Emerson’s Story

Dawson and Smyth have a global development delay. This means that in every phase of life they are delayed in their development – physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. The state of Georgia has a program called “Babies Can’t Wait.” This is a state run program that exists to help developmentally delayed children progress. This program helps children up to age three.

We had a speech therapist, a physical therapist, and an occupational therapist come to our home and work with them. In addition our boys experienced other creative therapies on horses, in the water, and other fun activities. Saying this was a beneficial time for us does not do justice to the level of care we received. We could not have been more pleased with the therapists who worked with them, and we will sing the praises of these women till the day we die.

The twins were now 3 and they transferred out of Babies Can’t Wait and into the early intervention program through the public school system here in our county. Once again our experience has been a dream come true. The challenges for both of these programs we encountered were so minimal compared to the tremendous benefits that, truthfully, they are not worth mentioning.

Davis was on the other end of the spectrum as Smyth and Dawson. Davis is ahead of every kid his age in development. He was now 6 months old and loving being with his big brothers. His huge eyes made everyone melt. He was so different from the twins. The day we brought him home we knew we did not want him to be the only child whose pigment was different from everyone else.

We found our hearts turning more and more to the orphans in Africa. After much research and prayer we came across an organization doing so much good in the countries where they served. This organization has been serving the countries they are in rather than trying to use the countries to ship out children and make a buck in the process. The countries are actually grateful for their presence.

They are one of the largest international child placement agencies in the U.S. today. Their vision is so grand and includes more than just matching children who need a home with parents who have a home. That is a part of why we chose to pursue an adoption through them. In terms of an expanding family, we were now asking the question, “Where is the greatest need?” We came to the conclusion that the best place for us was Africa.

In late Summer of 2006 we turned in our home study and began processing us to go to Ethiopia to adopt an orphan they cared so deeply about. They encouraged us and spoke openly and honestly about the process.

On October 29, 2006 a mother in Orlando, Fl. gave birth to a son. With the umbilical still attached, she drove to the hospital, and asked them to place this child for adoption. She is a well educated, single, suburban professional who believed the best place for her son was a home with two parents who could devote themselves fulltime to his needs. The hospital contacted a local adoption agency they worked with regularly and trusted deeply.

The agency immediately came and took custody of the baby boy and placed him into the care of a family who volunteers their homes as temporary foster care for newborns. This family cares for the child while the agency seeks a home for the baby. The agency quickly called family after family seeking a match for this precious boy.

Working in an adoption agency is hard work. The workers got into the business so that they could be a part of the grand hope of taking care of orphans in their distress. The overwhelming vast majority of workers get involved not because it will provide a lucrative future, but because they long to see homeless children find loving homes. Teachers teach not because the money is big, but because the joy of seeing students learn, and change, and grow is worth more than a huge 401K or a vacation home. Adoption workers work for similar reasons.

Adoption workers love children. They love adoption. They love orphans joining a family. They love playing a role in the story of love and redemption. When an adoption of an orphan does not go through, they hurt for the orphan beyond expression. The baby in Orlando was not being placed. The workers hurt, and worked with even more resolve to find a home.

The lady who conducted our home study had a relationship with the agency in Orlando trying to find a home. The agency called her and asked if she knew of anyone here in Atlanta who might consider adopting a week old African-American boy. She thought of us and told the agency she would call back and let them know our response. They waited on pins and needles. She called them back and said we were willing to talk.

Immediately, the lady working overtime for this boy called and talked with Judith. She said the birthmother was hoping for a family who were African-American or already had an African-American family member in it. The worker described him with detail. His looks, his personality, his large feet were all things that the short term foster care family, as well as she, had become so endeared to.

The words that every adoption worker knows are coming from many families came from me. “We would like to do this, but the fees are beyond what we can meet.” Adoption agencies raise money. They raise money so that the legal fees, the medical fees, the minimal salaries, and the large expenses can be minimized when these costs are passed on to the adoptive families.

I gave her the maximum amount we could afford. It was truly our maximum. There was no bidding on either side. This was not a piece of jewelry we were trying to get at the lowest possible price while in the markets in Mexico. This was a child whom the agency and the adoptive family were trying to put into loving arms.

The agency has to make money. If they lose money continuously, then they are forced out of the dream of taking care of orphans. Without money, they cannot do what they long to do. So the dilemma is how to place a boy into a home that wants him, without damaging future opportunities to bring more children into homes that want them.

The head of the agency and the staff in Orlando prayed and weighed the cost. They determined, in this case, the risk was worth taking. The loss to them was worth the gain to us. This cannot always happen. But this time it would happen. So on November 5, 2006 Judith and I left Dawson, Smyth, and Davis with their grandmother, drove to Orlando, gave the maximum amount we could give, and adopted our 4th son.

His name is Emerson. That is a family name on Judith’s side and the family name of our physical therapist that loved and pushed the twins to grow and develop. That name also represents all the therapists who worked with them. They all loved and pushed our boys.

The agency working in Africa gladly put everything on hold. We knew we would return to them one day soon. We knew we would eventually go to Ethiopia and adopt another son. In the Spring of 2008 we picked back up where we left off. They called to see if we were ready. The need had grown. Their hearts had grown. So they asked if we would consider two more boys instead of just one. Our response was, “Absolutely!”

It’s not just parents and orphans who long for adoption. Adoption agencies, therapists, social workers, and others all play a role in taking care of orphans in their distress. We are indebted more than we could ever pay. These people need money to continue; but, their real reward is in watching boys like Emerson take on last names like McNeely. They find a way to scrape by so that the barren will no longer be childless and the orphan will no longer be fatherless.