James began his first ten years as an only child growing up in central Connecticut. It was in his eleventh year that his mom and dad acted on what they had been thinking about for some time. His parents’ plan would make some unusual and big changes in his life. The first change: James was getting an older brother, Dan.

Dan was thirteen and had been living in group home in Connecticut’s foster care system. He was about to be moved from one group home to another but had the opportunity to meet James and his family before the move. Dan and James were about to become brothers. It wasn’t an immediate change. After all, both boys had a big unknown in front of them. A complete restructuring of their day to day lives. But they both proved to compatible and Dan began his placement with James and his family as a foster child. Eventually, Dan would be adopted, and in the eyes of the legal system officially become what James had always considered Dan to be, a brother.

The changes in James’ life didn’t stop with Dan. Five years later, Pasquel joined the family at age nine. James recalled first meeting Pasquel at Friendly’s for dinner:

“He was so happy just to be sitting in restaurant eating a meal with a family.” It was no doubt a meal of great fortune for Pasquel to be included in this caring family.

After Pasquel’s adoption, there was a new sister fro James and siblings. Aniyah who at age six entered foster care because her mother had died. The family size did not stop there, Justin had been living with them for several years but didn’t want to be adopted because he regularly sees his biological mom. Nonetheless James sees Justin as his brother regardless.

The second ten years of James’ life was markedly different the first. All told, there had been over 35 children living with James and his family. In addition to being foster and adoptive parents James’ parents provide respite care for Casey Family Services. They were trained to provide foster children short-term care to give other foster families a scheduled period of rest. Some children would stay a couple of weeks and others a couple of months.

James feels fortunate to have three brothers and a sister. Thanksgivings in his home are packed. At age 20 now, James looking back said he wouldn’t want it any different. As with everything in life there are good times and difficult times. He remembers the most difficult part of his second ten years was the unknown. Who would cross his doorstep next? And, once there with his family, how long would he or she stay? “It was most difficult when they move on,” says James. However, the Casey Family Services’ annual Christmas party does help the situation. It gives him a chance to reconnect many.

When asked how this unusual way of growing up has changed him. He says he’s much more outgoing, open to others, and willing to start conversations. When you see him you can’t help but think that his parents gave him a strong foundation. He is open, friendly and has a pleasant confidence. At work he started at entry level and at age 20 in the span of fours years he is now management. In his current position he no doubt needs to be adept at handling a wide variety of situations. James is well versed.

One would think that the people who decided to name November National Adoption Month had to consider that the Thanksgiving holiday would make it a great pairing. It’s fitting to tell James’ story and his ability to appreciate what he has and his willingness to welcome others in need. His family is a Thanksgiving family giving and caring.

This article was written by Alan Murphy for Annie C Courtney Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.