By Wayne Gates –
As anyone with a large family knows, having four children can be a real handful sometimes. Now imagine doubling that to eight kids in one stroke.
That’s what Gregg and Meghan Garrett of Fayetteville did last December when they adopted four children.
The new additions to the family are ten year old Lige, nine year old Pasha, eight year old Heaven and six year old Elijah. All of them are siblings. Both of their parents are struggling with drug addiction and had their parental rights terminated as a result.
The kids join 14 year old Meghan, nine year old Maddox, and twin eight year olds Porter and Brianna.
Four boys and four girls now make up the Garrett family.
Gregg works as an engineer and Megan works at CASA for Clermont Kids, an organization that coordinates to provide court appointed guardians for children that are involved in Clermont County Juvenile Court.
Meghan originally met the children as a court appointed guardian and got to know them. That bond grew until she committed to becoming their adoptive mother nearly two years later.
“They had no other option. It looked like they were getting ready to have a bleak future and she really stepped into the gap,” said CASA for Clermont Kids Executive Director Nathan Bell.
“There was nothing on the horizon for these four kids. They had been moved from several different foster homes.”
Bell said that Meghan was even willing to give up her job to make the adoption happen.
“There was a point in time when we thought that might have to happen, but that was a sacrifice that she was willing to make to make sure that these kids were well taken care of,” he said.
With her work through CASA, Meghan had been working with the kids for about two years. Their case was coming to an end after the parental rights of their birth parents were terminated.
“I knew all the things they had been through and I just couldn’t let that happen,” Meghan said.
She and Gregg had been talking in general terms about adopting a child, so she called him and asked if he was OK with one child becoming four.
Gregg agreed, and the process began. First up were home visits, which revealed how difficult life had been for the kids so far.
“It started out with a lot of reassurance. (Lige) would go to a cabinet and see that we were out of something and he would say that we have to go to the store right now. I promised him that as long as he was here that he would never be hungry,” Meghan said.
She added that other behavior like hoarding food or having difficulty getting along with other kids were also issues, but they got better with time.
The turning point seemed to be the beginning of the formal adoption process.
“It’s amazing how much a piece of paper means to them. It seemed like everything changed once the adoption was final. They are happier. I even had teachers calling me from school telling me that they noticed the change.”
Meghan said that the original four kids in the Garrett household seemed to be OK with the idea as well.
“They took it really well. When the kids got here, they shared things. There was some concern about sharing specific toys, but we said that we would buy some more Lego’s if we needed to.”
Meghan said that instantly doubling the kid count has changed things somewhat for the family.
“When we go to Kroger and I have to take all of them with me, we kind of do ducks in a row and everyone stares,” she said.
“One time we had to go down to the courthouse. We parked and all these kids are getting out. There was a gentleman next to us watching and he finally said ‘You’ve got yourself a clown car, don’t you.’”
There are plenty of opportunities for ‘big family’ humor now, but there is still some pain that the adopted kids still feel.
“One of the things that bothers them is that they don’t have much of anything that belongs to them. They don’t have any pictures of them when they were younger, they don’t have any belongings,” Meghan said.
Both original parents have been in prison and recently released. The birth father has been in touch once during the adoption process, but Meghan said that they have not heard from the birth mother.
The children were taken into the foster care for the final time when the birth father in jail and the birth mother was found to be using drugs with the kids in the house.
Eight year old Heaven put it simply when she said “Our mom and dad did drugs…I’m glad that they (The Garrett’s) don’t do drugs like my birth parents did.”
Meghan said that ten year old Lige struggled as the oldest, trying to be a parent to his younger siblings.
“He had to learn how to just be a kid and not get so angry at the others for doing things because he doesn’t have to worry about that anymore, mom and dad worry about that. It took about three months for that to click, but once it did, he lightened up and started enjoying being a kid again.”
As part of the adoption process, each of the kids were asked what they wanted in an adoptive parent. Lige’s answer was a simple one.
“It was Lige’s request that they not do drugs or drink alcohol. He said that he just wanted them to be parents,” Meghan said.
There are over 100 children in Brown and Clermont counties right now who are wards of the court for various reasons.
Bell said that volunteers are needed to help them through what could be the most difficult experience of their lives.
“Our impact is that we are that one face throughout the entire case that’s always there. That child knows that there is one person that will always be there and is always on their side. To a lonely child separated from their family, they are the person looking out for them. That’s what our volunteers do. They are an anchor for that child during a terrible period in their life,” Bell said.
To learn more about becoming an advocate in Clermont County, you can contact Bell at (513) 732-7170 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Brown County, contact Probate/Juvenile Judge Danny Bubp at (937) 378-6549.