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The Dean Family
Columbia, South Carolina
The only way to phrase it, to describe the heartbreak suffered by Precious and Melvin Dean, was that they lost their child.
The couple from Columbia, South Carolina, – she is 27, he is 34 – had a 5-year-old boy placed in their home. He had been born to a 13-year-old who was unable to care for him, as was her family.
Eventually, as the boy made his way through the child welfare system, caseworkers became convinced he would never return to his birth mother. That’s what led to his placement with the Deans.
The couple had their family completed for three months. But last July a judge granted custody back to the child’s birth mother.
The boy is in good health, but at the time it felt like he had been ripped from their arms. And despite his short stay with them, the Deans and their extended family bonded with the boy.
Losing him hurt worse than they ever could have imagined.
“It doesn’t go away at all,” Precious Dean said. “He left an imprint on my whole family, not just me and Melvin.”
But the story of the Deans isn't just about the heartbreak of being separated from a child. Now, as the couple waits for their next placement, their story is about keeping the faith. It's also a testament to the importance of giving every child a forever family. No matter their child's age, a parent supports them even in the darkest times.
The Importance of Having a Support Network
Precious Dean credits her caseworker, Amanda Koon, AdoptUSKids’ February Caseworker of the Month, for her patience and diligence and support.
But in the end, Dean freely admits, it was her mother, Carmen, who did what no caseworker could do, who did what only a parent can do: pushed her when she needed to be pushed.
“In the beginning I was angry about it; I hated the system for it. I'm not angry anymore. My whole concern is as long as he is taken care of, I don't mind.”
What ultimately brought Dean back to the idea of adopting was her mom. Not just because her mother knew she wanted to be a mother herself, but also because her mom was there for her.
“I needed my mom,” she said with a laugh. “I wanted to throw myself a pity party for a long time.”
Whether it was 4 a.m. or 4 p.m., Dean knew her mom would be a shoulder for her to cry on.
Dean and her mother didn't always have the best relationship. Her mother made it clear that she was Dean's mother, not her friend.
“My mom is that kind of mom,” Dean said. “A no-nonsense kind of mother.”
She told Dean to keep her heart open.
“I don't think one bad experience should stop you,” she remembers her mother saying. “What you're doing is a good thing, it's an awesome thing.”
Koon, the Dean's caseworker, provided support, and was a reliable source of information and guidance, but she couldn't fill the role of a parent.
“I don’t think she wanted to push it too hard, not as hard as mom. Of course, this is my mom.”
Their conversations centered on teaching and learning how to love, and how one day Dean plans to be in the role her mother is now, loving and pushing and comforting and encouraging her own child through life's challenges.
Deciding to Pursue Adoption Again
“Even though it was a decision between me and my husband, before we made the decision we called my mom.”
With encouragement, and much soul searching, the Deans decided to renew their search for a child in November. At present, they are waiting on a placement.
“It hurts at times, we did get attached,” she said. “But there are more kids out there that need families.”
After the tears, and prayers, in the end, what they were left with was the memory of joy.
“That feeling we had as parents,” she said. It brought them closer together, it made them more responsible, more considerate of other people's feelings, it matured them, opened their hearts.
“It gave you more to look forward to, and that is why we wanted to do it again,” she said. “Whether through the birth of own children, or adopted, we look forward to being parents, and that's what motivates us. It will happen, one way or another.”
Inspired by this story?
- Child welfare professionals: Take action by learning strategies to retain foster and adoptive parents.
- Families: Take action by learning more about how to foster and how to adopt.
Media who would like to interview the Dean family, contact us at email@example.com or 888-200-4005.