Part Two: Profile of the Hoover family
By JOHN McBRYDE
Dr. Brad and Michelle Hoover have been through the adoption process on three different occasions.
The Brentwood couple knows the joy of bringing an adopted infant into their home as well as traveling abroad to adopt internationally; and through the untimely death of their son a number of years ago, they have also experienced excruciating heartache.
But it wasn’t until the Hoovers met Michael that they began considering the difference they could make as a foster family. The 9-year-old boy has been with them since May, and their ultimate plan is to adopt him.
“We had never had experience with foster care before, and we weren’t looking to get into foster care,” Michelle Hoover said. “But now that we are, we’re kind of becoming advocates for it because we know there are so many kids … who would just love to have a foster family. They’re sweet kids, and they want what any kid wants, which is to feel like they belong.”
Michael (not his real name) felt that way immediately, according to the Hoovers. A black child who came from poverty before being placed in a foster group home in East Tennessee (and is not in the foster system through the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services) at the age of 4, Michael might have seemed the square peg moving in with a white upper-middle class family in the suburbs of Brentwood.
But he was nothing of the sort, Brad Hoover said.
“We brought him home over Memorial Day weekend,” explained Hoover, a regional medical director for 10 Midstate emergency rooms. “We had a neighborhood party that weekend, and he just kind of blended right in. He came back again [for a visit] in June, then he went with us to Florida over the Fourth of July weekend. My brother and sister and their families were there, and he just jumped right in to the family picture, hugging everybody. He just wants to belong, and is such a natural fit.”
Losing a son to brain cancer
The Hoovers knew early in their marriage they wanted to adopt, and 26 years ago they brought Liam home as a newborn. Working through an adoption agency in Hermitage four years later, Brad and Michelle traveled to Latvia to adopt Aubrey when she was 6 months old. At 22, she is now living in Murfreesboro and studying at an esthetician school.
Both children had healthy childhoods, but at age 11 Liam began getting headaches too frequently. Tylenol helped, but the headache would soon come back.
“It was during the summer, and we thought he was getting dehydrated,” Michelle said. “One night he woke up with one. Brad thought this was a red flag, because you don’t usually wake up with a headache. We went to the emergency room, and they found a tumor in his brain stem. He was in treatment for about 14 months. It was a pretty horrible experience.”
In the wake of Liam’s death in 2005, the Hoovers started a foundation for pediatric cancer, raising about $250,000 over the eight years it existed. And in 2007, two years after losing Liam, the couple heard about a baby boy whose grandmother had presented a prayer request that he be adopted by a loving family. The request reached the Hoovers, and suddenly they added 5-month-old Gabriel to their family.
“With adoption and fostering, it’s all a matter of timing and a little bit of luck,” Brad said. “It’s being in the right place at the right time and having an open mind, making those snap decisions.”
‘He has just meshed with our family’
In a sense, the Hoovers were in the wrong place at the right time when it came to fostering Michael. As board chairman of the adoption agency the couple worked with to adopt Aubrey and Gabriel — Small World in Hermitage — Brad and others on the board had received an email last December, letting them know about a 10-year-old boy at a nearby group home who needed a foster family.
It struck a note with the Hoovers, and they went through a home study for a couple of months to be prepared to foster the boy. However, by April his mother had reestablished contact with him and eventually had her parental rights restored.
As it turns out, the Hoovers discovered that the10-year-old had a younger brother at another group home in East Tennessee. That was Michael, and unlike his older brother, he was legally free to be fostered.
From the outset, Michael has fit right in with the Hoovers — and especially with Gabriel.
“The biggest thing was Gabriel,” Michelle said. “He’s always been the king of the castle, so we expected a little bit of rivalry. But he was all in.
“They’re two peas in a pod. I think they get along since they’re close in age, and Gabriel is a compassionate kid and he understands Michael has had a tough time. But he is outgoing, friendly, he doesn’t know a stranger. He has just meshed with our family. It has been really sweet to watch.”
Gabriel is being home-schooled and Michael has enrolled in a local elementary school, where he has made several friends and is thriving with his schoolwork, sports and just being a 9-year-old kid.
The Hoovers want to see him stay on that path.
“I think what made us stop and think about it was, we have the means and the opportunity to essentially change the trajectory of his life, to give him the opportunity that he wouldn’t otherwise have, to give him a family,” Michelle said. “It’s not sacrificing a whole lot from us other than you really have to be willing to open your hearts.”
Upcoming events, classes, discussions
- The Department of Children’s Services will hold an informational meeting on foster parenting at Church of the City Sept. 28 from 9-11 a.m. Also, another round of PATH classes begins Oct. 5 and runs through Nov. 2.
- Tennessee Kids Belong is hosting a series of roundtable discussions titled Foster Care and Your Church, giving participants an opportunity to better understand the role of the church in solving the foster care crisis. Upcoming topics are Foster Parent Support Groups (Oct. 16) and Intentionally Caring for Foster Families (Nov. 20).Click here to register.
- The annual fundraiser for Tennessee Kids Belong will be held Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. at The Lodge, 1229 Lakeview Drive in Franklin.
- The Williamson County Foster & Adoption Care Association is hosting a toy drive for several counties in the Mid-Cumberland Region for a Foster Children Christmas Party on Dec. 14. The organization is seeking to collect new and unwrapped toys for infants 0-1 year-old and for teens (board games or other items for teens and $5-$10 gift cards for fast food restaurants. Items will be collected through Dec. 1. Email email@example.com to find out more and to donate.