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Along life’s highway, there are many roads from which to choose. Sometimes those choices have an impact far beyond your imagining, can turn your world upside down and then right it again.
On that road, Gil and Carol Fletcher have made momentous decisions, rooted in their faith and desire to serve others. After managing church marriage encounter programs for years, they turned their attention to children needing homes, purchased a home in southern New Hampshire and became foster parents for special needs children. They didn’t intend to adopt, but then 4-year old Adam came into their lives and soon, his younger twin siblings, Lacey and Tom entered the picture.
In-state custody due to severe abuse in their birth family, the twins were placed with a foster family and Waypoint was asked to find a specialized foster care home for Adam because of his level of trauma. The state’s plan was for Adam to be “institutionalized” due to a troubling mental health diagnosis, violent outbursts, and suicidal thoughts. He wasn’t considered adoptable. This was a case that called for an extraordinary family. Waypoint believed that the Fletchers had what was needed to care for Adam’s unique situation. Waypoint's specialized foster care staff could support the placement which a standard state-licensed home was ill-equipped to do. Once the Fletchers met Adam they realized, “You shouldn’t give up on a 4-year old.” They made it their mission to help him overcome the adversities he had faced in his young life.
They were determined to provide the stability, nurturing and therapeutic support Adam needed. Losing your birth family is difficult for any child but it is even more problematic for a child who has been traumatized and maltreated as Adam had been. Adam tested limits constantly, acting out, engaging in violent verbal threats. Waypoint provided mental health counseling for Adam. Gil and Carol didn’t give up. They worked at making Adam feel safe, facilitated visits with the twins and when they discovered Lacey was being sexually abused in her foster home, they began to think about adopting all three children. Waypoint provided them with a special needs older child adoption expert to help them understand the dynamics of adding this sibling group to their family. This was no ordinary situation and it became more of a problem the closer they came to achieving permanence for the children.
At the 11th hour, the birth mother sued Waypoint to regain custody of Adam. Two attorneys were assigned to represent Waypoint and the Fletchers in this difficult case which took over a year to resolve, finally freeing all three children for adoption. After a two-year journey, Adam, Lacey, and Tom had their forever family.
The day Gil and Carol came home the town had papered their roof with a sign reading Fletchers Forever–now the family mantra. They continued to receive counseling for Adam and other family support services during the first years after the adoption, but a job change for Gil necessitated a family move to Minnesota. “I can’t say enough about CFS (Waypoint) and what it meant to us–kudos, kudos, kudos. When we moved, we lost all the legs on the table. You guys are as good as it gets and we can’t do better.”
Tough times continued. “Adam was always in your face, Tom was inwardly angry. Lacey got to a point where she just exploded and got physical.” In adolescence, Adam’s violence worsened. One therapist was afraid he might murder his parents. He threatened Carol all the time who said. “I tried to stand my ground, not get sucked in, bit my tongue.” Gil and Carol locked their bedroom door at night for protection. There were drugs, police involvement, lying. At one point they were going to counseling 5 days a week with the kids, together and individually, fighting for their kids, fighting for their family. They didn’t give up. At one point, due to Gil’s travel schedule, they placed Adam in a residential program to protect Carol and the rest of the family. Adam continued to rebel and threatened to move out. Gil told him that if he left he couldn’t come back. He needed to learn to make better choices. This tough-love approach was the beginning of a turnaround for Adam.
They are pleased with where the kids are today. “This story is not about the crap we went through, but where we have come to at the other side.”
Adam has a responsible job, is a Dad to two young sons and has a good relationship with his youngest son’s mother, a former girlfriend. Adam recently told his Dad, “I know I didn’t always do the right thing, but Dad, you taught me the right way.”
Tom is happily married, has a great wife and three children. Tom says, “You showed us something better. We thought you were weird. We’re not sure we wanted to be that weird, but you gave us hope for our future and security.” And Lacey is making progress with a steady job and living independently after several difficult years.
Recently, Carol and Gil chose a new road. Gil retired, they sold their home, bought a motor home and travel from state to state helping failing churches become revitalized. When in NH, where Adam and Tom live, they enjoy their visits with the boys and their grandchildren. They are extremely proud of their kids who at 38 and 36 are now plotting their own journeys.
And now the rest of the story: The young attorneys who met while representing the family later married and have since raised their own family. Both have continued to volunteer for Waypoint. Brad Kuster is a trustee and chairs the Children’s Advocacy Program. Thirty-four years ago, this was Annie McLane Kuster’s first case as a young attorney. It changed her practice focus to Family Law and Adoption. Today she is NH’s Congresswoman from the second district and continues to be a champion for children and families.
- Perceived behavioral and developmental issues make it less likely for potential parents to adopt older children, although the majority of children needing homes are three years old or older.
- For children over 3 adoption disruption occurs in between 10 – 16% of the cases.
- In adolescence, 1 in 4 adoptions often ends in disruption.
- It takes from several months to a couple of years for an adoption to become final.
Adoption is a highway with twists, turns, and potholes along the way. The Fletchers found that Waypoint was there to help them negotiate a very difficult road successfully. That and their mantra helped them on that journey. Fletchers Forever!
– Spring 2018