RD on TV: Gracies Choice | Reader's Digest

RD on TV: Gracie’s Choice

An inspirational story about a teen hero found a way to keep three brothers from being separated.

By Rena Dictor LeBlanc

Unfortunately, Jerry soon asked that Amy choose between a life with him and their child, or continuing to care for her siblings. She chose — and their relationship ended.

If anything, Amy grew more tenacious with every setback. And her efforts were rewarded when the court allowed her to continue as guardian.

To the boys, this was an enormous comfort. But Amy’s relationship with her younger sister continued to sour. At 15, Amanda finally went to live with an aunt.

Now left with Donavin and the three boys, Amy dangled a prize before them: “If we save enough for a deposit, we’ll get a house of our own,” she said. “And we’ll even get a dog.” Nothing could have been more tantalizing to them.

Amy’s relief at remaining the kids’ guardian was undermined by the pressure she always felt to measure up. The boys were still dependents of the court. Social workers still looked regularly over her shoulder and asked the boys humiliating questions: “Does she feed you? Does she ever try to harm you?” There was no way she could be sure her siblings would never be taken away again.

Or so she assumed, until the day a visiting social worker dropped a bombshell.

“We’d like to get the boys out of foster care and adopted into homes,” she said. Sensing that the family was about to be split apart yet again, Amy replied, “Fine, then. Call it adoption if you want, but they’re not going anywhere.” To her surprise, the social worker took her terse remark seriously.

She explained that if Amy were to adopt the boys, they would become like any other family. They’d be free to live their lives without constant monitoring.

That night at dinner Amy told the boys about the idea. “Cool!” Joey said. And with playful exuberance he threw a piece of corn at Adam. His brother flicked it back, and pretty soon corn was flying.

Amy rolled her eyes. They didn’t have far to go to be like any other family.

Once she began struggling with the rules and paperwork for adoption, Amy felt intimidated and often lost. At last, in a hearing in early 1999, the family appeared before a judge, who terminated the parental rights of Jan and the father of Adam and Joseph and the father of Anthony. This was a major step toward full adoption. The judge’s eyes filled as she addressed Amy. “I’m very proud of you,” she said. “Not many family members would do what you’re doing, especially for this many children.”

The judge then turned to the three boys. “The next time I see you, you’ll be heading for adoption. How do you feel about that?”

“And we won’t ever have to leave the family?” Joey asked. The judge shook her head. “The plan is for you to be a family forever.” The final step came when Amy’s siblings sat on either side of her in court as the young woman signed three separate papers — one for each of the boys. As the proceedings ended, Amy thanked everyone. “No,” the judge responded, “thank you. You saved three kids.”

On a lazy spring day, in a modest suburban neighborhood, Amy stood in front of a neatly kept one-story house. She watched her brothers playing basketball, and heard the playful bark of their dog, Tahoe. The young woman had made good on her promise: they had rented a home, a real home, and the boys had gotten their dog. Above all, Amy relished knowing that her family was now a world away from the mean streets they had once known. As if on cue, she heard the tinkling music of an approaching ice-cream truck. And, like any mother, she went to round up her kids.

Amy continues to raise her family alone, but has begun taking courses in business management at a nearby community college. Eventually, she hopes to become a child psychologist.