Editor’s note: November was National Adoption Month. This is the fifth of a five-part series on adoption.
Every adoption story is unique, yet all adoptions have similarities.
Regardless of the age of the child and the circumstances leading to the adoption, there are common threads. The most desired outcome is the creation of a larger family, giving children a place to be loved and to belong.
The stories of Victor Feraru and Stacey Cecil are very different, but the two share a common thread of being adoption.
Feraru, of Carbondale, was immediately placed in foster care at birth. He says there is no way his parents, both residents at an upstate mental health facility, could care for him over the long term. As a result, he often was placed in a foster home, then reunited with his mother only to be placed in another foster home — some 40 in all.
There were residential group homes as well, and all the while, he says he was developing “bad habits.”
About to be adopted, Feraru’s dreams of a forever family were dashed when the adopting couple were both killed in an automobile accident. Instead of being adopted, he was emancipated — released from foster care — by the state at age 17 and without a support system, he was homeless throughout his remaining teen years and most of his 20s.
In what would become a fortunate twist, a national radio host shared Feraru’s story. His plight captured the attention of a number of listeners, including a woman in North Carolina who convinced him to move east. A medical doctor, she got Feraru in therapy, found him much-need medical and dental treatment and began, in his words “to show me love.”
“We developed a relationship, but it was hard for me to understand why I deserved their love,” he recalls of the couple who took him in. The woman, Elaine, became not only his mentor but also his best friend; and when Feraru was in his mid-20s, she became his mom, legally adopting him.
“Elaine told me that I could do whatever I wanted to do and she meant it,” he says of the woman he fondly calls ‘Mom.’ “I wouldn’t be here today without her. I’d either be dead or struggling. I just can’t imagine where I’d be without her love and support.”
Her support and a renewed motivation led Feraru to attend Guilford College and in 2018 graduate from the Southern Illinois University School of Law, where he was named as one of the top 20 law students in the nation by National Jurist Magazine. His goal now as an attorney is to work to improve governmental policy as it relates to children, especially those in foster care and eligible for adoption.
“Adoption gives you a place to call home,” he said. “Sometimes I think adopted children see things as though their biological parents didn’t want them, but as they get older, they realize that they were chosen. Someone chose to love them and love is not a cliché it is a true feeling of belonging to a place in a world that is sometimes very tough and confusing.
“Every person needs someone to call mom or dad.”
Cecil echoes Feraru’s feelings of the importance of adoption, saying being adopted herself “gave her everything,” even though she was adopted at a much younger age and eventually had multiple people to call mom and dad.
Cecil says times were different in the 1970s when she was born. The product of an unplanned pregnancy kept very quiet by her birth mother (a student at Southern Illinois University) and her family, she was the subject of a private adoption in Belleville. Moved to the home of a new family at five days of age with the adoption finalized just a few months later, she grew up knowing that she was adopted, but without much information of her biological family.
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“My adoptive parents are awesome,” the Carterville resident says. “I was their only child and according to my dad, I always got what I wanted. I had a great childhood.”
Still, she says, she constantly questioned the circumstances of her life.
“I always wondered where I came from, what happened and why did they give me up and what was going on then,” she recalls. “All my parents knew of my biological mother was her name.”
Eventually, driven by curiosity and some medical concerns of her own son, Cecil began efforts to find her biological family. Initial searches led nowhere. Even a private investigator’s efforts came up empty. But, as the internet grew and as the social media site Facebook took root, Cecil took another shot in 2010. A search with the only thing she had — a name and possible location of Belleville — returned little more than a list of possible relatives.
“I decided to see who those people were,” she remembers. “I went on Facebook and began looking to see if those names belonged to anyone who would look like me.”
Cecil cried when a search turned up a photograph of “Emmy.” The resemblance to herself was stunning. Late one night, she hesitantly sent a message with some very basic information. The next morning, a response was waiting for her: “Oh, my gosh, mom has been wondering about you for years.” She had found her biological family. Emmy was her sister.
She says the family she had known all of her life was supportive of her efforts to reconnect.
“My (adoptive) mom gave me her blessing on all of this,” Cecil says. “She has embraced all of this. She supports me and she’s secure in who she is. I’ve told here, “You are my mom and you will never be replaced.”
Since making contact with her biological family, Cecil has developed relationships with her family and even traveled with them.
“I’ve gone from having no siblings to having some,” she says, adding that the reconnection has uncovered some ironic moments — including having previously met her biological sister and grandmother, both who worked in Carbondale while Cecil was a student at SIU.
Cecil says she knows instances like hers are very rare — most adoptive cases never lead to instances of biological parents and children finding one another and reconciling. She says she knows things could have been awkward, but is grateful for how things turned out.
“I have two families. It is amazing and crazy and awesome. I have the best support system, and everyone gets along and loves each other.”
Through it all, she says she’s grown even more appreciative of her own adoption.
“You see all these clichés like ‘You don’t have to be blood to be family’ or ‘You grew in my heart instead of my tummy,’ but there is truth to all of it. Being adopted has been an amazing experience. I have been so lucky that I have always been loved. I could not have asked for more.”