For Sammy, “it was like a switch went on.”
When 5-year-old Sammy first came from foster care through Barker’s Project Wait No Longer to live with his adoptive parents, Heidi and Ted, they could tell his first years of life had been challenging. He looked thin and fragile, didn’t know his ABCs, and didn’t speak very well. He’d also had some behavioral problems in preschool and was afraid to be left alone.
Heidi and Ted enrolled him in kindergarten right away, even though school at that time was on Zoom due to Covid. Ted was his kindergarten assistant, sitting with him daily from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in a virtual class. Ted coached him on how school works, ensured he was paying attention and encouraged him to speak up and ask questions. Pretty quickly, Sammy got into the routine and was able to focus. Ted and Heidi spent extra time working with him outside of school, tag-teaming on subjects, Ted working with Sammy on his writing and math, and Heidi on his reading. Pretty soon, “it was like a switch went on,” says Ted.
Now, Sammy is doing well in school—last year, his first-grade teacher told the couple that Sammy is a year ahead in math, as he is already doing double-digit multiplication. It turns out that he is a really bright kid, he just needed to be given a chance. Sammy is also improving at being calm and listening to his teacher, and becoming more independent.
“If we get big emotions, he does too,” says Ted.
He still has a few behavioral issues, and Ted and Heidi are getting lots of help from professionals and other resources. They talk to other parents with kids Sammy’s age, which helps normalize some of Sammy’s behavior and helps them not feel alone. They read books on parenting, talk to Barker social workers, avail themselves of family services available through Heidi’s job as an Army lawyer, and take Sammy to a nearby family therapist. They signed Sammy up for a mixed-martial arts class where he is learning about discipline, self-respect, and self-regulation. And they’re learning as they go: “If we get big emotions, he does too,” says Ted.
The family has recently moved to North Carolina, where Heidi is stationed as an Officer in the Army in the Judge Advocate General’s Corp (JAG) at Fort Bragg. Sammy is starting second grade and has been making new friends in his new neighborhood. He has been learning to play basketball and is thrilled to have a trampoline in his backyard. He had dreamed of having one ever since he first jumped on the one at the Airbnb Heidi and Ted rented in Oregon for their first meeting. It had made a big impression.
Sammy says, “I like to run around. I like to ride my scooter. I like sleeping on my dog’s bed. I like hot dogs. I like pizza. I like chicken fingers, spaghetti, and meatballs. I like peanuts. And I like stuff to drink like lemonade.”
Heidi and Ted say they can see the impression they’re having on Sammy, and they feel like they’re imparting a piece of themselves—including that Sammy is starting to mimic Ted’s walk and adopt his love of classic rock, says Heidi. He enthusiastically sings Bon Jovi and Journey tunes during bath time. Ted believes that “Things happen for a reason. Some of the other things that came up along the way didn't work out, but if they had, we wouldn’t be here with Sammy. This is how we were meant to be.”
Thanks, Heidi and Ted, for helping other prospective adoptive parents and for the wonderful life that you are giving to Sammy. We’re here for you always, for anything you need.