“Jacob is a very kind young man whose greatest gifts are his quiet self-confidence, strength of character, and perseverance. We believe that we adopted each other. Having him as our son has enriched our lives.”
Cindy and Nancy Miller-Lusignan adopted their son Jacob in August of 2020, one month before Jacob turned 18. This Mother’s Day, One Hope United celebrates the selfless love our foster and adoptive mothers share, and the lasting impact they make in the lives of their children every day.
Nancy and Cindy received their first calling to become foster parents in 1989, when their nephew, Scottie, needed an immediate safe place to live. The situation was so urgent that after racing to New Hampshire, Nancy and Cindy finalized their guardianship of Scottie in the living room of the Justice of the Peace that night. “We had a lot to learn about the world of fostering, but we jumped in with both of our hearts,” Cindy shared.
Cindy and Nancy have always loved working with teenagers, providing unconditional love and support to their son Scottie as he healed from past trauma and became an adult. They said, “Honestly, the key principles for loving and raising teenagers are no different than for toddlers and young children. All they need is love, consistency, and help building a strong foundation.”
While it was impossible for two women to legally adopt at the time, Scottie found his forever family in Cindy and Nancy. Scottie shared, “I know who my parents are. I chose them because they were always there with love and structure in place. They say it takes a village to raise a child – I believe it takes a strong woman, and I have two.”
The couple got involved with One Hope United after attending an event at the Lake Villa residential home in 2009. One afternoon, they shared with an OHU staff member that their dog, Penne, is a certified therapy dog. Soon after, Nancy and Cindy began volunteering with the Lake Villa program regularly, often bringing Penne along to provide therapeutic services and comfort to young people on the campus. Cindy and Nancy are still actively involved with the Lake Villa program, and Cindy currently serves as Treasurer on One Hope United’s Board of Directors.
When Jacob was first placed at Lake Villa, staff members called Nancy, and asked if she could bring Penne over for a visit with Jacob. Cindy and Jacob began spending time together almost every week. Cindy said, “The very second I met Jacob I fell in love with him and knew I wanted to spend more time with him. After all of two minutes, I just knew we were meant to be together forever. Jacob radiates personal strength, and the depth of his character is apparent to anyone who meets him.”
Nancy and Cindy continued to spend time with Jacob as he settled into life at OHU’s Lake Villa campus. They have enjoyed attending Jacob’s basketball games ever since he was in seventh grade, when Cindy was the only person he allowed to come because he knew she wouldn’t embarrass him. “That was an immense honor and privilege!” Cindy shared.
While they felt disappointed when Jacob was placed with another foster parent after completing treatment at Lake Villa, Cindy and Nancy knew they wanted to remain in his life. Cindy began visiting Jacob in Rockford a few times each week to attend basketball games, school events, tutoring, meetings – anything that was needed or wanted. They also welcomed Jacob into their home for weekend visits and vacations.
After slightly more than a year, new demands, including caring for an ill family member and juggling education and work, led Jacob’s foster father to ask Nancy and Cindy if they would become Jacob’s foster parents. Jacob moved in with them the next day.
Nancy and Cindy shared that their OHU licensing worker was very skilled, and kept them informed at every step of their foster care and adoption journey. “She coached us on technical issues and calmed our nerves,” they said. “Most of all, in the early morning when I got the call from Jacob’s foster dad asking if we could take him, she made it happen in 24 hours. She made a huge difference.”
Because Jacob was an older youth in care, he had the right to determine his permanency status – whether or not he wanted to be adopted. As an older teen with a long history of trauma and failed placements, Jacob was most interested in developing independent living skills, not adoption. But one morning a few days before an upcoming permanency hearing, Jacob told Cindy, “I’m ready now.”
Jacob will be graduating from high school in a couple of days, and is looking forward to attending college in the fall, where he earned a scholarship to study art and has signed to play college basketball.
When asked what advice they would share with other foster or adoptive parents, Cindy and Nancy shared, “Strength in and commitment to your decision are critical to success. You will have friends and family members who will not understand, but you will find support in unexpected places. The end goal of fostering is to help a young person find their own way and develop their own voice.”
Cindy concluded, “Our family is undeniable proof that One Hope United makes dreams come true for kids and parents.”