Girl’s 8-year-search for a home ends in Holland

Anya Rath
Grand Rapids Press

Holland — “We call her story the ‘Abbey Road,’ ” Terrie Morrow said. “Evidence and proof that God searches for us and fights for us.”

Abbey’s earlier behavior issues marked her as one of Tennessee’s worst cases in their foster care system, Terrie Morrow said.

She had been in at least six foster homes and had spent a year in two residential treatment centers

“(She was) a little girl who had more than 22 people in the role of mom and dad in her life,” Terrie Morrow said. “So she trusted no one.”

At one of the first homes Abbey was placed in, she and her brother were both adopted. But the couple later decided it wasn’t working out. Without getting to say goodbye to the family she had stayed with for three years, Abbey was whisked back into the system.

A few stops later, and Abbey was on her way to becoming a foster care statistic. The older a child gets, the harder it is for him or her to be adopted.

According to data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, 1,283 children ages 5 and younger were adopted in fiscal year 2014.

It’s a big difference from the 578 children ages 6 to 10 who were adopted in 2014.

The Morrows entered Abbey’s life in 2013, when she was placed as a foster child with their newlywed daughter and son-in-law in Tennessee.

Because the young couple were not emotionally equipped to deal with such intense behavioral issues, Abbey was moved from their home as well.

Before she was removed, the Morrows would drive down to visit the family and Terrie Morrow, who works with emotionally impaired children in Caledonia schools, developed a close bond with Abbey through craft projects.

After Abbey was taken away, Terrie Morrow said she was unable to get the girl out of her mind, praying every day that the child found a home.

The couple wanted Abbey in their home in Holland to give her a stable place until she was adopted. They tried to keep track of Abbey as she worked her way through Tennessee’s foster care system.

But it was difficult fighting through layers of paperwork and red tape. They would often lose her.

They eventually found her in a residential treatment center for boys in Georgia. She was the only girl living there.

The Morrows began making efforts to be her foster parents, but ran into another wall because they were not licensed for the job.

It was another year and a half before Abbey could come to their home in August 2014.

Before Abbey was pulled into their lives, Terrie, 58, and Calvin, 66, were enjoying their empty-nest years. Calvin Morrow had retired and their two children were in their 30s.

The first year Abbey was in their home, where their son Nick Morrow also resides, it was tumultuous. Her tantrums were extreme.

Terrie Morrow described that first year as “lonely.” She found little support in the community.

“I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know how hard it would be,” Terrie Morrow said.

But somewhere along the way, the couple began the adoption process with Abbey, and it was finalized in October.

Even last month, as Terrie Morrow pulled Abbey in a wagon down a sidewalk by their home, the girl’s eyes grew wide with fear as a man with his hood up approached and passed them.

“I get scared that someone is going to take me when I fall asleep,” Abbey quietly told Terrie Morrow, who immediately crouched down to assure her she is not going anywhere.

With time, Terrie Morrow said she has seen Abbey settle down more and work on coming to terms with what has happened in her life.

Terrie Morrow said despite the initial feelings of frustration at giving up their retirement years, she and Calvin are feeling nothing but blessed to have Abbey.

“We have traded that life of what we thought would be fulfilling to a real life,” Terrie Morrow said. “It is very fulfilling to watch life through a child. We see both the joy and the sadness.”