By Shannon BakerBCM/D National Correspondent
COLUMBIA, Md.—George Lee was only seven years old when police found him screaming for his mother in the middle of the street one night. She had left the motel room she shared with George and his brother to find more drugs.
When police searched the Laurel, Md., motel room, it was full of drug paraphernalia, feces, and little food. There was little doubt that the Howard County Department of Social Services had to step in.
Jamie Jackson, then a brand new social worker fresh out of college, was called upon to help find emergency placement for the two boys. A family treatment manager at Baptist Family & Children’s Services, Jamie discovered that George was functioning on a mild retardation level because of fetal alcohol syndrome. He was also short in stature and had a speech impediment.
Jamie also learned that George had watched his father die when his esophagus burst from alcohol overuse.
George was placed into a foster care family and remained there for about four years. Still, George longed to be adopted so he made a goal. He wanted to be adopted by the time he was 16.
When George’s foster care situation disrupted, and it was time for George to move, Liz
Alexander stepped in. Liz not only took George in as a foster child, she also pursued adoption.
“He has such an angelic face. His little smile just grabs your heart,” Liz said, sharing how George makes every day a good day because he is so nice and kind. But she is quick to admit—he is a bit mischievous too! “But that smile….”
Finally, on Sept. 1, 2011, four days before his 16th birthday, George’s adoption was finalized.
It was Jamie’s best day since becoming a social worker. She witnessed the day George became part of a forever family.
It was even more amazing for Liz.
“I always feel like I’ve known George for a lifetime. I’d have to actually read the paperwork to see how long he has been family,” she said, explaining how George touches everyone who meets him. It was just natural for him to be a part of her family.
Though the adoption felt like it completed George’s story, he will still need services for the rest of his life, said Jamie. “But he is in a family who is committed to him.”
Doctors said George would never be able to read. He had regular temper tantrums and had poor peer relations. But Liz didn’t give up. She advocated hard for George’s needs.
“When I first met George, he had been in a situation where most kids weren’t verbal or ambulatory,” she explained. “But I kept telling him, ‘If you want something, you have to talk. I don’t understand animal sounds.’”
Within two minutes, it seemed, he was talking. It was if he was given permission to speak.
George not only talks now. He can also write and read books, although they are on a first grade level.
More importantly, he is learning how to communicate his feelings about the trauma he has faced in his life. With Liz’s encouragement, he has built a relationship with his uncle, who shares about his dad’s life and has helped George overcome the grief associated with losing his father.
George has also spent time with his biological mother, who has been in and out of jail and drug rehabilitation. George has learned to express his anger over his mother’s lifestyle, and as a result, both are processing through difficult healing.
“I want George to know his mother,” Liz shared. She has invited George’s mother to celebrate Christmas with them and offers opportunities for them to communicate together.
“I don’t have to like her, but she is his mother,” Liz said, adding, “She is a part of him, and she is a part of making him whole again.”
What’s surprised Liz the most, however, is that she never thought she’d be the mother of a child with special needs. Single for many years, she has watched her life change as she has cared for George.
“He makes everything worthwhile,” she said, noting she’ll probably end up adopting another child one day.
“Georgie made me who I am,” she said. “That’s my little Georgie!”
This is just one of the many stories of orphans who came into CHOSEN, Baptist Family’s foster care program, bonded with their foster family, and grew and succeeded beyond all expectations, shared Tim Durkin, development and public relations manager for Baptist Family.
CHOSEN (an acronym standing for Children of Special and Exceptional Need) trains, pays for, and supervises professional parents to provide treatment for troubled youngsters in their homes.
Parents receive ongoing support, training, and supervision through trained Family Treatment Managers (FTMs) who also provide liaison services to county agencies such as Department of Social Services (DSS) and the court, training and support to biological families, and consultation to school staff. The program is funded by the Maryland Department of Human Resources.
To learn more, visit online at www.baptistfamily.org/chosen.