“When Meghan and Malcolm came to us, DCF was getting ready to separate them.” explained Chip LaRiviere. While Chip and his husband, Louis, were not new to adoption, this was their first placement through the Department of Children and Families.
Three years earlier, the fathers adopted a baby girl, Ellie, through a private agency. They were able to meet Ellie’s biological mother two months into her pregnancy and they worked with her right up until their daughter’s birth.
As Chip and Louis were working through the process of private adoption, they were simultaneously taking MAPP classes with the thought that adoption through foster care could be a viable option for their family. When Ellie was about three years old Chip and Louis got a call from DCF about a four-year-old boy and his eighteen-month-old sister, Malcolm and Meghan.
As is the case with many sibling groups in care, the Department was planning to separate the two children. Chip and Louis were open to adding both siblings to their family, which meant that Malcolm and Meghan would be able to stay together. However, immediately after the children moved in, the family began to face major difficulties.
The family had not been properly briefed on the level of mental illness that Malcolm was struggling with. They felt stranded without professional resources. They quickly realized that advocating for themselves was the best way to move forward. Chip said, “I made the commitment that my children needed something and I was going to find out what that was.”
Chip and Louis began figuring out what services existed in their community, “If there’s a service out there… we’ve used it”, Chip explained. They educated themselves about their children’s needs and were able to provide the supports needed; therapy, behavioral services, in-school help, the list goes on.
As they were settling into their new normal, they were approached by their social worker, “We were a happy-go-lucky family. Then we got a call from our social worker that Malcolm and Meghan’s biological mother had a baby”, Chip shared. The family opened their home again and welcomed two-week-old Cody.
The process to adopt Cody came with many bumps in the road. He spent only a few months in the LaRiviere home before going to his biological family’s home with the goal of reunification. At the same time a young girl was placed with the family with the understanding that she would be there for one month, “Tara was supposed to be a month placement and never left”, Chip said. Several months later Cody was placed back with the LaRivieres.
Through the difficulties of each adoption, Chip and Louis made the conscious decision to persevere. The first years were some of the hardest as the family had to learn to navigate needs, they didn’t realize their children had. “All the work I’ve put into my children is so rewarding”, explained Chip, “For my son, Malcolm, to say, ‘I know my dad loves me and he will never leave me’ is huge. We didn’t give in. We stood by him and that’s how we did it.”
Chip continues to be involved in the foster and adoption community. He speaks at MAPP classes and at Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) events and makes an effort to educate other parents on the services that exist in their own communities through his role as a Family Resource Liaison (FRL) with MSPCC Kid’s Net. Chip always tries to make one thing clear to prospective parents, “People need to understand that these children don’t need to be fixed.”
He and his family hope that by sharing their story they can help others understand the realities of adoption from foster care. “It’s a lot of work and we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into”, said Chip, “but I wouldn’t change my family for anything.”