‘Adoption Saturday’ Event 11/28/16 11/28/16 10:28:43 AM
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Pamela “Auntie Pam” McCoy brought her newly minted family to Adoption Saturday. From left, back: McCoy, Brandon, 12; Faith, 9; Candace, 11; second row: Jamie, 9; Angelina, 8; and front row: Damion, 4 (almost 5!); and Jacob, 6.
‘Adoption Saturday’ Event Shows
It’s All About Saving Lives
By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record
There are literally hundreds of people in the legal system fighting to protect children from threats within and without. There is the Separate Juvenile Court of Douglas County, with its judges and bailiffs and child advocates such as volunteers from CASA and defense attorneys. There are child services organizations like Project Harmony (and many others) where child specialists work to create safe options for kids and families. And there are family members and strangers who have stepped up to provide safety for children in peril.
But the most effective solution of all is a loving, permanent home for every child.
Adoption Saturday in Nebraska, and specifically Douglas County, brought many of those advocates to the City-County building where 55 youngsters were adopted, leaving the foster homes and courts behind them forever.
To kick off the morning on November 19, Pamela McCoy addressed court personnel and new families about her own journey. It was only five months ago that her family grew by seven – yes, seven – children who now range in age from 4 to 12.
How did that happen? The 59-year-old single mother of three grown children and several grandchildren was planning a retirement of travel and leisure. Then a family drama began to play out.
“It started in 2013. The [seven] children’s grandmother, who happens to be my sister, got custody of them through the foster system. I ‘retired’ in January of 2014, she called me in February and told me she was having knee surgery and asked if it would it be possible for me to come and help her, so the children wouldn’t be taken out of their home.” The most important thing was that the children stay together, McCoy said.
“‘Sure, no problem,’ I said.”
“I lasted two days. There was high tension. Both grandmother and grandfather were in poor health. I told them I would take the kids to my house and watch them for six weeks. Then, when she was healed, I would take the kids back home. After about seven weeks, the court told me it wasn’t happening. They told me there were in the process of removing them before I even stepped in. So, I told them no, I’ll keep them,” McCoy recalled.
“Up until six months before the adoptions, I thought they were going back home to their mother. That didn’t work out,” she said without a trace of irony.
“I wanted to keep them all together. They didn’t know me from Adam. [A slight exaggeration: she was their great-aunt.] They were frightened. They didn’t trust anybody. All they wanted to do was stay in their room,” she recalled of those first few weeks.
“I was just Aunt Pam. ‘Mean Auntie Pam’ to them.
“My grandkids were really into going to the library, which was only two blocks away. They did a lot of activities there. After a month of sitting on the steps, Brandon, the oldest of the siblings, went to the library.
“After a while, I put a sign in my yard: ‘Brandon no longer lives here. He lives at the library.’
“I had a two-bedroom house. I called my daughter and moved in with her,” she said, underscoring the fact that “it takes a village.”
McCoy explained she was surrounded by what she calls “earth angels.”
“You have to have them to raise a family. You have to have help. You can’t do it on your own. And I’m a single woman.”
She bought bunk beds, but she still thought they were going home and the beds would go with them.
“But, they never left.”
She explained to them what was going on. “They were afraid. I told them if they didn’t go back to their mom, they were staying with me, their Aunt Pam.
“I wanted to make sure they didn’t get separated. [I wanted to give them the chance] to grow up and know each other, to know their grandparents.
“It takes structure – I call it structure, they call it rules. [It takes] A lot of patience, a lot of love and commitment. When I adopted, I had a back-up plan. And I promised that they would never go back into the system. I want to make sure they have the opportunities they might not have had. They’re all doing great,” McCoy said.
Brandon had always wanted to do karate and football – Auntie Pam made that happen. The girls were enrolled in dance. Keep them busy, McCoy says. Busy hands can’t get in trouble.
She knows that from experience. “My three biological kids are all very successful. I couldn’t do this without their help. And without teachers like Miss Ropes.
Florence Elementary School teacher Heather Ropes, has taught three of the siblings. She was a proud supporter of Pam and her kids at the event.
“The transformation of her kids has been beyond belief. ‘Auntie Pam’ is a taskmaster. For her, things have consequences. She insists on accountability. She’s the best,” Ropes said.
McCoy said it’s important that she gives them choices. “Not always great choices, but you have to make them anyway. I want to open doors for them.”
“They all have different last names. I gave them the option to change their names to mine. They decided to keep their names, which was fine with me.”
Looking back, McCoy said that since the adoptions in June, “Nothing changed for us, except that we didn’t have to ask permission to go to Iowa. We were happy to see that go!
“I still get to travel, just like I always planned. I just do it not in a car, but in a bus.
“We’re happy. They’re all doing great in school. That’s my number one thing – education. I don’t play. We all pitch in and we’re just one unit now, a family. We have our freedom, which is something we never felt like we had before.
“So that’s my story,” she said. Then she added with a laugh, “I should have adopted one a year so I could keep coming back [to this event].”
“She has saved seven lives,” Ropes said.
That’s what this day was all about. Saving lives.
This is the 17th consecutive year of Douglas County participating in National Adoption Day. Activities and entertainment included a balloon artist, face painting, a magician, “First Family” photos, Omaha Street Percussion performances and appearances by numerous Star Wars characters, ending in a pizza celebration at the Omaha Children’s Museum.