“For every heartbreaking story, there is one of hope”

"Dear Every Child - I retired from Lane Co Child Welfare after 29 years.

For every heartbreaking story, there is one of hope. The following event has given me hope for 17 years & counting. I have altered the names for you to ensure confidentiality in the hope you may share it with your audience.

We each have unique memories of September 11th, 2001 – the tragic, inexplicable events of that day gripped us for hours, days, and weeks, as we tried to comprehend the unthinkable inhumanity. My September 11th is forever engraved with the memory of a very special family, whom I had met months prior."

In February 2001, Ty and Mercy made their first trip to Oregon to meet one-year-old Katie, who was soon to be their adopted daughter and was in a foster home. After sharing many, many anxious phone calls in the weeks prior, Katie's foster parents were excited to finally meet Ty and Mercy in person. Katie's foster family was tried & true, having cared for many infants and toddlers over they years.

The big day arrived, and Ty and Mercy met Katie for the first time. It was everything they had envisioned; they were in heaven! Katie's foster mom introduced the rest of the family members, including a tiny, baby boy, Parker, who was Katie's younger half-brother. Parker had been born just weeks before; the siblings were just 11 months apart. Over the next week, Mercy and Ty spent many, many hours in the foster home, learning everything about Katie. Mercy and Ty truly appreciated the incredible generosity of the foster family, who allowed them to impose on the family all day long.

Ty and Mercy were quick to help out where they could and became an extra set of hands for the foster family during this time.

Little Parker struggled with withdrawal symptoms from his in utero substance exposure, and he was difficult to console. Even his foster mom, who had cared for many drug-affected infants, was at a loss to find a sure-fire way to comfort Parker. Miraculously, it was Ty who was the key. One afternoon, Ty offered to hold Parker who then slowly calmed. The foster mom noticed each time Ty held Parker, his distress seemed to subside.

Ty and Mercy knew case planning for Parker was in the early stages, but said they wanted to be Parker's adoptive family too, should adoption become the plan. As the successful transition concluded, Ty and Mercy left for home with mixed emotions- joyous in welcoming Katie, but hearts heavy after leaving Parker behind. The families maintained regular contact in the months to follow, sharing each of Katie's new achievements and keeping abreast of Parker's milestones.

In the late summer, Ty and Mercy celebrated when they learned they had been affirmed as Parker's adoptive family. Katie and Parker would grow up together! In early September, the family returned to a warm Oregon welcome, and again spent many hours with the foster family to learn everything they could to ease Parker through the transition to their family. By this time, the two families had forged a strong connection created by their love and devotion to these siblings.

As transition drew to a close, the foster family hosted a celebration honoring the family Katie and Parker had gained, as well as the friendships they all share. Ty and Mercy and family were scheduled to depart the following morning.

But that Tuesday, September 11th, we awoke to the news of the tragedy unfolding on the East Coast. Ty and Mercy realized that with all planes being grounded, they would not be boarding a plane for home that day. We discussed the options: waiting for flights to resume; traveling by train; renting a car? Ty didn't hesitate. He immediately telephoned and secured a rental car for the long drive to Oklahoma. “The last one we have,” the rental agent told him. Upon hearing of the family's circumstances, the agent graciously found two car seats for for the children. DHS staff immediately approved the alternate plan, clearing the way for the family to head home.

Many hugs, tears and well wishes were shared as Ty and Mercy loaded Katie and Parker into their seats and drove away from the foster family's home, waving goodbyes. They arrived home safely a few days later.

As we relive the heartaches endured on September 11th, perhaps the story of these two families may offer hope. As caseworkers, we all have wonderful experiences where things go well, where relationships grow, where people find acceptance even in challenging circumstances.

"Some people we meet leave a bigger, brighter footprint than others – these families did that for me. We all continue to have contact, especially at this time of year, and we appreciate having shared it together."

-Retired DHS Caseworker, Lane County

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