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A Chance Finding: How This Family Came To Be By: Jo-Ann and Al Vargas

We began our life in foster care in 1996.  It has been a wonderful experience for me and my husband Al. Since 1996 we have had twenty-one (21) children come to live with us.  Some stayed only an extended weekend, while others are staying for the rest of their lives! We decided to embark into foster care when we realized having a natural child was not in God’s plan for us.   I had brought to my marriage with Al a nine year old son, Nicholas.  I had been a widow when we met but luckily Nicholas and Al hit it off from the start.  Both were very interested in Ice Hockey and soon Al became his coach.  Their relationship is still strong.

I had gone through the usual routes trying to conceive and then eventually to adopt privately.  Each time there were obstacles that just seemed too overwhelming to conquer so we decided we would just let it be.

Quite by accident Al came across a tiny advertisement for becoming a foster parent.  Little did we know after making a call and taking several classes that we would be parents to six special children by 2010!

Our son Jonathan who we have had since he is two days old is multi disable. At the age of 12 he is still unable to count to 10 consistently.  His attention span is very limited.  Since his biological mother drank during her pregnancy he was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  We have tried several medications to help him but as the doctors have told me, there is not much you can help if the child has brain damage.  Jonathan attends an out of district school that can provide him with specialized education and help him cope with is aggression. He loves hockey and plays for the New Jersey DareDevils, an organization that is dedicated to teaching children with disabilities to play hockey.

Our son Jordan, age 10, (Jonathan’s biological brother) who we have had since he was two weeks old was also born handicapped.  His problems manifested as Autism and developmental delays.  He has apraxia which is a speech problem.  His speech has improved but still has a difficult time expressing himself.   Jordan attends school in district but is in a self contained class that provides him with a specialized education.  Jordan loves soccer and is enrolled in a special program in New Providence which is dedicated to teaching children with disabilities to play soccer.

Our daughter Jessica is now age 11.  She is a very sensitive girl.  We have had Jessica since she is 9 months old.   Her biological mother gave her up because she “didn’t lover her”.  She stated she couldn’t mother her or have any affection towards her because she was a product of rape.  She was hardly ever picked up except to be fed.   This has now manifested itself as “if you love me, you will feed me”.  Food is very important to her.  The doctors have warned us to watch for any signs of eating disorders.  She also has extremely low self esteem even though she is beautiful and has a great personality.  Jessica is also developmentally delayed and is in several self contained classes in Middle School. She is an excellent soccer player and plays for our towns travel soccer team.  She also was accepted to play with her Middle School team.

Our 6 year old son is Joey.  Joey came to us when he was 2 months old.  He was born addicted to Heroin and went through withdrawal for two months. His mother had gotten no prenatal care until the last trimester of her pregnancy and was using constantly.

Joey is a very smart, personable boy but has been diagnosed with ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  He becomes very exploitive and can become violent with no warning at all.  He was brought back to our school district last year because his academics were very good but soon it was evident that he could not cope in a general class.  We placed him in an out of district school where he can get the education he needs and learn the tools to help him control temper and impulses.  Joey is very athletic but because of his issues finds it hard to be a team player.  He asked to be enrolled in gymnastics and he is excelling to date there.

This past July we adopted two sisters, Jaslyn and Jewel.  We have had each since birth and at present Jaslyn is 3, and Jewel 2.  These babies came to us because their biological mother was very young and was doing drugs.  When their biological mother went for her pre natal check up while pregnant with Jaslyn, it was determined that she was using marijuana.  After constant monitoring and blood work it was clear she had not stopped and even began using other drugs.  When Jaslyn was born she went directly to her biological Great Aunt.   During the time Jaslyn was with her Great Aunt, and her family, her biological mother and father threatened to kill them, and their three month old son.  DYFS was called and Jaslyn was brought to our home where she has been ever since.  Her sister, Jewel, was born in May 2008.  Because we had Jaslyn and the severity of the DYFS case, Jewel also was released from the hospital into our care.  She too has remained with us every since.

From a chance finding of an article one inch in diameter, through heartache wondering if we would ever have a family of our own; this family came to be.  It’s often chaotic and unorganized but it’s a true testament that God knows where people need to end up in life and who they need to end up with.

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