By Dan Montgomery
Lots of kids will start the school year with a new backpack, new shoes and new binders. One Richmond-area 12-year-old will arrive with a new name.
Jahem has a new family, after all. As of a July 8, he is Jahem Emmanuel Logan, son of Joe and Celeste and brother of Joseph, Joelle and Jolie.
New starts are nothing new for Jahem. He has endured 27 surgeries to correct a variety of conditions. His speech is difficult for strangers to understand, so he often uses a speaking computer. Jahem spent much of his life in hospitals before moving in with one Lutheran Family Services of Virginia foster family in 2009, then with the Logans two years ago. Family life meant big changes.
“He had always been a person who was given care,” Joe says. “When he came to us, that changed. We started making him more responsible for his own care, as well as given care.”
“The main difference I’ve seen from him is that he wants independence. That’s not something I saw before,” Celeste says. “He’s not living as a patient anymore. He’s living as a little boy.”
As Jahem’s parents talk, there is laughter and a loud bang in the next room (Surgeries and tracheostomy tube or not, Jahem plays hard.)
Independence, yes. But also inclusion. In a family.
Fostering and adoption were natural steps for the Logans. Celeste grew up with foster siblings. Teaching, volunteering, coaching sports teams, leading Girl Scouts, “There’s always something that keeps drawing us back to kids,” Celeste says. “Kids, kids, kids.”
“We were raised as people to be involved with young people,” Joe says. “Boys and Girls Clubs, to Recreation and Parks, to Social Services, to Virginia Cooperative Extension, to the 4-H program, it was a natural progression.”
Joe and Celeste were already veteran foster parents before Jahem came into their home, and they knew all the ups and downs. But most importantly, they were willing.
“All kids deserve love and a permanent family,” says Amy Barbour, LFSVA treatment foster care manager. “We need folks to take a risk on our kids with medical issues. There is a wealth of support available to help families who decide to foster or adopt a child with medical needs.”
“Fostering and adoption can be hard,” Celeste says. “We’ve had some tough moments. But there’s always something that has brought us back.”
Of course, Jahem, Joseph, Joelle and Jolie are the keys to a successful foster and adoptive family.
“The kids have made it so easy – they kind of mesh with one another,” Celeste says. “It seems like it just works.”