The Carper Family:
Parents Chuck and Karen with Adopted Child Brandon
Chuck and Karen Carper have always wanted children. They tried for many years to have one of their own, but were unsuccessful. However, their circumstances did not deter them. After attending a Heart Gallery night at a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game, the couple saw several featured children in need of adoption. Their quick glimpse of Florida's most deserving children led Chuck and Karen to realize their situation could be turned into the chance of a lifetime.
"We had the intention of adopting, but we let life get in the way," explains Chuck. After many years of leading busy lives, the Carpers were reminded once again that adoption was calling their names. No longer willing to put the idea on hold, Chuck and Karen took the next steps to explore the adoption process.
Chuck and Karen noticed a Heart Gallery link posted on a Jacksonville television station web site containing pictures and names of children who needed homes. A little boy named Brandon caught their eye. "Brandon is originally from Jacksonville, and we were instantly curious as to how we could meet him," says Chuck.
Chuck and Karen traveled to Jacksonville to meet Brandon for the first time. "We took him to the Jacksonville Museum of Science and History and had a blast," describes Chuck. Brandon instantly connected with the couple.
After 12 placements in state care in five years, it was time for Brandon to settle down. In March 2008, Brandon was permanently placed with the Carpers. "It was my 50th birthday, and Brandon was the best present I have ever received," Chuck says. A few months later during Father's Day weekend, Brandon's adoption was made official.
As with any family, the Carpers faced their share of challenges. Brandon was developmentally delayed, and could not read or write at almost 11 years of age when the Carpers met him. Despite the ups and downs, Brandon continues to have a tenacious attitude. "Many people gave up on Brandon when he was diagnosed as Educable Mentally Handicapped (EMH)," explains Karen. "We saw flashes of brilliance and continued to push him to learn."
Brandon has achieved so many things in so little time, according to Chuck. "Brandon gained five grade levels in two years, and receives speech and occupational therapy through a private therapist, plus receives one-on-one tutoring." Chuck and Karen believe that Brandon was mislabeled as mentally handicapped and is successfully disproving this label. "When Brandon came to live with us, when he was almost 11, he was at a pre-K level, and we could only understand 50 percent of his speech," says Karen.
Brandon did not receive adequate care growing up, according to Karen. "Nobody read him stories. One day, he asked if he could sit on my lap because no one had ever held him."
Karen wholeheartedly agrees with Chuck that Brandon is a true blessing, and the adoption process was well worth it.
"Despite the steps we went through to be where we are today, I wouldn't change a thing," Karen says. "Brandon was certainly ready to be our son. Within the first five minutes we met him, he was holding our hands."
Chuck and Karen advise individuals seeking adoption to be their own advocates. "The child becomes a part of you in the adoption phase," Karen says. "It is a wonderful journey we went through, and we appreciated every moment of it. It was neat adopting an older child because they can express themselves."
There have been vast improvements in Brandon over the past two years. Karen says, "Brandon is amazed about himself and the strengths he has." He has learned many new things socially and academically. "It sometimes overwhelms him to know he lives in a stable home and he doesn't have to go anywhere else to live."
Brandon, who will be 13 in April, is gearing up for his teenage years. He plays sports, swims, dances, enjoys traveling to meet new family members, and has a newfound talent for art. Brandon's parents encourage him to do his best and become whatever he desires.
"I am often doing design work on the computer at home for my job and he tells me he wants to be just like me when he gets older," Karen sighs. "I shed tears in disbelief because I am so blessed to have a son like Brandon and the joy we feel will last a lifetime."
"Adoption is the hardest thing we've ever done, but also the best thing we've ever done," concludes Chuck.