Home, forever

Adopted teen settles in with her new family
More than a dozen family members will gather at Lisa Brooks’ Henrico County home this Christmas.

Her mom and dad from New Jersey will be there.

Some of the children that she raised as a foster mother during the past 20 years will be there.

Her biological daughters, Ashley, 25, and Taylor, 14, will be there.

And her three-year-old grandson, Tyler, also will be at the two-story home off Parham Road, along with Brooks’ newest daughter, Alexis.

Brooks adopted Alexis, 17, last year after she became her foster mother through KidsPeace, an agency that serves children with special needs.

It wasn’t long before Alexis made it her “forever home.”

Brooks, who works for Verizon, was surprised to learn that she was eligible to adopt even though she was single. As soon as she learned the news, she talked with Alexis about becoming her mom.

“I sat down with Alexis and asked her, ‘Would you like for me to adopt you? Do you want to change your name to my name?’”

Alexis recalls how it felt to become part of the Brooks family.

“I was really excited because it’s been awhile since I’ve been with a family. I felt welcome. When I found out I was going to be adopted that made things a thousand times better.”

‘Family tree’
Since being adopted, Brooks said Alexis has made tremendous progress. She gets good grades, has an after-school job and recently earned her driver’s license.

Alexis said she loves being part of the Brooks family and this time of the year is extra special.

The house is filled with decorations. Stockings hang near the railing leading upstairs. A tree decked out in burgundy and gold fills a corner of the living room.

This year, the children decorated the tree by themselves.

“It was kind of hectic because no one knew where everything was supposed to go. This was the first year we got to do it by ourselves. It turned out better than what we expected,” Alexis said.

The ornaments adorning the tree are unique.

“Each ornament has [a name] on it to show that we belong,” Alexis said. “It’s basically a family tree.”

On Christmas morning, Brooks will cook a huge breakfast. The kids will insist on opening presents before they sit down to eat.

The rest of the day will be spent munching on treats, playing games, doing skits and just hanging out with the family.

Brooks will have time to savor all that comes with having an open home and an open heart.

“I had a two-parent home. I had a beautiful childhood and I just want to give back. I love children. My doors are always open.”

Other children need forever homes
James is 14. His mother and father have passed away in the last year.

He is one of at least six children in Henrico County who are still hoping to find homes for Christmas and beyond.

Hundreds of children in Virginia are waiting for adoptive families.

While the county finds homes each year for about 12 children, finding homes for teens like James can be difficult.

“We have a shortage of available families to adopt our teenagers,” Shawn Rozier, assistant director of Henrico County Social Services wrote in an email. “Teenagers still want a forever family and they still need the love and care [of a] family.”

For details about how to adopt or become a foster parent in Henrico County, visit http://www.co.henrico.va.us/dss/.

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This story is part of the series “Virginia Tapestry: Reflecting Our Rich Diversity,” produced by In Your Shoes Media.
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