Our Birthday Boy



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A few months ago I would have never imagined we’d be celebrating our SECOND 17th birthday in a 30 day period.

Six months ago we were praising God for the stability we had finally found as a family. The previous year had been especially challenging as demons from Ozzie’s past trauma reared their ugly head and threw our family into crisis mode. Our primary concern was the safety of Ozzie and the other children, as we navigated behaviors that were frightening and challenging. Flashbacks of horrific abuse that occurred at the hands of his biological parents consumed him, and we sought additional resources to help him safely navigate the highly emotional affects of the trauma work he was doing. After exhausting all possible outpatient supports we realized that Ozzie needed more therapeutic support than was possible with outpatient therapies. This led to his placement in a inpatient facility. It was a hard 9 months as we grieved the absence of Ozzie, as he bravely faced the hurts of his past and learned to navigate the emotions associated with those memories in a safe and healthy way. For nine months we traveled four hours back and forth on a weekly basis for family therapy and visits. It was exactly where he needed to be. The other children were rediscovering the feeling of peace and safety through this respite opportunity, while Ozzie was actively engaged in multiple therapy sessions daily. This saturation of therapy work allowed him to find healing that wasn’t possible in the home environment. He worked so hard and we were so proud of the healing journey he took during those nine months, but with the arrival of the spring thaw we were counting down the days until he returned home and life could return to normal.

As I was eagerly anticipating getting back into a routine and enjoying a quiet season of normalcy and maybe even rest, a phone call came unexpectedly.

When I answered the phone I had no idea our life was about to change once again.

The call came from a social worker who, that very day, had met with Tyler’s biological brother, Brandon, for the first time. She had just been assigned his case through her agency, “Second Chance,” in a referral from Washington County CYF. He was currently in a group home. He was there because his adoptive father was dying and couldn’t care for him. This was on the cusp of his adoptive mother dying on cancer less than a year after his adoption day. There was no family willing to take him in and they couldn’t find a foster family willing to open their home to a 16-year-old boy, so the courts placed him in a home for trouble boys as a holding place since they didn’t have any other place for him to go. There he resided for two years, ignored by the very system that was suppose to be advocating and caring for him. Second Chance received his file from CYF and Brandon finally had an advocate that was driven to move mountains to find him a home. Her first task, after talking to Brandon, was to track down his biological siblings in their adoptive homes and see if they were a placement possibility for Brandon.

The call came on a Thursday evening.

Ozzie was a month out from returning home. We were undergoing family therapy to prepare the kids for Ozzie’s return home. Life was already uncertain, and then the phone rang.

The social worker explained the situation.

Finally, we had some answers to our questions about Brandon.

You see, we had established contact with Brandon and Tyler’s other biological siblings following Tyler’s adoption. We were able to orchestrate a reunion for these siblings that had been torn apart and then maintain contact with Tyler’s siblings through visits, phone calls, letters, birthday packages, etc.

From the moment I first met Brandon he stole my heart. My heart ached for this boy who was the last one to find a family. Then we rejoiced when, at age 12, he finally received his forever family.

His adoptive mother was wonderful and made contact between Brandon and Tyler a priority. Then she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. On Mother’s Day weekend, eleven months after his adoption day, she passed away. Things began to unravel for Brandon and within a year we lost contact. He had been moved multiple times as a result of his adoptive father being in and out of the hospital fighting his own battle with cancer. We called and sent letters with no response.

We didn’t know where Brandon was or how to get in contact with him…

So, you can imagine our delight when we received a call from a worker who had seen Brandon that day, spoke with him, and was looking to reconnect him with his biological siblings.

What I didn’t expect was the question that followed,

“So, would you consider taking Brandon in as a foster son?”

Pure panic coursed through my veins at the question so casually inquired of me.

I explained the situation. Ozzie wasn’t even home yet. We had no idea how stable or unstable he would be upon returning home. The other kids were already anxious about the upcoming transition and adding a 16, soon to be 17-year-old, to an already dicey situation seemed ludicrous. I told her we would talk as a family and pray about it but at that point I felt all we could really offer was external support for Brandon in the form of visits.

That night I didn’t sleep a wink as possible scenarios played through my mind. There was so much that could go wrong, so many reasons why this would be a bad idea and wouldn’t work, that I had mentally talked myself out of it before I even prayed about it.

As a family we talked and prayed extensively. The concerns I was having were mirrored by the other members of the family. On paper it didn’t add up. We couldn’t see how it would work. As much as we wanted Brandon to have a home and family, it seemed like an awful idea, especially on the cusp of Ozzie’s return home.

But our God is bigger than any pro/con list and I’m sure he chuckled at our reasoning for saying, “No.” He had big plans for our family. This wasn’t just about finding Brandon a foster home, this was about God delivering our missing son into our arms 16 years after his arrival on earth.

But I didn’t see that until I saw Brandon in person.

It had been a few years since our last visit. He was now 6 foot tall with facial hair. In our absence he had grown from boy into a man.

Our first family outing was to Idlewild Amusement Park. Toby and I sat on a bench as we watched Brandon join the other kids on one of the rides and in that moment I knew. I turned to look at Toby, “He is ours. I don’t know how this is going to work and I know we are crazy to consider it, but I know he is our son.”

Toby looked at me, ” I know,” he answered,

“I know.”

August 22nd Brandon moved in.

November 6th we celebrated his 17th birthday.

In a few more months we will be able to adopt him, making him a McCleery and giving him the forever family that has escaped him for 17 years.

It looked crazy on paper, as though there was no way it would work,

But our God is bigger than the mountains that stand in our way,

Bigger than the fears that paralyze us,

Bigger than the doubts that consume us,

He is the God of miracles,

And this week we celebrated our 6th miracle as he turned 17 years old.

I can’t help but marvel at the transformation occurring under our roof, both with Brandon and with our family as a whole.

November is National Adoption Month and we are a family that has been touched by adoption. Never in my life did I think our family would adopt a 17-year-old boy. Never did I think I would adopt it all. But now I look at our family and half our children came into our arms through the womb of another woman.

Adoption can be scary.

Adoption can be hard…very hard, but it is also one of the most inspiring, beautiful, miraculous journeys the Lord can take you on.

It has the power to heal hurts, expand hearts, and transform lives…

Not just the life of the adoptee, but the lives of each member of the adopting family.

If you have ever felt God whispering the adoption call to you and your family, I urge you to answer.

It is scary.

It is hard.

But it is worth it… So worth it!

This is what a mighty God can do with a hurt child and a flawed family who is willing to say, “yes.”

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Happy 17th Birthday, Brandon!

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How blessed we are to call you our son ❤️


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