The Jones Family
Having raised a son Derik, 26 and daughter Larissa, 28, Willie and Pam Jones were empty nesters looking forward to an early retirement. It turned out to be Willie’s bout with and recovery from prostate cancer that led them to reexamine their priorities. And though their work demands were growing, they were ready to enforce a balance to their work and family life.
The couple had talked
about adoption on and off for a number of years. It was a subject close
to them. Pam had spent some time in foster care as a child, and Willie
has a brother who was adopted.
When they saw Demakis’ profile the next day, the connection was instant. Willie was excited about the prospect of parenting a child like Demakis who sounded inquisitive. Pam saw a perfect fit with Demakis’ stated preference for a family in which he would be an only child or have an older brother.
After contacting MARE that Monday, they were referred to Demakis’ social worker and learned that they had to go through the Massachusetts Approach to Partnership in Parenting (MAPP) training and the homestudy process. Pam describes the training as being useful for any parent, and especially valuable for those adopting. “It helped you to understand what to expect. The child may be 12, but some of his needs might be of a younger child. You learn about the magnitude of their losses.” According to Willie, “It takes out the romanticizing. It isn’t just about parenting, but you have to think about how to deliver it to someone who probably won’t believe or trust you.”
Meanwhile, they kept
in touch with Demakis’ social worker to let her know of their continued
interest. After their homestudy was completed and approved, they met with
his social worker in January 2003. Willie and Pam found that reading Demakis’
file was somewhat intimidating.
After reviewing the file with their social worker, the Joneses were able to talk with his foster parent, counselor and school personnel. The accounts from people who knew Demakis told a different story. They described Demakis as a good kid, manageable, functioning in school and making progress.
The couple had to sort through the perception versus reality. They took a leap of faith and proceeded. “We were probably a little naïve in believing that maybe all you needed was to provide love and a sense of belonging,” Pam says. They would soon come to understand that though those elements were important, they alone were not enough.
So Demakis began his visits. They started off with weeknight dinners and progressed to overnight and weekend stays. In May 2003, Demakis moved into his new home. To ease his adjustment, his parents had him finish off the year at his old school.
It was that summer, on their first family vacation, that Willie and Pam began to experience testing from Demakis. Up until then, they had been going through the customary “honeymoon” period. When they returned home, there would be more struggles. The family participated in counseling together. “The counselor would help Demakis understand our job as parents,” states Pam.
Willie stresses the value of aligning the support systems in a child’s life, “It is difficult to be successful if you don’t understand the roles of the professionals working with the child and respect their input.” Willie and Pam also felt it was important to surround Demakis with positive people who would care about him. Thus, Larissa and Derik, other family members, friends and their church family were critical in Demakis’ transition. With these supports, they were able to weather the challenges they faced as a family. Pam and Willie never wavered in their commitment to Demakis, and they continually reassured him they were not giving up on him.
The Joneses legalized Demakis’ adoption on National Adoption Day 2003, a month after their son’s 13th birthday. “Willie and I knew Demakis was a part of our family, probably before he did. When we would ask him for a hug, it used to be like punishment for him. Now, he’s affectionate,” says Pam. Demakis especially loves having a dad with whom he can discuss, as he puts it, “men’s issues.”
Willie adds, “Demakis
has brought a lot of joy into our lives. He is a great kid and he wants
to be a good person. He has a family who loves him. Sometimes, he’ll
say, ‘I have a good life.’”