Annie Harrison is no stranger to the idea of helping children in need. Growing up in Tennessee, her mother took in everyone who needed guidance, saying, “The children did not ask to be here, but they have to be cared for.”
It was this philosophy that led her to become a treatment foster parent with Pressley Ridge. After fostering for over a decade, she never imagined that she would end up adopting two young children.
Elizabeth, 12, and George, 9, were first placed in Ms. Harrison’s home when they were 8 and 5 years old. After staying with her for a time, the children were sent to live with a relative. When that placement was not successful, Children Services contacted Annie, who was thankful that she had the space to bring them back to her home.
During their first summer together, Annie began to notice that Elizabeth needed help with reading and George was behind on alphabet and number recognition. So, she spent the summer tutoring them. Together they made flashcards and practiced until they felt more prepared to start the new school year. George learned how to hold a pencil and write his name, and Elizabeth became a more confident reader.
The children’s adjustment in Ms. Harrison’s home wasn’t easy. George had frequent temper tantrums, and Elizabeth had the mindset that she did not have to listen to her because she was not her mother. Yet as Ms. Harrison demonstrated her love and commitment over time, they began to trust her. The children’s biological father even thanked Annie for her support and told her that he knew the children loved her.
After four years in her home, the pair became available for adoption. Annie had become very attached to the children and did not want to let them go. Though she heard from several people that she was too old to adopt, she decided to follow her heart. On June 14, 2018, Annie, Elizabeth and George became a forever family!
There are more than 2,300 children in Cuyahoga County in foster care – many due to the opioid crisis. These children need a loving and nurturing home while their families of origin strive to get healthy. Foster parents can serve as role models for the kids and provide support to birth parents. The ultimate hope is that children can be reunited with their families or make permanent connections to other loving adults in their life.
If you or someone you know may be interested in opening your heart and home to a child in need, please contact your local Pressley Ridge office. In Cleveland, contact Zina Klypchak-Guercia at (216) 763-0800 or ZKlypchak@pressleyridge.org.