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Treasures in my life.
James McSwain, adoptive father in Houston (full name used with permission)
I am a single parent. Originally, I planned to get married, but I also was serious about adopting kids. When I looked into it, I learned that many adoptive parents in Texas were single. So I did it. CPS workers were wonderful. The training I went through was thorough and really helped me parent my kids. All the things the workers told me and prepared me for were accurate and on target. They told me that this would totally change my life and they were right.
Without question, being the father of my two sons has and continues to be the most wonderful experience I have had. It is impossible to express in words the depth of the bond that exists between me and my boys. It has also been a difficult and, at times, a heartbreaking experience. However, I would tell anyone that adoption is worthwhile.
My boys, Phillip and Anthony are birth siblings. I adopted Phillip at age 12 in 1989. He was the oldest of four children in one family. All four were separated due to the nature of their abuse. Anthony was the youngest of the group. He was only 5 when I adopted Phillip. Unfortunately, Anthony's adoption disrupted and he was removed from his adoptive family. Anthony at age 9, had difficulty bonding or interacting with anyone and was placed in a treatment facility.
I followed up on Anthony with his caseworker and we agreed that Anthony still had an attachment for Phillip. In 1994, he was placed with Phillip and me. We hoped that he might trust Phillip long enough to allow him to bond with me. That's history now. The little guy who was unadoptable and emotionally disturbed is now in college, has a sweet girlfriend, and hugs his dad every day and says "I love you Dad". He even says, "Yes Sir", and "No Sir" on occasion.
Caseworkers knew that Phillip needed to be placed with a single adoptive father because he just couldn't compete with anyone for attention. I continued to try to date and consider marriage after I adopted him, but I soon found that he just could not bear to share my attention with anyone. I had a choice to make. I could continue to pursue a personal relationship and lose my son, or I could put personal things aside for a while and do what I was committed to and raise my boy. That was a hard thing to do at the time, but it was the right thing to do. I committed to be his dad and I was not going to abandon him when he needed me most. He grew, graduated from high school, started college, and then got married and gave me my first grandson.
Then an illness came in his early 20's. So - our expectations for Phillip changed. Fortunately, good doctors and family support have allowed him to have a good life and live independently. He will never finish college or do some things others take for granted - but he hugs his dad and says "I love you Dad". He's my son. And now, I have a wonderful daughter-in-law and beautiful grandson to help raise and to spoil.
And that's the point, the human point. These two boys are able to live and enjoy a life that would not have been possible for them without adoption.
In reality, there have been many hardships and difficult times. But - nothing worthwhile ever does come easy. To be a good adoptive parent, you need to be loving, tough, creative, patient, and just plain hard headed and stubborn. You can't give up on a child- no matter what. It really helps you get prepared for life as an older person too. I am now "embarrassment proof." You just can't do anything to me in public that can embarrass me. Its all already been done. So - as I get older - that really gives me a lot of freedom to laugh at myself and not take myself so seriously.
In my professional career, I've been very fortunate to have received some wonderful honors and recognition's. I have the plaques and trophies to prove it - but those items are not the things that adorn my desk at work. On my desk are all the misshapen wooden race cars and art projects that have been lovingly crafted by two growing boys for various Father' Day and birthday gifts over the years. Those are the greatest tangible treasures in my life. I look at them and touch them every day. They keep me grounded and close to the things in life that really matter. At the end of my life, I don't really care if anyone even remembers what I did professionally or how good or bad I was at doing it. I just want my two boys to say that they had a good dad and that they knew I loved them. That is success in life.
With that, I can't think of any better argument for adopting older children and kids with difficulties. There will always be excuses for not doing it. You just have to get up and act. Its wonderful! And to all those critics who like to throw rocks at Texas Department of Family and Protective Services - you just don't know what you are talking about. My experience was great. They helped me, supported me, and trained me. They did everything they could to make our adoption work. They told the truth about what I was getting myself into. I thank God for the people in this agency and for the work they do to help children. So - adopt. What else are you going to do with your life that could be more important than this?
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