Teri Jones, a southeast Brainerd single mom, felt she had to adopt Kailer because he simply needed her.
But what she later discovered was that she needed him, too.
Kailer Jones, who turned 5 on Nov. 1, has fetal alcohol syndrome but his adopted mother, Teri, believes her son can overcome many of his behavioral challenges through hard work and love. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"I didn't mean for this to happen, but it was serendipity," Jones said of adopting her son, Kailer, whom she's raised since he was 5 months old. He turned 5 on Nov. 1. "God's the one who put him in my lap and said 'Go for it.'"
Jones, who also has a 16-year-old biological son named Loren, had been caring for children in her home when she was asked to take care of a friend's grandson on a temporary basis. Two months later, she became his foster parent. While Jones fell in love with the beautiful biracial infant, she was scared, too. Could she, as a single mom with limited means, raise another child? Well-meaning friends and family members tried to talk her out of it.
Adoption celebration scheduled Nov. 21
A celebration is planned from 1-4 p.m. Nov. 21 at the Brainerd Public Library as part of National Adoption Day, a national day to celebrate adoptive families, particularly foster care adoptions.
The event will include door prizes, refreshments, activities for children and information on adoption.
The event is hosted by the Brainerd Lakes Adoption Support Group, which meets at 6:30 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month at Lakewood Evangelical Free Church in Baxter.
For more information on the Nov. 21 event or the support group, contact Kim Northenscold at 831-4108.
"I thought how can I do this, but how can I not?" she said.
Crow Wing County Social Services attempted to reunify Kailer with his biological mother, but the situation did not work out and Jones, who had become his foster parent, formally adopted him when he was 2.
While Kailer was developmentally delayed when he arrived in her care, it wasn't until he was 3 when he was diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. It's difficult for Kailer to understand boundaries and he can act out impulsively in destructive and aggressive ways.
Teri Jones paused with her sons, Loren, 16, and Kailer, 5, outside their southeast Brainerd home. Jones adopted Kailer when he was 2. Kailer has been diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome and Jones has made it her mission to educate people about the devastating effects of the disorder, which is caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
But Jones herself understands what it's like to live with challenges and is determined to help Kailer overcome his. Jones has cerebral palsy and throughout her life people have misjudged or stereotyped her because of her physical disability.
"I don't want him to be identified by his challenges," Jones said of Kailer. "Kailer makes you see the funny side of life. I think everything he has can be overcome and I want that to happen. He can do it, and we're getting there. We're making strides."
Kailer may have behavioral problems, but he's also affectionate and smart. Kailer easily memorizes his favorite songs, loves to sing and has been riding a bicycle without training wheels since he was 4. He's been attending Early Childhood Family Education classes for the past three years and has received help through the Paul Bunyan Cooperative. Kailer recently has been assigned a part-time personal care attendant who gives him one-on-one support. Jones has relied on the Brainerd Lakes Adoption Support Group for personal support, as a connection with other adoptive parents struggling with similar issues.
"There's hope but it's a lot of work," Jones said.
While Jones has seen the destructiveness fetal alcohol syndrome causes in young lives, she's recently joined the Brainerd Chapter of Healthy Brains for Children, a nonprofit organization designed to educate people about FAS and to work to prevent it. The chapter hosted its first meeting Oct. 20 at the Brainerd Public Library and will meet again at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at Park Methodist Church in Brainerd.
The chapter is open to anyone who wishes to work to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome in the community.
"People don't like to talk about FAS because you did this to a child," Jones said. "FAS is totally preventable. This can be stopped. It's become a passion of mine."
Jones said having Kailer as her son has made her a more confident person. She, Loren and Kailer are a team. She has had a few situations where she and Kailer have experienced discrimination; she because of her cerebral palsy and he because of his skin color and his behavioral issues. However, she tries to focus on the positive.
"I know in my heart I have no shame in what I'm doing here," said Jones. "I now feel I can hold my head up. If you knew our story you would know I'm a good person and he's a beautiful boy."
For more information about Healthy Brains for Children, visit the Web site, healthybrainsforchildren.org. The executive director and founder of the nonprofit organization is Jody Crowe, a former Brainerd lakes area man who from 1993 to 2002 served as principal at Nay Ah Shing School in Onamia.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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