A Chance Finding: How This Family Came To Be

by Jo-Ann and Al Vargas

We began our life in adopting foster care children in 1996. It has been a wonderful experience for me and my husband Al. Since 1996, we have had twenty-one children come to live with us. Some stayed only an extended weekend, while others are staying for the rest of their lives! We decided to embark into foster care when we realized having a natural child was not in God’s plan for us. I had brought my nine year old son Nicholas into my marriage with Al. I had been a widow when we met but luckily Nicholas and Al hit it off from the start. Both were very interested in ice hockey and soon Al became his coach. Their relationship is still strong.

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I had gone through the usual routes trying to conceive, and then eventually to adopt privately. Each time there were obstacles that just seemed too overwhelming to conquer, so we decided we would just let it be.

Al accidentally came across a tiny advertisement for becoming a foster parent. Little did we know after making a call and taking several classes that we would be parents to six special children by 2010!

Our son Jonathan, who we have had since he is two days old, is multi-disabled. At the age of twelve, he is still unable to count to ten consistently. His attention span is very limited. His biological mother drank during her pregnancy. As a result, he was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). We have tried several medications to help him but as the doctors have told me, there is not much you can do to help if the child has brain damage. Jonathan attends an out of district school that can provide him with specialized education and help him cope with is aggression.

He loves hockey and plays for the New Jersey Dare Devils (NJDD). NJDD was started in 2002 by the mother of a child seeking to find a physical outlet for her child afflicted with autism. Today, boys and girls with various special needs are playing hockey.

Our son Jordan, age ten (Jonathan’s biological brother whom we have had in our family since he was two weeks old), was also born with a physical challenge. His problems manifested as Autism and developmental delays. He has apraxia (a motor speech disorder that makes it difficult for children to speak). His speech has improved but still has a difficult time expressing himself. Jordan attends school in district but is in a self contained class that provides him with a specialized education. Jordan loves soccer and is enrolled in a special program in New Providence which is dedicated to teaching children with disabilities to play soccer.

Our daughter Jessica is now eleven years old. She is a very sensitive girl. We have had Jessica since she was nine months old. Her biological mother gave her up because she “didn’t lover her.” She stated she couldn’t “mother” her or have any affection toward her because she was a product of rape. She was hardly ever picked up except to be fed. This has now manifested itself into an “if you love me, you will feed me” situation. Food is very important to her. The doctors have warned us to watch for any signs of eating disorders. She also has extremely low self esteem even though she is beautiful and has a great personality. Jessica is also developmentally delayed and is in several self contained classes in middle school. She is an excellent soccer player and plays for our towns travel soccer team. She also was accepted to play with her middle school team.

Our son Joey is six years old. He came into our family when he was two months old. He was born addicted to heroin and went through withdrawal for two months. His mother never received prenatal care until the last trimester of her pregnancy and was constantly taking drugs.

Joey is a very smart, personable boy, but has been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). He becomes very exploitative and can become violent with no warning at all. He was brought back to our school district last year not because his academics were very good, but soon it was evident that he could not cope in a general class. We placed him in an out of district school where he can get the education he needs and learn “to use tools” to help him control his temper and impulses. Joey is very athletic, but because of his issues, finds it hard to be a team player. He asked to be enrolled in gymnastics and, to date, he is excelling.

This past July we adopted two sisters: Jaslyn and Jewel. We have had both since birth. These babies came to us because their biological mother was very young and was on drugs. When their biological mother went for her prenatal check-up while pregnant with Jaslyn, it was determined that she had been using marijuana. After constant monitoring and blood work, it was clear she had not stopped and began using other drugs.

When Jaslyn was born, she went to live with her great aunt. During that time, her biological mother and father threatened to kill them, and their three month old son. Department of Children Protection and Permanency (DCPP) was notified and Jaslyn was brought to our home where she has been ever since. Her sister, Jewel, was born in May 2008.

While we had Jaslyn and this situation was “compounded” by the intensity of the DYFS case...Jewel was also released from the hospital into our care. She too has remained with.

From a chance finding of an article one inch in width, through heartache wondering if we would ever have a family of our own; this family came to be. It’s often chaotic and unorganized but it’s a true testament that God knows where people need to end up in life and who they need to end up with.

TONY'S COMMENT: Gotta keep on going. As Aretha Franklin sings it with George Michael...

I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me)

When the valley was low
(It didn't stop me) Nothing can stop me, no
(Knew you were waiting) No, I
(Knew you were waiting for me)
(I didn't falter) When the mountain was high
(I still believed) Oh, when the valley was low
(It didn't stop me) No, it didn't stop me, no
(Knew you were waiting) stop me
(Knew you were waiting for me)