodial grandparents of their biracial grandchild.
“When our family was all together it was a non-stop ‘stare-fest’ in the beginning. I never heard a mother say to their child not to stare, because they were too,” Patty said.
Patty and John decided to move the family to an area that was more diverse, Redford, Mich.
Each year social workers contacted Patty to ask how things were going. When Dallas was six-years-old, a social worker asked Patty why they hadn’t adopted the child yet.
“The social worker asked, what was it going to take for us to adopt Dallas. I told her I didn’t want to rock the boat by taking steps to adopt because I thought the judge would tell us we knew nothing about raising a black child,” said Patty.
That was not the case. The social worker helped the family adopt Dallas and after six years being her guardians they adopted Dallas.
“We had an unconventional adoption, the system came to us. I was so afraid to rock the boat by taking steps forward in an adoption, but it all turned out,” said Patty.
While raising Dallas, Patty had a co-mom in her good friend Tina, a black lady who taught Patty about many other topics in the black community.
“My husband even went to hair braiding classes,” Patty said. “Tina helped co-mom by teaching me what I needed to learn to raise my child. There’s more to it if you want to do it right. It’s multi-faceted.”
Patty said she explored and learned about her own personal biases and prejudicious while raising Dallas.
Being a parent of your own biological child or an adopted child is no different according to Patty.
“The highs and lows are the same, the fears, pride,” said Patty.
Since the recent racial tension started rising, Dallas confided in Patty that she had never felt someone judge her based on her color, until now.
“When Dallas told me that, it just broke my heart,” Patty said.
Patty says she would adopt Dallas all over again. From the moment she saw 2-week-old Dallas she knew they belonged together.
“People have told Dallas and I we were meant to be together … we have the same sparkle,” noted Patty.
Patty advises anyone to adopt.
“Anyone can adopt. It’ll take some self-reflection and make you strong,” said Patty. “Anyone who has a heart to love somebody. I would recommend it. Build your world … be willing to change if that is what’s needed.”
U.P. Kids Post Adoption Resource Center can be contacted at 906-231-6056, and on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/906PARC. Adoptive families can review the U.P. schedule of support groups, trainings, and events.