In 2015, Elijah and Deviana were removed from their biological parents’ care when Elijah was only a year and a half and Deviana six months old. The siblings were placed with a foster family through a foster care agency in Florida. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, their foster family experienced new stresses that left them unable to continue to provide a home for the pair. Having already spent years in the foster care system, their caseworker at the time placed Elijah and Deviana in a pre-adoptive home. Unfortunately, their road to adoption would be long and rocky.
As time went on, it became clear that Elijah and Deviana’s pre-adoptive family wasn’t the right fit. During a time that had so many changes for these two children, their pre-adoptive family was considering separating Elijah and Deviana.
Fortunately, with the help of Elijah and Deviana’s One Hope United team, as well as the advocacy of OHU’s partners at Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, a new match with loving parents was made for Elijah and Deviana. Dr. Letitia Browne-James, Elijah and Devian’s adoptive mother, is a licensed and board-certified clinical mental health counselor, and her husband, Mr. Jonah James served in the Army.
Dr. Browne-James and her husband knew adoption would be their path to parenting. After passing home studies, their adoption recruiter reached out to share details around Elijah and Deviana’s case. They worked to shield the children from the anxiety and stress of prolonged legal proceedings, while being open and honest with them. “I always wanted my children to know we weren’t giving up on them – we were actually fighting for them,” Dr. Browne-James said.
“These parents were present at every court date, and often shared updates with us via text or email on how their children were doing – the bad days and the good days,” shared Lindsay Dodich, BSW/CCWCM, Lead Adoption Specialist with OHU’s Florida Services. While Elijah and Deviana’s initial adjustment to their new home was challenging, their parents were ready to go above and beyond to make sure they received all the therapies and support they needed.
“They are the epitome of what foster and adoptive parents should be,” Lindsay concluded. “Letitia knew she was meant to be a mom. She kept her heart open, and never stopped believing in her family.” On August 4, 2022, Judge Greg A. Tynan finalized their adoption – ensuring Elijah and Deviana would always have the love, safety, and security of a forever family.
Because their case was open for seven years, almost every staff member on One Hope United’s Florida Adoption team got to know Elijah and Deviana. Knowing they are stable, and part of a loving family touched each of their hearts. Today, both Elijah and Deviana are thriving in school, and their behavioral and mental health are improving. Elijah was especially excited about having a last name that matched his parents’. He loves karate, action movies, bikes, and video games. Deviana is into dress-up, arts, makeup, and dolls. Their family has worked together to help the siblings improve their relationship, which is strong and healthy now.
When possible, keeping sibling groups together is always a priority for OHU Foster Care and Adoption staff. Lindsay Dodich said, “Elijah and Deviana have only had each other their whole lives. I’ve never seen siblings who are so fiercely protective of each other. As they’ve continued to grow and thrive with their parents, I’ve seen their healing journey move forward.”
Dr. Browne-James shared, “Lindsay kept me sane. She is an amazing person and was always professional and responsive. She advocated whenever she could to help us get to this point.”
When asked what advice she would share with other couples considering adoption, Dr. Browne-James shared, “You should prepare for unexpected bumps in the road, but know what you’re fighting for, and that it will be worth it in the end.”
“When I tell you it has been a long road to permanency for these children, I mean it,” said Charles Vance, CCWCMS, Adoption Supervisor, Florida Services. “The last 2 years have been their toughest. Challenging does not begin to describe the road it took to get them to this day, but our team could not be happier or prouder to see where they are now.”
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