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The Lewis Family
Ohio was cold, with temperatures hovering around 15 degrees and a thin blanket of snow on the ground, when Traci Lewis beamed about her two girls.
“Kennedy is sixteen now and I adopted her when she was an infant. MacKenzie was 18 months old and is now seven.” Lewis said “Things are going great. If I had given birth to them myself I couldnʼt have asked for anything better than those two.”
Traci is a caring, compassionate mother to her two girls, but what makes her unique is she has been single through both of her adoptions.
“I always wanted to do it. I thought I would be married, but God had other plans.”
Single parents adopting is not usually the ﬁrst choice for many caseworkers plowing through the piles of requests. Lewis, however, is part of what some social workers see as the new trend in adoptions. “We are realizing that everybodyʼs needs are different,” said Liska Hall, an adoption assessor and caseworker with the Franklin County branch of childrenʼs services in Ohio.
Hall helped Lewis with her second adoption and she knew right away that while Lewis was a single mom, it would not matter one bit.
“When I met Traci I was blown away. She was just amazing right off the bat,” Hall looked at the home study and the Child Characteristic Checklist before making the decision to place Traciʼs youngest with her.
Lewis had already adopted once by the time MacKenzie came into her life so she knew the challenges she was facing, but to her those challenges were part of the experience. “It was the same challenges as everyone with kids. I donʼt see my experience being any different,” she said.
One issue that was different for Lewis, however, was when her ﬁrst daughterʼs birth mother died suddenly.
“The older one struggles with being a teenager and with the added struggle of losing her birth mother. All the questions she had wonʼt be able to be learned. All her history. She said it is a blessing being with me, and sheʼs thankful that her birth family had the foresight to know they didnʼt have the ﬁnances to raise her.”
Charlotte Osterman worked with Lewis more than a decade ago as a caseworker on her ﬁrst adoption and still remembers Lewis because of Lewisʼ determination to keep her daughterʼs birth family in her life. “It was her level of openness to working with the birth family. She courageously embraced the concept and she remained with her daughter. She was very willing to maintain contact for her daughter. She did a great thing with that.”
With these challenges it would be natural to wonder why Lewis wanted to adopt a second child. The reason came as much from her ﬁrst daughter as from her. “She (Kennedy) was very involved with it. They interviewed her and everything. She prompted me to do it in fact. She was always saying ʻI want a sister I want a sister.”
The decision also had a deeper meaning. “It occurred to me that when I go, sheʼs going to be all alone. Now they are sisters in every sense of the word. Just like sisters they ﬁght and they protect each other.”
While both Hall and Osterman are quick to point out what an active parent Lewis is, they also say it was more than Lewis that made the adoptions work so well. “She had a strong family network,” Osterman said. Lewis is also fast to point to the support she has had from her family in helping raise her girls. “I live right around the corner from my parents,” Lewis said. “In fact they are over there right now.”
Working full time has not taken anytime away from Lewis being the primary caregiver for her girls. They are all inseparable, she said. “We do so much stuff. Whatever I do they do. Iʼm a ﬁrm believer in exposure to education so we experience everything together. We go on trips all the time and we really get in there every time.” Her favorite thing to hear is when the three of them go on trips and strangers comment on her family. “I love it when they say we all look alike.” she said with a laugh.
Those looking into single parent adoption should be prepared for long waits and even some frustration along the way, Lewis said. The results, however, are life-changing. Lewis says not having a signiﬁcant other should never keep someone from opening their heart to adoption.
Osterman and Hall say they are seeing more and more adoption applications from singles. “We advocated for single parents. The traditional model couples were ideal, but it certainly didnʼt mean that single parents couldnʼt provide a loving environment.” Osterman said. “We saw an untapped potential there. No one should shy away from looking at adoption especially since itʼs so rewarding and itʼs not as hard as some people think. I admire single parents who navigate that role very well.”
Hall echoes those words saying that the adoption landscape is changing with the times.
“Fifteen or 20 years ago the average social worker would have said a two-parent home was ideal, but I donʼt think very many of us would say that now,” she said. “I donʼt think you have to have a two-parent household to provide a good household for a child.”