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The Calhoun Family

At age 18, Eric and Teleshia Calhoun were married and raising their first child, Marquis. Eric worked two or three jobs to pay for parenting expenses (like day care), and Teleshia focused on finishing her high school degree. When their daughter was born the following year, the couple decided not to have any more children. Two was enough.

"It was always on my heart to adopt kids, but it seemed impossible," remembers Teleshia. "We were still very young, and most of the people that adopted were older and more settled. They lived in a house and their kids had grown up, or they hadn't had any."

Despite reasoning away adoption, the idea stayed on Teleshia's mind. It seemed everywhere she went, Teleshia met people who adopted. Finally she told her husband about the continued desire, and his response was far from what she expected.

"Let's do it!" Eric eagerly replied.

Surprised but elated, Teleshia did not waste time. The couple began attending weekly adoption classes. However, their schedules and logistics created barriers to adoption. That is until 2001 (about two years later) when they bought their first home.

"Our pastor came over to bless our new home, and my husband and I prayed that just as the Lord blessed us with this house that He would bless us with children to grow the house," remembers Teleshia. "And you know what? He did."

The Front Door's Open

The first two children to arrive in the Calhoun home were siblings – Jamon and Precious, ages 2 and 5. At first the transition was a shock. Despite the months of pre-placement classes and prayer, Teleshia began to have doubts.

"I thought they would come and play and I would care for them," said Teleshia. "I didn't think about the emotional aspect of it. That they would miss their family. Or exactly how attached they were to their sisters and brothers. They were two of five siblings."

Over time Teleshia's doubts began to fade. She realized what a huge difference she, her husband Eric and her biological kids (Marquis and Diamond) were making in Jamon's and Precious' lives. The kids finally had healthy food, clothes that fit, clean finger nails and washed hair.

"I remember little Precious had some type of head condition when she came to us," says Teleshia. "And it had created a bald spot on her head and was infected. The previous foster home she came from was not adequately taking care of that problem. And it was just a simple thing of washing Precious' hair with Selsun Blue. I realized then our home truly was a rescue for these kids."

After about four months of fostering, the Calhoun family said their goodbyes to Precious and Jamon. A relative stepped forward to take care of the children. For Teleshia and Eric the moment was bittersweet. Saying goodbye is never easy, but they were happy to know the kids would be reunited with their three siblings and living with family of some sort.

"Next we got Emma who was 8 months old," explains Teleshia. "And she was such a sweet little baby. We wanted to adopt her, but we knew her mom was working hard to get her back."

The Calhouns ended up fostering Emma for a month or two. Then she went to live with a relative. A year or two later, Teleshia saw Emma at a foster care clinic. She was shocked. Emma had not been able to stay with family after all; she had been placed back in the system.

"After that we had a couple more kids come through our home," says Teleshia. "I remember Jewel really was a challenge. I had never experienced a baby like that. At only 3 months old she would often scream like someone was hurting her. She never smiled. She didn't make normal baby sounds. At first, she was almost emotionless."
 
Teleshia and Eric stayed patient with Jewel. They knew at 3 months old Jewel had already been through a lot. Her brother had died at the hands of their mom – a high-profile case that had made Dallas news. Once Jewel's mom discovered where the Calhouns lived, however, and began driving by, CPS decided to move the child. 

Two Answers to Prayer

Siblings by adoption, Jade and Jadon enjoy playing with the family dog.
After Jewel's exit, the Calhoun home was still busy. In the same time, they'd taken baby Jade at 3 days old.

"I remember praying," recalls Teleshia. "I told God, 'If you give me a newborn I will give that child right back to you. And by the end of the week, Jade was here."

Baby Jade arrived while Eric was at work in August 2004. The family normally went to church on Wednesday night, so when Eric came home to find Teleshia "sick" in bed with Marquis (age 11) and Diamond (age 9) at her side, Eric was surprised. 

"Are you alright? Why aren't you at church?" he asked. Teleshia laid still in the bed, doing her best to "play sick" and pointed at the crib. Eric looked over and widened his eyes in shock. There lay a newborn baby: Jade. Eric immediately picked her up.

"I took a picture at that moment, and today it is my favorite picture," says Teleshia in tears. "And that was it. It sealed the deal."

At 18 months, the Calhoun family finally adopted Jade. And in that time span they acquired and adopted a second child: 18-month-old Jaden. He came to them from a foster mom who was fighting cancer and was also raising a special-needs child.

"They brought Jaden to the house, and when I opened the front door I was just like, 'Yeah, that's my kid," says Teleshia. "He was large for his age with a big stomach and lots of hair. He was so cute. And he was bowlegged, wearing shorts, dirty socks and no shoes. I immediately took him to Payless."

Today Jaden's legs are straight and his big gut is gone. He can walk and talk well. In fact, he is the smartest kid in his grade. And baby Jade isn't so tiny anymore. She too is 12 years old, smart and healthy, despite getting meningitis at birth. The Calhoun family is happy, and their house is full.

"No matter what the situation looks like on the surface, know that it will all work out in the end," advises Teleshia – speaking to prospective parents. "When you adopt, you get a whole new family. It's like a marriage. And sometimes it takes a while to figure things out."

Dreaming About Tomorrow

So what does success look like for parents who adopt? The Calhouns believe it means allowing their children to keep their unique identity.

"We are an African-American family," explains Teleshia. "And our son Jadon is African-American, but Jade is Hispanic. She is the only Hispanic person in this household. And if Jade were to one day marry a Hispanic person, we would have shown her that there is no color. She didn't lose her identity. She is our family, but she has a family and a unique identity also. And I never want her to lose that. We love her no matter what."

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