If you don’t water a plant, it won’t grow.
Melbea Davis firmly believes that this is true for children, too. Her adopted son, Kevin, is her perfect example.
“Kevin was like a flower—you just had to “water” him to watch him blossom,” she reminisces, talking about her first months with Kevin and his sister, Keisha. She recalls that while both children had been extremely neglected, the two simply needed love and attention to grow into their potential.
Kevin and Keisha, who both have complex special needs, joined foster parent Ms. Davis close to a decade ago. Ms. Davis has served as the siblings’ caregiver and fierce advocate since then and as their adoptive mom since 2013.
Helping Her Children Grow
Before he met Ms. Davis, 10-year-old Kevin was considered nonverbal and functioned at the level of a young toddler. Meanwhile, Keisha was nearly four years old and still in pull-ups. Ms. Davis, who specialized in therapeutic foster care, took the two “dazed, wide-eyed, sad” children home with just a few belongings.
However, when Kevin, who is autistic, showed skill on the basketball court, Ms. Davis knew he could learn. Keisha really enjoyed music, so Ms. Davis enrolled her in violin lessons. In the following months—with plenty of love and attention from Ms. Davis—both of their personalities bloomed.
When the court ruled that reunification with their parents wasn’t the best option for the siblings, Ms. Davis knew she wanted to adopt.
Working Together to Meet Her Family’s Needs
Understandably, Ms. Davis couldn’t care for the children alone. She works full time in addition to juggling the siblings’ frequent medical, mental health and tutoring appointments.
That’s why Children’s Law Center attorney Lauren Birzon Harriman fought for Ms. Davis so the children would have the childcare support they needed to thrive, and so Ms. Davis could have the respite care she needed to focus on her own physical and emotional health needs.
Birzon Harriman met Ms. Davis after Ms. Davis adopted the siblings, when she needed more resources to care for Kevin and Keisha—resources DC Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) was obligated to provide, but refused to deliver.
Ms. Davis needed additional funding from CFSA to access adequate therapy, rehabilitation and childcare for her family.
Unfortunately, despite her frequent letters, calls and advocacy for her children, CFSA ignored Ms. Davis for months at a time and, ultimately, refused to provide the support Kevin and Keisha needed.
“She is very much a mama bear. She’ll go to all lengths for her children,” Birzon Harriman said. “Neither of the children can be left alone, and both have complicated special education needs. Ms. Davis has been singularly dedicated to their needs since day one.”
Ms. Davis was determined to provide her family with the best care possible—all she needed was an attorney to help her with her advocacy.
Serving as that legal voice, Birzon Harriman worked with CFSA to amend Ms. Davis’ original adoption subsidy agreement. As a result, Ms. Davis and her family are now ensured nearly 1,000 hours of therapeutic care time per year. The family will also be reimbursed for the childcare hours Ms. Davis should have been receiving—but was paying for herself.
“Lauren helped me get many more hours of care for the kids than CFSA originally gave me, and the funding I needed,” Ms. Davis said. “It’s critical, what Lauren and Children’s Law Center did. I wouldn’t have been able to manage without them.”
Ms. Davis now has the resources she needs, including working with two childcare providers who have a unique understanding of the children’s traumatic histories and current needs, to truly care for her family.
Today, you can find Ms. Davis on the basketball court with Kevin or playing music with Keisha. She no longer spends hours on endless calls and frustrating conversations trying to get her children the support they need. She can focus on what really matters—family.
And when it comes to her family, she “wouldn’t change a thing.”
*Children’s Law Center works hard to protect our clients’ confidentiality. The family's image have been changed. All other details are true.