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Neither distance nor difficulty could stop this adoption journey

Martin and Isaiah

Isaiah was a preschooler living in a cramped South Florida group home. He had a severe form of autism, limiting his ability to communicate and interact with others.  

Martin was a long-time Miami-area foster parent preparing to relocate 500 miles north to Tallahassee. A retired flight attendant, he had opened his heart and home to countless children.     

Through serendipity, patience and perseverance, the pair would become a forever family.

Their story began when a child-placement agency asked Martin, who was six months shy of moving, if he was willing to foster five siblings. With two boys already at home, taking on that many little ones, even temporarily, wasn't possible. During those conversations, however, Martin was told about Isaiah – a boy "no one will take" because he's "a lot of work."

Unfazed by those descriptions or the story of how Isaiah had scratched up another child's face, Martin agreed to meet the little tyke.     

"We went to a playground, but he wouldn't play on anything," Martin said. "He just wanted to hold my hand and follow me around."

It appeared to be the start of a perfect pairing. But Isaiah's father had not relinquished his parental rights and hinted he might want to reunite with his son. It was a complicated and, at times, confusing back-and-forth situation that took months to resolve. During the protracted ordeal, Martin moved.

Soon after arriving in Tallahassee, Martin saw a billboard promoting Boys Town North Florida Foster Family Services® and jumped at the opportunity to renew his foster care license and enhance his fostering skills.  

"The training was very good. I've worked with other agencies, but Boys Town really impressed me because they care and are dedicated," Martin said.

After successfully completing training, Martin was a Boys Town Foster Parent and licensed to care for kids who have significant mental, emotional or behavioral health needs. In a timely coincidence, the child-placement agency in Miami contacted Martin with news that Isaiah's family had terminated their rights. With Boys Town's assistance, Isaiah flew to Tallahassee where Martin welcomed him "home" and began the foster-to-adoption process.

Isaiah had few possessions when he arrived, so Boys Town staff connected Martin to local resources where he could obtain basic essentials like a highchair and clothing. In addition, Boys Town coordinated efforts to ensure Isaiah received the appropriate educational and therapeutic services he required to improve his communication and behavioral skills.   

A Boys Town Foster Care Consultant also made weekly visits to the home, and her guidance and support proved invaluable.

"My Consultant always had something to teach or try out," explained Martin. "She researched things and often brought little sensory toys for Isaiah that were calming."

Managing Isaiah's anxiety was a priority.

When he was impatient or hungry, Isaiah scratched (sometimes severely) to communicate his displeasure. Martin and the Consultant used a timer to help Isaiah learn how to wait. First for a minute, then two. The Consultant also showed Martin how to use deep pressure touch to calm Isaiah when he was aggressive, stressed or overwhelmed. Together, they also taught Isaiah sign language so he could more clearly communicate his needs.  

Those efforts, combined with social skills instruction, experimentation and collaboration with other support networks, including a special-needs gymnastics class, proved highly beneficial.

Isaiah grew physically in height and weight after years of being below normal. His anxiety decreased, his behaviors improved and he became more social.

"Isaiah has such a lovable side. Every once in a while, he'll give me a big hug or snuggle with me on the couch. Lots of times he doesn't want to be touched. So when he does, it makes it special," Martin said.

After three years of big leaps, small steps, quiet tears and happy songs (Isaiah loves to whistle!), the adoption was finalized. Isaiah now had his forever family.

A world of opportunity has since opened up for him, literally, as the family has enjoyed holiday vacations in the Caribbean and summer excursions to Cuba and South America. While hard challenges persist and difficult days will come, love and optimism always remain.

"I think there is always hope to make more progress," Martin said. "With Isaiah, you can see glimmers of light."