FOXBORO — Happy endings can be hard to come by these days, but here’s one in Foxboro. A couple with older children contacted the state to explore the possibility of adoption and changed the life of a Cape Cod teen whose childhood was filled with challenges beyond her control.
“There are no words that can express the love in this house,” Heather Cavanaugh told WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben.
It was in that house in Foxboro that Kim and Frank Cavanaugh welcomed Heather into their family twelve years ago.
“They were determined to give me all the support I needed,” said Heather.
Her biological parents on Cape Cod struggled to provide for her and her older brother. “There was food insecurity, there was abuse, there was neglect,” Heather said.
She was almost twelve years old: often homeless and often out of school. Teachers noticed and had her placed in state care.
Meanwhile, back in Foxboro, Kim and Frank had raised their two daughters who were in high school and college. An empty nest was almost in sight, but they felt like there was a new chapter in their family story.
Frank credits Kim for coming to him with the idea. “Kim answers that one better than I do — she started the process,” Frank said.
Where did it come from? Kim adds that she always knew this was a very personal desire: “I had always wanted to go through the adoption process, but I had kept it to myself… I jumped it on Frank and he was like… really ?”
As soon as Kim said “let’s do this,” Frank was all for it. After contacting mareinc.org and getting some basic training, Kim saw a picture of Heather in a book with kids in need of a family.
“She was so perfect her age,” Kim recalled. Kim called Heather’s social worker, and that’s how the connection was made.
“Her social worker, who was fantastic, contacted me and she said, ‘I’ve been waiting for you,’ and I said what? She said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been waiting for you. I think you’re a perfect match. for Heather.'”
Flipping through a now-cherished family photo album, Kim recalled the memories: “This is the very first time we met you — with the social worker; we went out to dinner.”
Heather knew right away that the Cavanaughs were loving people: “We went out to dinner and we instantly bonded.”
Her older sisters Mary Pat and Maggie embraced Heather as their new sister. The Cavanaugh family was complete when they adopted Heather in 2012.
Kim said she understands that there are fears for some people at the beginning of the process, but she also knows that there are others who just need to hear those same magic words, “I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Children need families,” Kim added. “And if you have love in your heart, then it will be successful, because there are children whose success depends on you and your love in your family.”
Heather is now 26 and studying social work in graduate school. Kim and Frank look at her hard work, progress and success with pride and joy.
“She’s fun to be around, she’s a very hardworking, determined, young woman and it’s been great watching her grow,” said Frank.
“She has an extraordinary resilience,” Kim said. “that enabled her to feel comfortable in this family and to accept us as part of her family, and I love her from here to the moon…she is a very special child.”
Heather understands that her happy ending would not have been possible without her mom and dad.
“It sheds light: It’s OK to adopt a teen,” she says. “What my parents did was the best thing that happened to me. That little decision changed everything.”
The Cavanaugh family speaks to groups about adoption and counsels families going through the process.
They emphasize that help is available: There are agencies working with the Commonwealth to guide families who are beginning to explore adoption.
The whole system is also easier to navigate now that all the information is online, adding that support can be found before, during and after the adoption to help families get through it.
For more information about adoption, please contact MARE: 617-964-MARE (6273) or visit www.mareinc.org.
Founded in 1981, Wednesday’s Child has been a partnership of the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE), the Department of Children & Families, and WBZ-TV/TUSEN Boston. Hosted by Jack Williams for 34 years, this weekly series has given a face and a voice to the kids who wait the longest for families. Wednesday’s Child has helped find homes for hundreds of waiting children and continues to raise awareness about foster adoption.