The Schwartz Family:
Parent and David with Adopted Children
Merrie and David Schwartz have made a career raising and caring for children with medical complexities. The Schwartz's have been foster parents for 20 years; have a blended family of six biological adult children and three adopted children.
"I think every child deserves a home, some place to grow up and be loved, regardless of whether they have disabilities," said Merrie.
With Merrie's nursing background, the Schwartz's were well equipped to handle children with disabilities. With so many of Florida's children waiting to be adopted, the Schwartz's recognize children with medical problems are the hardest to place, which is why they continue to foster and care for as many children as they can handle.
With their first adopted child, Javier, there were some insecurities and worries about whether they would be able to handle his medical issues.
"For a moment I thought, 'what in the world am I getting myself into?'," said Merrie. "But it's like having a newborn baby; you figure it out, you make mistakes and you never stop fighting for them. You love them regardless."
The adoption process has been smooth for the Schwartz family. They have an active support group including their congregation and friends, including Javier's foster parents, who understand what it is to be a foster and adoptive parent.
"Adopting medically complex children has made us a stronger family unit," said Merrie. "My children didn't do drugs because they saw firsthand what it did to kids. They did not have discipline problems, and they realized the consequences of what you do. My husband and I work together as a team caring for our children and it has strengthened our family."
The Schwartz's have experienced an outpouring of community support, especially from their church.
"We have a strong church family which has always been supportive and has wrapped around our family," said Merrie. "After Hurricane Ivan, church members cut the trees and patched holes in our house and made it livable. When we needed an additional bedroom to make room for another child, the Men's Club built it for us."
The Schwartz's kids have made an impact on the community and touched uncounted lives. Merrie also benefits, saying the most important lesson her children have taught her is patience and unconditional love.
"You have to realize this child is going to grow up with you and it's a lifetime commitment. You can't throw them away if it doesn't go your way, especially the complex medical children," said Merrie. "But the rewards are endless. You provide something no one else can and in return they love you unconditionally and are willing to give you everything."