From Foster to Adoption: A follow up on the Gatlin Family
Last we spoke with Mary and Todd Gatlin, they were foster parents to then six-year-old Serenity. Since then, their lives have transformed in the best way. Serenity’s adoption was finalized in July of 2019 – Mary describes it as, “the best day of our lives”.
On the day of Serenity’s adoption, friends, family, and dozens of others filled the Rockford courthouse to celebrate. “She knew the day was all about her. It was amazing to see her feeling the love,” Mary explains. The large group of supporters even made t-shirts in honor of this special day.
Mary says it was comforting to have the adoption finalized and it allowed the whole family to breathe a sigh of relief. “It took a lot of anxiety away from my daughter. She knows that she’s in control and we’re here to keep her safe,” she emphasizes.
The Gatlin family loves spending time together and Mary describes them as an outdoors family. “Serenity loves to go on hikes with us and visit local trails,” she shares. The family also enjoys taking trips together – sometimes inviting members of Serenity’s biological family to join them. “The best way for us to respect our daughter is to stay in contact with her biological family,” Mary explains. “Serenity and her brother are very close and love spending time together,” she adds.
Although it can be difficult, Mary encourages other adoptive parents to embrace their child’s biological family as well. “Give the biological parents a chance. They love their kids, but they often haven’t been given the right tools to help build their futures,” Mary advises. “Set boundaries but keep an open heart. It’s not about you, it’s about your child and what’s healthy for them – it’s a case by case basis.”
Serenity, now in second grade, brings home impressive report cards. She loves math and science – and even tells Mary she wants to be a scientist when she’s older. When it comes to Mary’s hopes and dreams for her daughter, she gets emotional when telling us that more than anything, she wants Serenity to know anything is possible. “I want her to take on the world. The sky is the limit! I tell her as often as I can – you can be anything you want to be.”
Mary tells us her family’s lives have changed immensely over the years, as Serenity has now been with them for about three years. Despite the lengthy and sometimes difficult journey, she says Children’s Home & Aid fully supported her through it all.
“Patty, my licensing worker, is amazing. She’s always been there when I reach out, whether it’s good or bad. She’s one in a million,” Mary offers when discussing her support systems.
Children’s Home & Aid’s Foster Mentoring Program has also been a key to success for Mary and Todd. “I wouldn’t be a foster parent or have gone through the adoption side without my mentor, Ashley. Having that stability of knowing she’s been in my shoes is everything. She’s introduced me to other foster parents as well and gave me so many connections,” Mary tells us.
At the end of the day, Mary assures us it’s the little things that make it all worth it. “Waking Serenity up in the morning with a kiss on the check is my favorite thing, the best thing in the world. Being her mom is a privilege.”
If you would like to learn more about the adoption services at Children’s Home & Aid, please visit: https://www.childrenshomeandaid.org/adoption-services/
For information on our foster care services or becoming a foster parent, visit: https://www.childrenshomeandaid.org/lovinghomes/