Thomas, left, is pictured with his mother, Joi, center, and brother, Dawson, right, at the 24th Annual Adoption Day at the D.C. Superior Court.
Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. He launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. You can follow People’s District on Twitter @PeoplesDistrict, and can read his previous columns here.
“I feel like the first 17 years of my life were hell. I grew up pretty much on my own until I was put in foster care at 11. Until then, I had no support and lived with anyone I could find who would help me. My father tried to raise me the best he could, but he wasn’t around that much. He was more like a social worker than a father and would find people to take care of me when he wasn’t around. So, my story has a lot of heartache because my childhood was filled with a lot of broken promises and tears.
“When I turned 11, I entered the foster care system due to a shooting. I was staying at the home of a woman who I called my grandmother. The house was full of drugs and people doing all kinds of bad stuff. It was July 22, three days before my birthday, and I was sleeping on the couch when someone fired a shotgun by accident and it hit me in the spinal chord. I guess someone brought in a shotgun and was playing around with it when it fired. I remember feeling this sting and then feeling like I was fading in-and-out of life. Then I heard the guy who shot me say, “Well, this is my third strike, so I got to get out of here.’
Continues after the jump.
“I crawled off the couch to my grandmother. I was partially paralyzed, and she kind of kicked me off and put me back on the couch. Then she called my father and told him there was an emergency. Someone finally called the police and an ambulance to come and help me. When they did come, my grandmother lied and said that the shooting came from outside the house. I found this out later because I was in the ambulance headed to a helicopter to go to Children’s Hospital. I stayed in the hospital for a little while and had to learn to walk again. My father started coming around to see me, but after that I was put in foster care.
“Living with other families was hard on me because I had so many anger problems. I mean, look at my life, I was just so angry at the world because nothing went my way. Things got so bad that I was put in the psychiatric ward at Children’s Hospital for my anger problems. Things got a little better and then I spent the next seven years with seven families. At the end, I was put in a group home because things weren’t working out with me and the families. Some of that was my fault and some was theirs.
“I guess things changed for me when I met Dawson in 6th grade. I was new to his school and this girl starting talking to me. Dawson looked at me and said, ‘Dang, you just got here and the girls are already after you.’After that, we started talking and started hanging. I started to spend every day at his house and our friendship moved so fast. We became like brothers and it was the greatest friendship that I ever had.
“I never told him that I was in foster care, but him and his Mom found out when I was featured on Wednesday’s Child. Until then, I just told him that I was moving around a lot to stay with a godfather or different family members. When I did tell him, I was planning to get adopted by a family. Then, things starting going downhill with the family and it didn’t work out. Because Dawson was my best friend and I really grew to love his family, I asked if his Mom would adopt me. They thought about and then she said, ‘Yeah, we’ll do it.’
“She took the classes to go through with the adoption and I started living with them on the weekends when I was not at the group home. Every Sunday, I hated going back and it brought tears to my eyes to leave Dawson and Ms. Joi. It took some time to get this adoption through, but now I have been living with them and am a part of their family. Now, I have a home and a mother and brother who is also my best friend. It brings tears to my eyes to think about all of the love that they give me after all of those years of pain and heartache.”
Thomas’ adoption was finalized on November 20th as part of Annual Adoption Day at the D.C. Superior Court. Thomas was one of twenty-two children adopted by 18 families. Learn more about adoption and foster parenting opportunities in the District here.