Posted by Jon Federman
In June 2000, Sandi Serkess wanted to adopt a child. Even though she wanted an older boy of any race or religion, she found very few who met her needs. She went to adoption parties, looked on the web, and checked with the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE). As time passed, she worried that even when she found a child, it would still be six months before he could live with her and then another six months before the adoption became final. If it didn't work out, she would have to start again.
The week before Thanksgiving, Sandi spoke with her next-door neighbor. She had adopted privately and advised Sandi to look into it. Sandi called JF&CS where her father had been an adoption worker in the fifties. In talking with Judy, a JF&CS adoption employee, Sandi realized that private adoption was prohibitively expensive. "Come talk to me anyway," Judy insisted. Sandi agreed when she learned that Judy's mother had actually worked with her father decades earlier at JF&CS and that was why she was being so persistent.
Sandi came to JF&CS to meet with Judy the day before Thanksgiving. Before she could say hello, Judy told her, "I have a little boy for you and all you'll owe me is a picture." Judy gave her a number to call.
"My blood pressure went crazy and I was in shock," says Sandi. "Inside I was screaming to myself, ‘No, not now, not today,' but I knew I could not say no. A little boy needed a home; I had a home. What else was there to know?"
Sandi spoke to a man named Dragos who owned an adoption agency in Salem. He was Romanian, as was Sandi's family. He shared with her that a couple from New Hampshire had adopted a Romanian boy, picking him up at the airport and bringing him home. After one night, the couple decided that they could not keep him for personal reasons and brought him back to Dragos. If Dragos could not find a home for the emaciated and, understandably, hysterical boy, the boy would have to go back to Romania.
"Dragos was going on and on and I was more terrified than you can imagine. I asked for the boy's name and age and when I could have him. I wondered if I might be making a mistake but, then again, what guarantees are there in life anyway?" asked Sandi.
"He is four and a half, and his name is Johnny. You can have him today," Dragos told her. Sandi felt somewhat queasy and asked Dragos if she could pick Johnny up the next day, on Thanksgiving. Dragos agreed.
"I was up all night. I went shopping but bought nothing. How can you buy for someone you've never met? I borrowed toys and games and books," added Sandi. "I was in a state of shock and would be for some time. His middle name was Michael. Coincidentally, Michael was the name of my brother who had died. There were so many coincidences!"
"When I first got him, Johnny was wearing pants and a sweatshirt. No winter coat and it was frigid outside. But by the next morning I had three winter coats for him thanks to my friends. They brought bags of clothes and toys every day for the first few months. What a Thanksgiving!" added Sandi.
"It wasn't easy, but then nothing worthwhile ever is. He had been abandoned at birth and had many foster parents, some abusive. Learning to trust was a challenge for him, but eventually he did learn to trust. Today, Johnny is 19 years old. He is a good, sweet, respectful young man, who is exploring his options for the future. He has delivered food to the elderly and he has volunteered with the Salvation Army."
Sandi reflects, "My father helped so many people through JF&CS, including adoptive parents, back in the 1950s. Who would have believed that nearly a half century later, JF&CS would help bring him a wonderful grandson who he loved so much, and who loved him so dearly. I truly feel that Johnny was my father's reward for what he did there. Life has a strange way of working out, and for us it came around full circle."
Jon Federman is the JF&CS Staff Writer. A practicing attorney for more than 15 years, he is thrilled to bring his legal and persuasive writing skills to the JF&CS Marketing Communications department. Jon has a BA from Tufts University and a JD from Boston College Law School. In his spare time he is an exhibiting photographer and an award-winning cartoonist. Jon lived in London, England for five years before returning to Boston in 2011.