The new year brings with it a new start for many people, and that’s no more true than for a Bladen County couple starting a new family. Again.
Bill and Melissa (they’d rather not reveal their real names in order to protect their children), both Bladen County natives, married in 1994 after a seven-year courtship and settled in the Bladenboro area. The couple had a daughter, one who would go on to enter high school at the age of 12 and graduate from a North Carolina university at the age of 20 with three degrees.
After that, the couple had big plans.
“I reckon we thought we’d chill out, camping and hitting flea markets, and doing all the retirement things,” Bill commented. “But my wife — she’s a nurturer, like her mother. She needs to take care of things.”
Though Melissa’s job in health care serves as an outlet for her mothering tendencies, when another opportunity arose, she and Bill both jumped on it.
“(A family member) got into drugs — opioids,” said Bill. “She was just strung out all the time and wasn’t keeping a house or taking care of the children. When social services got involved, they eventually removed the children from the home and said they were going to put them in foster care. I couldn’t bear to see them with strangers; these youngins deserve better, and they need to see what family is like.”
The couple agreed to take the children in and are now raising one full-time and one part-time. The latter spends part of his time in a therapeutic group home.
Bill’s own experiences helped shape the couple’s decision. His own parents divorced when he was small, and he voiced that he knew “how rough it is to grow up in a home without a mother and father.”
Later on, Bill was taken in and raised by his own grandparents.
“You can learn a lot by being raised by older people — a lot of wisdom,” he remarked.
For the couple, the decision to take in additional children was life-altering.
“We’ve raised our own family,” Melissa offered. “It’s like starting all over again.”
In the process of adopting at least one of the children now, the couple hasn’t looked back, despite the challenges.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy road,” Bill remarked. “We’re not as young as we were before, and we don’t have the stamina or energy we used to have.”
Melissa added, “We do struggle bringing another child in. We don’t get Medicaid or food stamps, and my husband is on disability, so our income isn’t what it used to be. But we just wanted to give these kids a normal life.”
Though the couple’s own “normal life” may not be the typical one experienced by people pushing 50 years old, both Bill and Melinda believe “normal” to be overrated.
“These children can’t help the situation they were born into,” Melissa commented. “We just wanted to help them get a good start on life.”
“Hey, it’s like this,” Bill said, “we may not be as young as we used to be, but these kids need somebody — they need somebody to help mold them into a good person. We couldn’t say no.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.