Congratulations to foster parents Melissa and Melinda Stevens from Laramie County for being nominated by Senator Mike Enzi, and chosen as a 2019 Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) Angels in Adoption Honoree. The Stevens are the first Wyoming family to be honored as a National Angel in Adoption.
The Stevens are invited to attend the Angels in Adoption leadership program and celebratory gala on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. November 13-14, 2019. The following biography was submitted on behalf of the Stevens:
“Melinda and Melissa felt the call to foster children a decade ago. With their oldest daughter a teen and the prospect of an empty home in a few years, they realized that they still wanted to parent young children. While Melinda had received her Bachelor’s in Early Education with an emphasis on childhood developmental delays, Melissa worked as the Charge Nurse in the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center ER and felt a special draw to her pediatric patients. After the first foster child was placed under their care, Melinda was certain that their family had a lot to give and was committed to helping every child that entered their home. Fostering can be an emotionally draining experience – children can be placed into a home with nothing but the clothes on their backs and in some cases, not even wearing their own clothing. And, the circumstances that led to the child’s placement in foster care could often be unimaginable in terms of neglect and even violence. Melinda realized that even though she was offering a safe and welcoming home, each child had experienced some form of trauma and oftentimes needed a specialist’s care. This could be counseling for emotional damage. Oftentimes, the children had developmental deficits that required physical, speech or occupational therapy. Melinda became an expert at navigating the various agencies that could offer these services to ensure that every child was not just getting a safe and loving home but getting the best care possible for their emotional, intellectual and physical well-being.
When Melinda and Melissa first took in two brothers, Michael and Hayden, who had been severely neglected they realized that they wanted to do more than be a temporary safe family but wanted to offer the brothers a permanent family. In 2008, Michael was a 3-year old who hadn’t yet begun talking while Hayden at one year old had many physical issues that required immediate attention including dental surgery. After 3 years as foster children, Michael and Hayden were adopted. Michael is now an active teen who loves robotics and can build anything with his hands. He’s proven to be talented at music and until his junior high offered band classes, he taught himself multiple instruments by watching online videos. As the younger brother, Hayden still seeks approval from his big brother but is still the jokester of the family. He loves Japanese comics and is now working on learning Japanese so he can visit there.
Brylee was the next child to be adopted. Brylee arrived as a four year old who had been removed from another foster home and had experienced nothing but abandonment and neglect. She was quiet and often silent but would then have extreme behavioral outbursts that were challenging for her school. Now a beautiful and intelligent 10 year old, Brylee is full of energy and love. She has many different interests and sometimes talked about becoming a police officer, a doctor or maybe a hair and makeup specialist. She loves to be in charge and tries to boss her brothers around.
Surieck, 10, joined the family when he was just a little over a year old. After many court-facilitated attempts to reunite with his birth mother, she made the ultimate sacrifice and said she knew he would have a better chance at life in Melinda and Melissa’s home and relinquished her parental rights. Surieck has proven to be a daredevil and loves to mountain bike trails with Melissa and wants to try his hand at motocross. He loves American history and learning about the military from Melissa. He has a special way with pets and other children especially babies. Surieck says he hopes to either join the military or perhaps become a veterinarian.
Andy came into the family as an infant straight from Denver Children’s Hospital with a traumatic brain injury from “shaken baby syndrome”. Andy had significant motor challenges and required physical therapy to help him learn to walk. There was not a clear path for how the TBI would affect Andy’s development so Melinda and Melissa had to parent Andy carefully to be sure to get professional therapy as deficits from the TBI emerged. Now 8, Andy is outgoing, incredibly strong athletic and very protective of his family. He loves skateboarding, dancing and loves the drums. His neurologist has said that Andy’s emotional regulation issues and outbursts are direct results of the TBI. Andy is now homeschooled to give him an environment where he can rest as needed when he gets headaches.
The last adopted child to enter Melinda and Melissa’s was Wyatt. He came to the family at six years old via another foster home. Wyatt was diagnosed with a very rare chromosomal disorder, 17Q partial trisomy which results in significant intellectual disability. While he understands that he is different from the other children, he overcomes his setbacks by never giving up, constantly asking questions and using his loving personality to win over all those that he meets. He loves trucks, heavy equipment, really any motorized vehicle and dreams of being a bus driver.
The latest child in Melissa and Melinda’s care is Baby “A” who came to the home at seven weeks old and going through withdrawal from becoming addicted to drugs in utero. While he has had many medical issues, he is now a joyful toddler learning to climb and getting into everything.
The Stevens’ oldest daughter, Emily, has followed her passion to serve her country. Emily is a C-130 loadmaster with the Wyoming Air National Guard. She has been deployed overseas, has traveled to over 15 countries and is a proud big sister to her younger siblings.
When asked about how they manage such a large family, Melinda and Melissa just share that they love their family and cannot imagine their home without any of their children. They are blessed with a wonderful extended family including grandparents and aunts and uncles that love on the children and have developed special relationships with each child. Melinda and Melissa acknowledge that it’s not easy but always say that each day with the family is better than the day before.”
Congratulations to Melinda and Melissa on this remarkable recognition!!! And equally as important, thank you for all the time, love, sweat and hard work on behalf of the Department and the young people’s lives you have forever impacted.