‘I knew a young man who needed a family.’ For Paul Snellgrove, it was almost that simple. As a caseworker at a New York City foster care agency, Paul got to know Keith on his caseload. Keith entered foster care at 6 years old, when his mother fell prey to drug addiction. ‘I liked him,’ Paul remembers, ‘and kept an eye out for him for years, even when I wasn’t his worker.’
For Keith, the relationship with Paul was important. With a mostly absent mother and a father he did not know at all, Keith recalls ‘The first time I felt connected to anybody was with my social worker.’ Paul was consistent, and that is what mattered most to Keith. ‘Here was this skinny white guy who would come all the way up to the Bronx to see me, even when he didn’t have to…He was different from my mother who couldn’t take care of me or foster parents who didn’t want to take care of me.’
At the age of 12, Keith became available for adoption. When a permanent placement with Keith’s grandmother fell through Paul thought, ‘Why not us? I just had to convince my wife that our first kid would be a teenager.’ When Paul told Margaret the news about Keith, she was curious and agreed to attend You Gotta Believe’s parent training classes, which is where her mind first opened up to adopting a teen. ‘When I learned more, it became so clear to me… why don’t we adopt someone who’s here and already needs a home?’
When Keith moved in to his new home with Paul and Margaret, ‘I was scared and testing my parents. I didn’t want to get burnt again.’ He broke rules and did things that typically got him kicked out of other places. Then after a while he realized no one was asking him to leave when he broke rules. ‘I was finally home.’ A year later, Keith was officially adopted.
Two years on things were going so well with Keith that Paul and Margaret decided to adopt again. ‘We picked Evelyn out of a photo album. I saw that picture and I knew she was mine.’ Evelyn was 9 years old at the time and living in a foster home. When she heard that there was a couple who was interested in meeting her, ‘I jumped at the chance to say yes, but at the same time I was really scared.”
Margaret, Paul, Evelyn and her social worker went to a donut shop on that first visit where Evelyn was extremely talkative. When she walked away, the social worker leaned over and whispered, ‘I’ve never heard her talk so much!’ But while the adoption process moved swiftly, adjusting to family life as part of the Roman-Snellgrove family was challenging. ‘It took years to believe that my parents love and accept me the way they do, but now the sky is the limit. I am who I am because of my family.’