There’s no place like home for the holidays.
Countless singers have said these words, originally made famous by the great Perry Como, and while the song may have only been penned in 1954, it expresses a sentiment much, much older. There is no place like home for the holidays—a feeling men, women, and children have shared for ages, across many nations, creeds, and faiths.
For too many children in the Commonwealth, the holidays are a reminder of what they lack—the simple stability and dauntless love of a stable home and a forever family. But many families in Virginia and beyond who were joined by adoption this year are celebrating their first holiday season together. For some, this may be a first child; for others, it may be a joyous addition to an already-large clan—but whatever the circumstances, it is cause for celebration.
Consider Deb Lowe, a former foster parent who now works for DePaul as a residential coordinator for Developmental Disabilities. While she and her new daughter, Rebecca, were lucky enough to spend the last holiday season together during a trial placement, this year will be their first season as a family brought together not only by law, but by love.
“I wasn’t expecting her,” Deb said of Rebecca. At the time, Deb was focused on foster care. “But then I saw her and her picture, and I knew she had to be in my life.”
This is a common refrain for adoptive parents—parents like Lisa and Jim Agnes. With four biological children of their own, the couple had long ago decided to foster because Lisa herself had been part of the foster care system. But when they met Cam—a special young man who’d bounced from home to home, never finding the right family to call his own—they asked themselves a simple question:
“If not us, who?”
They asked themselves the same question a few months ago, when they found Cam’s brother, Nick, with DePaul, and finalized his own adoption into their family at the start of November. Both boys share an older brother, now out of the foster care system, who often joins in family events.
With the holidays fast approaching, the Agneses are looking forward to sharing traditions new and old with their ever-expanding family—Thanksgiving with relatives in New Jersey, an advent calendar where each “daily treat” is a way that they can join together and give back to the community, and an inspiring message for the holiday season:
“We’ve been a bigger family for a while, and we always saw the greatest gift in the holidays as being able to spend time together,” says Jim. In addition to a family trip a little later in the year—a belated gift for all to share and enjoy—each child also receives “something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.”
“Most of all,” Jim says, “I’m thankful for Nick’s adoption, and for Cam’s, and for all that each of them brought to our lives.”
The spirit of tradition is alive and well for Deb and Rebecca as well. “We baked last year,” she said, laughing, “and ended up getting in an icing fight”—an impromptu celebration that she fully expects to continue this year.
For both families and others like them, the holidays are made bigger and brighter by the addition of a son or daughter, and the chance to give the greatest gift of all: a forever family, filled with hope and belonging.