August 17 will always be an important day for Missy and Chris Ewing and their children. They adopted their daughters, Lilly and Cici, on the same August 17 date, five years apart, and in the same courtroom. “It’s a special day of creation for our family,” Missy says, “It’s sister day.”
Eight years ago when their biological sons, David and Tim, were ages 6 and 3, the Ewings decided they wanted a larger family. They took classes at Lilliput to become certified and met their Lilliput social worker, Cassandra Collins. They started looking for a daughter.
“We knew from the first day we met Lilly in the park, she was a part of our family,” Missy says. Age 4 when she came to live with the Ewings, Lilly had been removed from her biological mom two years earlier because of neglect stemming from her mom’s drug abuse. Adding to the little girl’s trauma, her foster parents were both diagnosed with cancer, and her foster mother died. “Lilly had suffered a lot of broken attachments,” says Missy.
At first, Lilly was so happy to be home with the Ewings. But Missy and Chris soon noticed that Lilly was coping with trauma and fear by disconnecting from the world, which is called dissociating. “We had reports about what a great little girl she was,” Missy says. “But that was because every time something scared her she would retreat, and no one noticed in the chaos of her prior home.”
After six months, they knew she needed therapy. Cassandra recommended a child therapy center that had helped other Lilliput clients. In therapy, Lilly gained better coping skills. “As a family, we learned tools to help her identify when she was feeling anxious,” says Missy. Now age 9, Lilly has the strategies to keep her from retreating in stressful situations.
When Missy and Chris began to consider a second adoption, they asked the children for their opinions. Lilly was even more excited than her brothers—she really wanted a sister. At a Lilliput family fair for prospective adoptive parents, Missy and Chris saw a picture of 10-month-old Cici. “I was sure. She was our match,” Missy remembers. “She did not fit the profile we thought we were looking for. She has an exceedingly rare genetic disorder. At birth, she had club feet, and her hips were not in alignment.”
Missy and Chris learned that Cici’s biological mother loved her daughter very much, but post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues had prevented her from meeting Cici’s medical needs. Though the county social workers had tried very hard to help Cici’s biological mother, Cici had to be removed at 6 months old.
There was one hitch. Cici was receiving medical treatment and living in a foster home three hours away from the Ewing home. She could not be transferred now. Missy and Chris asked to be informed if the situation changed. Five months later, Cassandra called with the good news: The Ewings could pursue adopting Cici.
The first time Chris and Missy met Cici, she started playing peekaboo with them. “She is just the sweetest thing,” says Missy. Cassandra concurs, “She smiles at you, and it’s the biggest, best-est smile ever. Your heart just melts.”
When she came to live with the Ewings, Cici could not sit up without help or move independently. Following hip surgery, she can sit up, scoot and crawl. She is getting closer to walking. “She is such a brave and strong girl,” Missy says, “and she’s taught me so much about motivation.”
Having a sister is a joyful experience for Lilly. “It’s all about dress up clothes and princesses,” says Missy. “This is an entire chapter of my life that I wouldn’t have had without adoption.”
People frequently ask Missy and Chris about fostering and adopting. “If you are in Northern California, I tell them, Lilliput is the way to go,” Missy says. “I absolutely would not have been able to get through this process without Lilliput. They care about our family. Cassandra is my translator and my guide through the system. Lilliput is our family’s advocate, not just during the adoption process, but post adoption too. I love Lilliput.”
Missy tells a story that illustrates how quickly the children formed close sibling bonds. Cici had been with the Ewings for about four months before her hip surgery. Missy worried that Cici’s intensive post-surgery needs would make the other children feel they weren’t getting enough attention. One evening the week after surgery, Missy left Cici on a bean bag chair watching a show and went to make dinner. One by one, each of the children came in from homework or other activities.
“They gathered around Cici,” Missy remembers. “Someone brought her a book. Another brought her favorite stuffed animal. They cuddled around her watching Winnie the Pooh without anyone asking them to. They were her siblings. They understood what she needed, and they had taken care of it.”