This Thanks­giv­ing comes with ex­tra help­ing of fam­ily

Dar­lene and Rhod­abell Le­grand hurry up their plans and be­come mom and daugh­ter on National Adop­tion Day

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Ian Dun­can idun­can@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/idun­can

Just last week, it looked like Dar­lene and Rhod­abell Le­grand would have to wait un­til Christ­mas to cel­e­brate their first hol­i­day to­gether as mother and daugh­ter.

Dar­lene Le­grand was sched­uled to adopt Rhod­abell late in De­cem­ber, but the 10-year-old had told her lawyer that more than any­thing she wanted to be adopted on National Adop­tion Day, which is held the Satur­day be­fore Thanks­giv­ing. There’s a cer­e­mony at the Bal­ti­more court­house and a party for the new fam­i­lies.

“I had heard it was re­ally fun,” Rhod­abell said.

The at­tor­neys and the judge han­dling the case pushed to make things work out, and by late Fri­day all the pieces were in place. Le­grand, 53, cap­tured the mo­ment when she told Rhod­abell the news on video.

“What if it’s pos­si­ble that you get adopted to­mor­row?” Le­grand asks Rhod­abell in the video. The fifth-grader starts wig­gling her feet in ex­cite­ment as it sinks in, and she leaps into her new mom’s arms. “For real?” she asks. “For real. For real. For real!” Le­grand says.

On Thurs­day, Rhod­abell played with her new cousins in the yard at Dar­lene’s sis­ter’s house in Ran­dall­stown. The chil­dren hopped back and forth be­tween swings, a climb­ing frame and a tram­po­line. Inside, a gi­ant turkey was roast­ing in the oven, to be served up later with ribs, meat­balls, lamb chops, greens, sauer­kraut and the fam­ily’s spe­cial ap­ple Betty.

Some three dozen peo­ple were ex­pected to cram around ta­bles, and Raven, a lively York­shire ter­rier, would be down below see­ing what comes her way. They cel­e­brate the kind of Thanks­giv­ing where noth­ing is quite on sched­ule.

National Adop­tion Day is held to raise aware­ness of the more than 100,000 chil­dren across the coun­try who are in fos­ter care and in need of new par­ents. Erika Slater, an at­tor­ney who or­ga­nizes a mass-adop­tion event in Bal­ti­more to mark the day, said 24 chil­dren were adopted this year. An­other 150 in Bal­ti­more are still wait­ing to find fam­i­lies.

“It’s not just the cute lit­tle 6-month-old that’s be­ing adopted,” Slater said. “We had two17-year-olds this year.”

It was Le­grand’s sis­ter who first sug­gested she think about be­com­ing a fos­ter mom. Her kids are grown, she was di­vorced, and she was feel­ing lonely at home. She signed up and gained a rep­u­ta­tion in the sys­tem as a bit of a prob­lem solver who was good with dif­fi­cult kids. And that’s howRhod­abell came into her life in 2012.

Rhod­abell had be­hav­ior prob­lems, and for a while Le­grand was get­ting a call at work from school al­most ev­ery day about some is­sue or an­other.

“Of all my fos­ter kids, she was my chal­lenge,” Le­grand said. “She’s comea­long way.”

As the two sat on a couch por­ing over photo al­bums Thurs­day, Le­grand ex­plained they were me­men­tos she had as­sem­bled over the years, never know­ing whether she would have to give Rhod­abell up.

Rhod­abell — or Bell, as the fam­ily calls her — had bounced be­tween Le­grand and an­other woman who had taken cus­tody of her as a baby. Dar­lene never in­tended to adopt any of her fos­ter chil­dren when she started out eight years ago, but de­cided she had to make the leap for Rhod­abell’s sake.

And now, Le­grand is think­ing of adopt­ing again so Rhod­abell can grow up with a sis­ter.

“I told her she wasn’t go­ing to be passed around no more, this is go­ing to be her for­ever home,” she said.

BAR­BARA HAD­DOCK TAY­LOR/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Dar­lene Le­grand and her daugh­ter, Rhod­abell, em­brace on Thanks­giv­ing Day. Rhod­abell’s adop­tion be­came fi­nal Satur­day.

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