When Dacota first came to the DePaul foster home of former child therapist, Gary Hillard, he was angry. After the system around Dacota chose to see him for his behaviors, Gary saw him for who he was, an active, fun-loving child. Gary advocated for Dacota to receive the very best care—going against the grain of a typical treatment plan—allowing him to play, learn, and just be a kid.
Together the pair traveled over 12,000 miles across the country, ranging in location from New Mexico to Maine, and simply enjoyed spending time together. “He was in his element on the road, at the beach, or on the bike trail. When we traveled he was funny, smart, super active,” Gary remembers.
Dacota’s ultimate goal was to be reunited with his grandmother and younger brother. “He wanted to be with his grandmother more than anything. Neither of us was going to give up on it—it happened because he and I made it happen,” said Gary.
Dacota’s dream was realized when he was adopted by his grandmother in September 2016. Gary and Dacota’s travels were more than sightseeing and time together—they provided an opportunity to create an environment of safety and stability that Dacota needed on his journey.
Related: Facing Life Together
Related: Becoming a Foster Parent