By Michele Deluca
Niagara Gazette —
It’s one thing to give your life up for a child. It’s quite another for the child to appreciate your sacrifice.
Sincere Wiley, 21, knows she has dragged her adopted mom, Lori Wiley, “to hell and back.” But, the one constant Serene came to understand was that her new mom would never give up on her.
“I’ll never forget the day I was giving her a hard time,” said Serene about her mom. “She said, ‘You’re not going anywhere. You’re here for good.’ “
Now, Sincere tells her three younger sisters, also adopted by Lori, “this is a good home. This is how everyone should be brought up.”
Gloria Flowers of Lockport is an expert at finding “forever homes” for children in need of adoption.
As a caseworker in the Niagara County Department of Social Services she has found parents for 100 youngsters.
When orphaned children are hard to place, she’s the one who is assigned to their cases, because “she goes above and beyond,” according to her supervisor, Robin Lundy.
She’s not above a little subterfuge. When a child resists adoption, she plans fun outings, such as a trip to a bowling alley, where she and the child just “happen” to bump into the prospective new family. That’s worked well at least a couple of times.
Perhaps Flowers is so successful because she knows a good fit when she sees one. When she was trying to place a troubled young girl named Serene into a foster home 10 years ago, she turned to her own sister, Lori Wiley of Lockport, for help.
Wiley not only fostered Serene, she adopted her, and later she adopted three of the Sincere’s siblings, Jaimee, 5; Christina, 6 and Shevah, 12. The sisters joined Lori’s growing family which already included Devin, now 11, her first adopted child, and two of Lori’s own children, Arthur, 28, Shanika, 24. And while Serene’s brothers, Matthew, 18, and Terrance, 24, were not officially adopted into the Wiley family, Lori says they consider her home to be their home.
As a result of all those efforts and many more, the Lockport sisters were named “Angels in Adoption” this month as part of a National Adoption Awareness Month campaign by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption. The awards provide members of the U.S. Congress the opportunity to honor those who have enriched the lives of foster children and orphans in the United States and abroad. Each year, more than 140 angels are honored through the program.
While the women were unable to attend an October banquet in Washington, D.C., they were recently honored by the Niagara County Legislature. But the real tribute to their work is reflected in the lives of the children whose worlds are completely changed because these two women cared about them.
Sincere Wiley, now 21, the troubled young girl that Flowers asked her sister to foster a decade ago, is thinking of becoming a foster mom herself.
Things are going pretty well this year for children seeking adoption in Niagara County. At least for most of them.
“We have 14 fully-freed children for adoption,” said Lundy, the adoption supervisor for Niagara County. “We’re looking for resources for just three of those. All the rest we have identified adoptive homes, so in that way, it’s very good.”
Among the three most challenging cases are a pair of siblings, 12 and 14, who come from an abusive home in Niagara Falls, and were surrendered for adoption by their birth parents.
“These children were physically abused in their home. They were struck, excessively and repeatedly,” Lundy said. “They were neglected in their home, with no food, no proper supervision and no medical care. Due to those factors, they developed some mental health problems,” she said.
“The girl, she wants to go home. She refuses to believe she can never see her father again,” Lundy said. “He was the abuser.” The brother also has anger issues, and has no respect for women, which is something he saw modeled by his father. “He believes he can do what he wants and strikes out when he gets angry.”
While the siblings will not be freed for adoption until their mental health issues are under control, the third child that Lundy and her staff have yet to find a home for is developmentally delayed and simply needs loving parents who are willing to go the extra mile. Flowers will be assigned his case.
“She will find a home for him, I’m confident,” the supervisor said.
But, while those three children have stories still unfolding, Lundy says that working while working in adoption is challenging, it’s been especially rewarding lately, due to efforts of adoptive parents and caseworker like Flowers, and her sister, Wiley, “Angels of Adoption.”
“I’ve worked in this industry for 35 years,” Lundy said. “I’m finally in the job now where there are many happy endings.”