The Bell Family:
Parents Susan and her husband with Adopted Child Vanessa
The Bells had thought about adoption early on in their marriage, but with three young boys it never happened. With her boys all grown up, Susan decided to become a mentor for foster children and met Vanessa. The Bells decided to adopt Vanessa and now have the daughter they always wanted.
Susan Bell has spent most of her career working in foster care and adoption with the Department of Children and Families. Although Susan and her husband had thought about adopting long ago, raising three young boys slowed the process.
With her boys all grown up, Susan felt she had more time to dedicate to volunteering and she became a mentor for children in care. "I was matched with Vanessa a year ago and we spent time together every week," said Susan. "In January when the agency said she would be available, my husband and I decided to adopt Vanessa."
The Bells went through MAPP training and a home study and Vanessa's adoption was finalized in December 2007. During the process the Bells learned more about Vanessa including some issues in her past.
"Our situation was unique because I got to know Vanessa personally," said Susan. "When I learned about her background and emotional issues, it opened up my eyes, but I already knew what a great girl she was, her amazing personality and potential."
Once Vanessa became a permanent part of the family, the Bells got back in the swing of being parents to a 12 year old. "It definitely changes our day to day lives, picking her up from school, doing homework in the evenings," said Susan. "Parenting is like riding a bike it all comes back to you."
Although it's taken some adjusting for Eric, the Bell's youngest son, the boys have welcomed their new sister with open arms. Vanessa spent her first holidays with the family and met the entire extended family on a family trip during Thanksgiving. "It's really neat to know the child and their personality ahead of time," said Susan. "I knew about school, her struggles. There were no surprises and I knew what I was getting into."
The Bells enjoy having a daughter around seeing her excited about life and having big brothers. Vanessa now has a support system and a family to call her own.