By Jon Federman
"I had always thought that adoption was a great way to grow a family," says Shari McGuirk. Along with her husband Steve, Shari had been trying to grow their family, but was unsuccessful. "Even though we had one child, we always felt that something and someone was missing. We had considered adoption but were too nervous to pursue it until I met Anne Woodfork, head of Adoption Services at Jewish Family Services (JFS) North Shore."
At the time, Shari was working for the Jewish Federation of the North Shore in Salem as the head of the Women's Division. JFS North Shore (which merged with JF&CS in 2011) was in the same building and Shari knew everyone there. Shari and Steve knew that when they were ready, JFS Adoption Services would be the perfect option for them.
Eventually, Shari met with Anne and her assistant. She told them that she was open to adopting a child of any nationality or any background. Anne suggested that because Shari and Steve already had a six-year-old daughter, they might be better off adopting a baby instead of an older child, so that there would be an easier adjustment at home.
As luck would have it, Anne received a call from a hospital shortly after their meeting, telling her that a young woman had just given birth to a girl and that she wanted to place her baby for adoption. Immediately, Anne called Shari to see if she and Steve would be interested. "Of course we're interested," Shari responded.
"It had been just six weeks from our initial meeting until Lily came home with us," Shari remarks. "We hadn't even gone through the entire process. I had not even told my friends and family because I expected it to be a very long process."
Lily is now 16 years old and is going into her junior year of high school. "It's been amazing," Shari marvels. "We took a huge leap of faith in going this route, but it's one of the best things we've ever done in our lives. Lily is a wonderful child with a huge soul and a big heart. Our older daughter, Emma immediately took to her and our entire family completely embraced her. She's always known about her adoption. We've talked about it openly and read her stories about it. We gave her the Hebrew name Matana, which means "gift," because we felt that we had been given the greatest gift when she came into our lives. We were blessed with her arrival and consider ourselves lucky every single day."
Shari and her family continued the connection with JFS North shore for about five years after Lily was born. "To have that support from the agency and Anne helped us address any of the challenges that all adoptive families and new parents face," says Shari. "It really felt like we had all adopted Lily together. It was a community of support that wrapped their arms around us and gave us the confidence we needed. To this day, we all think of Anne and Anne as our guardian angels because they brought Lily into our lives."