By: Sherry Williams Kidd | Twitter: @DinwiddieMonitr
Posted: December 18, 2018 | 2:45 p.m.
DINWIDDIE – This November was recognized as National Adoption Month across the Commonwealth, America, and right here in Dinwiddie County.
In Virginia, there are more than 5,000 children in the foster care program, and more than 600 children have the goal of being adopted into a loving home. All of these children are available for placement in an adoptive home. In Dinwiddie County, the Family Services Unit, under the direction of Ms. Doretha Townes, has placed many children in forever homes.
“Every month, every day, is focused on adoptions,” said Rose Mastracco, Director, Dinwiddie County Department of Social Services. “While the goal of the Social Services Agency is to return children to their biological families, this is not always possible. There may be parents who have died, or for some other serious or complex reasons, a parent can no longer handle the responsibility of their children. It is in these situations that we try to find a family that is willing to dedicate their lives and homes to a child.”
One very special couple in Dinwiddie County, who first chose to become foster parents, and subsequently decided to adopt a child, are J.W. and Jackie Weatherford. The story of the decisions they have made in their lives is beyond humbling to all those that are familiar with the Weatherfords. The love, caring, compassion, and extent of giving by this couple and their family, is nothing less than amazing.
“J.W. and I met in 1987,” said Jackie Weatherford. “He was from South Carolina, and I was from Texas. I had two little boys, ages 10 and 4. J.W. and I were here in Virginia for a short-term job. We became great friends, and the rest is history!
Fast forward their lives by 15-yrs, and J.W. and Jackie had fallen in love and married. They co-parented and raised Jackie’s biological sons together. The Weatherfords bought a home here in Dinwiddie County and life was :wonderful.”
“Our oldest son had his own son when he was still quite young,” said Jackie. “Our grandson lived with us in our home, so we were parenting young children again. Then, a debilitating illness and a failed spinal fusion surgery stopped me in my tracks. I was unable to work, and feelings of guilt, failure, and depression drove me to reevaluate my purpose. J.W. had always been my rock and my compass, and he definitely is our family’s reality meter. We talked and J.W. helped me to realize that as a young mother, I had succeeded in juggling 12-hour workdays, family, our home, and everything that comes with all of that. This was my aha moment! A Mom–I realized that I could still be a Mom! It was then that we decided we could be foster parents.”
The Weatherfords researched absolutely everything they could find on fostering. Their research led them to the KidsPeace Foster Agency. This agency trained the Weatherfords with the skills they would need to provide therapeutic foster care.
“J.W. jumped in with both feet,” Jackie said. “He has always been such an advocate for kids–it runs in his family! The very day that we received our certification to foster children, we also received a notice from Dinwiddie County about a baby at Southside Regional Medical Center. This precious baby was only 5-weeks old. The baby boy had been born prematurely and was ready to leave the hospital. The infant boy needed a place to live, just for a short while, until his family felt like they had adequately prepared to care for him. Well, we picked up that beautiful baby boy that very day (and that’s another story in itself)! That little boy, our son Jacob Weatherford, has been with us ever since. Our goal to be foster parents turned into a permanent adoption. When Jacob’s parents decided that they could never be ready to take him into their home, it was a no-brainer for us. J.W. and I loved that baby boy more than words can say and officially made him our son. Our 14-year-old son, Jacob, is now a freshman at Dinwiddie High School.”
“Placing a child who does not have a home with a loving family, is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job,” said Doretha Townes, Director, Family Services Unit, Dinwiddie Department of Social Services.
Even when the Weatherfords first foster child turned into a permanent loving adoption, they decided to foster other children. Through the years, the Weatherfords have fostered many children for various lengths of time. Some of these children had special needs and stayed with the Weatherfords until their own forever families could be found. Some of the children the Weatherfords fostered just stayed for a night or two when their parents found themselves in dangerous or unsafe situations. Over the years, the Weatherfords have fostered sibling groups, a teen mother with a baby, and children of all ages, from many ethnic and diverse backgrounds.
“All of the children we have fostered have brought many different stories,” Jackie said. “Some of these stories would make you laugh, and some of the stories would make you cry. Every single child, and every single story has left an impression in our hearts and in our souls. Our family is a little different, a little hectic, but every single child that has come into our lives—the ones who came and went, the ones that stayed for several months, those that stayed an entire year or more, and our 14-year-old son, Jacob, as brought something wonderful and immeasurable into our home. They have taught us that to be “normal,” you don’t have to own a big fancy house, have a lot of money, and that you don’t have to have a cookie-cutter household, where everything is on-schedule, runs smoothly, and where no confusion exists. ALL a family needs is a lot of love, patience, understanding, and acceptance!”
The Virginia Heart Galleries have been created throughout the Commonwealth to provide much-needed exposure of the faces of children that are awaiting adoption. Anyone interested in adopting a child may go to the website http://heartgalleryofamerica.org. Residents of Dinwiddie County can contact the Department of Social Services by telephone at (804) 469-4524, and speak to Ms. Townes, to obtain additional information, or to express an interest in fostering to adopt.
“I hope this story of our family has made at least one family or person stop and think about fostering or adoption,” Jackie said. “Every one of us in our community can give something because all of our children deserve to be safe, happy, and to be loved.”
If you are not related to Scrooge or the Grinch, you have probably almost certainly been touched by this story. This wonderful couple that decided they had more to give 14-years-ago, took the necessary steps to become foster parents. Then, on the very day they received their certification, they were notified to pick up a baby boy from the hospital—as he needed fostering short-term. That baby boy became their son. Raising their precious boy, they realized they were capable of giving even more—and they did.
The Weatherfords began fostering children—many children—and though they are now in their early-60’s, they still continue to foster children in need; and that little baby boy, their son, is now a 14-year-old that attends Dinwiddie High School.