Monyay Paskalides knew from the moment she was old enough to realize that with each passing year in foster care the odds of her being adopted into a loving family became less and less likely.
She noticed as she grew older there were fewer and fewer moments where she would interact with potential foster parents. Until one day, there were no more moments. Despite the fact she was bright, well mannered, and polite.
And although the foster care system provided Monyay with those all important essentials, food, clothing, shelter, healthcare and education, it couldn’t provide what every child truly needs growing up. That is, a loving family of her own to nurture her dreams, and encourage her through all of life’s most important milestones.
The sad truth that seldom gets mentioned is that the vast majority of families looking to adopt overwhelmingly want either infants or very young children.
A recent survey found that over 20,000 children within the foster care system “age out” every year in the United States. Once a child turns 19-years old they’re no longer considered children. Many have difficulty coping within an adult environment while never actually experiencing a real childhood of their own.
Monyay Paskalides, who had spent the majority of her childhood and teenage years in Florida's foster care system, had one wish: to be adopted by her former caseworker. https://t.co/BeNCHNyhLx— Daniella Alessandra Genovese (@DaniellaGeno) June 8, 2021
However, unbeknownst to Monyay someone had been watching her since she was 13-years of age. That someone was Leah Pesaledis, Monyay’s caseworker, who watched the young girl grow up. Becoming an ambitious teenager, doing volunteer work within the community, and achieving a straight-A average allowed her to graduate early. This prepared her for the day she would “age-out” of the foster care system.
During those 6-years Leah and Monyay would spend countless hours together developing a unique bond that grew stronger with each passing year. Recently Leah fulfilled a promise she had made to Monyay many years ago.
In a recent interview with local affiliate WGN News Leah confided; “I made her a promise that I would find her an adoptive family. I just didn’t know that I would be the adoptive family.”
However, because Leah was Monyay’s caseworker, she couldn’t officially adopt Monyay until the teen “aged out” of the system.
As an “adult” Leah realized she could legally adopt Monyay with no strings attached, “She’d always said, like, ‘I wish you could adopt me, wish you could adopt me’ — couldn’t because of the job, and then I was watching a documentary where the person had been adopted as an adult, and I had never really heard of it,” Leah explained.
Once Monyay turned 19 and no loner a ward of the state Leah was free to adopt her.
“Everything is official, the one thing that I wanted since I was a kid has finally come true,” said Monyay.
In an emotional video clip, the two sit side by side as the judge signs the adoption papers.
“With my signature, it is official – happy adoption day,” the judge says as the courtroom fills with celebratory cheers.
Mother and daughter tearfully embrace, as their first act at as a loving family. Although Monyay is grateful to finally belong to someone, her experience within the foster care system, has given her a unique opportunity to bring awareness to the plight of those older children, who through no fault of their own a left behind, never realizing a childhood of their own
“Most people believe that we’re in here because we got into some kind of trouble, but really it’s just the circumstance and, no, we don’t want to be in here either,” she said. “…I want to continue to raise awareness for teen and adoption and adoption period.”