Keegan’s Story

January 11, 2014

News and Stories

“He’s coming back. My dad’s coming back to get me. You know that, don’t you, Tom?”

It seemed like every time Tom tried to get close to his adopted son, Keegan pushed him away. “No matter how we sugarcoat it, Keegan was abandoned,” his adoptive mom, Peggy, says, “and abandonment is an awful thing. How do you explain that to a seven year-old boy?”

Keegan came into their lives eager to please, but angry and puzzled by his biological dad’s absence. He would cry at the drop of a hat, Peggy recalls. “The beautiful thing was that we could go to bed thinking how tough the day had been, and the next morning Keegan would be up and smiling as if nothing had happened. Each morning that he bounced back I thanked God.” During those first few months Peggy says she clung to the assurance of Family Resource Center’s case manager: “Get him out of this mess and, nine times out of ten, it will change his behavior.”

One night as Tom tucked Keegan into bed, he had a heart-breaking conversation with his young son. “Keegan said, ‘You know, Tom, I think my dad’s dead.’ And I said, ‘Why do you say that?’ And Keegan responded, ‘Because he kept saying he was going to come and get me, but he’s not coming, is he? So I think he’s pretty much dead.’” Tom pauses as he recalls that emotional moment and his efforts to comfort the boy. “I said, ‘Well, it is possible that he’s dead, Keegan… but you don’t have to worry about that now.’”

And then Tom heard the words from Keegan that he had been longing to hear: “Tom, you’re my dad now.” “I just hugged him,” Tom says.

Tom and Peggy were foster parents for Keegan before they applied to adopt him. They already had a large family and a house sorely in need of repair, but “I knew in my mind we were not giving this child up,” Peggy says. “I sent out an email to our friends that said simply, ‘We want to adopt Keegan, but we need your help’ — and everyone chipped in. It was a real community effort.”

The case managers at Family Resource Center were quick to recognize the love and stability in the lively household; it was just the environment Keegan needed to thrive. “They were delightful,” Peggy says. “It was amazing to go in front of these people and give them your life story and have them be so supportive.” Tom laughs as he remembers one case manager exclaiming, “I just can’t believe you guys are going to do this!”

“We measure success by the little things,” Tom says. “Keegan had never held a book until he came into our home, but this summer he joined the reading club at the library; he sings in our church choir, and he has actually learned to like vegetables.” This past spring the adoptive parents looked on proudly as Keegan took on a starring role in the school play. “He had a way of saying his lines that just brought down the house!” Tom says.

It’s been two years since Keegan became their son, and Tom and Peggy still remember the gratifying words of the family court judge who granted the adoption: “Thank you. You just saved this boy’s life.”