When JoAnne Puhala’s biological mother passed away, her daughter Kloee told extended family members that she would recite a poem and sing a song at the memorial service. This offer caught JoAnne by surprise as Kloee was a shy eight-year-old who had only just met JoAnne’s biological family. As the service came to a close, Kloee stood in front of the alter and recited a poem she had written for the occasion.
The memorial service, which took place in Ireland, was part of a two-week trip JoAnne and Kloee took together to connect with JoAnne’s biological family. The trip was a chance for JoAnne to share her experiences with her daughter whom she and her wife, Kimberly Puhala, adopted in 2014. “To be able to explore your biological family as part of your life in a unique way was very special. Having Kloee there to see those relationships and share that experience with me made it that much better.”
JoAnne was adopted as an infant from Ireland. While both mother and daughter were adopted, the two experiences have been completely unique. When it came time for JoAnne to start her own family, she and her wife decided to look to a form of adoption she was less acquainted with - adoption from foster care. Through an internet search, the couple found MARE and they began attending informational events and adoption parties. Within a year of completing their MAPP training, they met a sweet, caring five-year-old girl who stole their hearts.
“We met her at an IHOP with her caseworker. It was nerve wracking – the thing that I’ve learned throughout this journey as a parent is that you’re so caught up in your own nervousness and questions that you really don’t always realize how scary it is for the kid” said JoAnne. “We could tell she was really nervous. We had lunch together and really hit it off. Then we said goodbye and she gave us a little hug.” One month later, Kloee moved in.
While the family clicked quickly, there were still plenty of challenges. Kloee was old enough to understand what was going on, which meant that JoAnne and Kimberly were able to include her in conversations about becoming a family. Some of these conversations were more difficult than others; after over a year in care, Kloee was hesitant to believe that this was going to be her home forever.
To this day, JoAnne and Kimberly have continued to show and tell Kloee how much they love her. “You cannot underestimate the amount that a kid needs to feel safe with you. I think that’s the key. At least it has been for us.” said JoAnne. “To this day we say, ‘We are always going to be together. This is forever.’”
JoAnne and Kimberly love spending time together as a family. While JoAnne and Kloee’s adoption stories have been very different, there are still experiences that Kloee has, which JoAnne can relate to. “Every once in a while, I’m able to say ‘oh, I went through that too.’”